Jan 7, 2012

Social media: a waste of time?

In the past few years, a number of friends and colleagues have informed me quite indignantly what an utter waste social media are, a few implying that participation in platforms such as blogs and Twitter is simply filler for those without work. I'm sure that may be true in some individual cases, but my personal experience and observations tell a very different story.

My involvement began some years ago in translators forums while doing research for writing projects and expanded to blogs and private forums when the deterioration of ProZ as a public forum for professional discussion drove most of the serious professionals away or gagged them. While Twitter was still derided as a tool for keeping the world updated on your breakfast and bowel movements, I discovered that it was fast becoming one of the most efficient tools for the quick exchange of tips and professional tidbits among serious professionals. Facebook? Well, I don't like the shifting ground of the company's information policies, but used judiciously, even that platform has socially redeeming value.

The value of all these platforms will vary according to one's goals and the overall balance sought. But let there be no doubt: social media are valuable and sometimes surprisingly effective. I've had a very large number of financially worthwhile projects result from the the time spent sharing information, but more importantly, I have been able to get to know great professionals in distant places, sometimes help them and receive help in return. Maybe some day I'll throw out a few statistics or examples from my experience, but today I would like to share an inspiring example from two colleagues in the US and Austria, the Jenner twins.

At Christmas time, they issued an appeal for assistance for the co-founder of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association, Álvaro Degives-Más, who has given so much to help others in our profession. Hoping to raise a few hundred dollars to help him and his wife defray crushing expenses from uninsured surgeries, in two weeks, the generosity of colleagues and a few companies has yielded over 7500 dollars. A small part of the total bills, mind you, but an impressive achievement nonetheless, made possible through the power of social media. Read the update here, and if you are able to, please consider doing a small bit to help these people see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.


  1. I used to be very sceptical about social media, particularly concerning those networks alleged to be 'non-business' such as Facebook or Twitter. During a recent joint presentation at Heidelberg University, Anne Diamantidis made a few points that convinced me to give Twitter a try. I must say I've been positively surprised by the networking effects Twitter offers.

  2. You're right, Ralf. If the streams read are chosen carefully, Twitter is a very good medium for communication, not the firehose of trivia some take it for.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Great article. I can totally understand why some people look down upon the use of social media as a work tool, but personally, I think it's a great way to keep in touch with professional contacts. As I'm a PM, sometimes facebook or twitter can be a great way to stay in touch with the translators I work with, and I feel that it makes the whole process a lot less faceless. Would you agree?



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