It began when my parents purchased a computer in 1997. We got AOL, and for the first time in my life, I had instant messenger and access to the outside world. The big, bad, e-world of strangers. I remember meeting some kid online (okay, I was a kid too, at the ripe age of 13/14) who lived in Arkansas. We actually "dated" online, which was weird, because we'd never talked on the phone or in real life. Needless to say, it didn't last long, but it was my first true taste of what the World Wide Web had to offer.
I created a MySpace page, started a LiveJournal, and really got the flavor of chat rooms. I joined groups on LiveJournal, made random friends on MySpace, and started to become a pro in the world of early social media platforms. I was hooked, I was addicted. My dad had to put a time limit on my e-time, in fact, which kicked me off the web at 1 a.m. I was that hooked.
When I got to college in 2002, I didn't have a computer of my own. I relied on my roommate's computer to keep my LiveJournal very active, and I instant messaged there as well. Then, in 2003, I purchased my first desktop computer and my first cellphone (I was a little behind the game in the cellular department). My LiveJournaling took off and I met my first "real" online boyfriend (who, yes, I would later meet in real life and move in with while living in Chicago, actually), and I started to meet people In Real Life that I'd met online on MySpace (scary).
I joined Facebook the moment it was available at my university, got GMail when it first came out, and became a quick devotee of all things Google. In April 2006, I decided to venture away from my LiveJournal and start a real blog -- a topical blog, this blog. I stopped going to MySpace so much, and embraced Facebook in a serious way. I joined Yelp in 2007, and I took a real dive into the world of meeting strangers In Real Life that I only knew on the web. In January 2008 I joined Twitter, and I went to my first Yelp function where I met a boatload of strangers who were awesome and not scary at all. From that point on, I realized that Social Media and the e-world was more than meets the eye: it was a networking extravaganza of awesomeness and friendship.
In 2008 my blog really took off with followers, and since then I've managed to loop in tons of new readers, new Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and a degree of Social Media presence that earned me a #5 on the most influential Jewish Twitterers by JTA. I spoke at SXSW Interactive 2010 as an expert on Jewish social media, and I've been tapped to moderate a panel discussion next month in NYC at the Jewish Shmooze event. My blog is my top priority (after Tuvia, of course), and I feel guilty if I don't Tweet dozens of times every day. I try to keep up on Facebook, but it's hard sometimes.
You can find me on Yelp, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, Daily Photo Booth, Flickr, YouTube, 12Seconds.tv, last.fm, Foursquare, and ... the list just goes on and on (I also have a lot of inactive, defunct spots like Brightkite, that are in my name).
Just Google "kvetchingeditor" and tell me what you find. I've branded myself, and that's a success story in Social Media. People know me by my handle, and because it floats across the web, I'm lucky that it's consistent.
Sometimes, I sit back and wonder whether it's all been worth it -- the amount of time wasted playing games on Facebook while waiting for my Twitter to update on Hootsuite or an email to come in from some connection about some function, and my overall conclusion is Oh oh oh YES!
All I have to think about is the people I've met and how they've enriched my lives. I can't count the number of Twitter and Blogging connections I've met In Real Life who have become my closest and dearest friends. Is it worth spreading my entire life all over the web and sharing my experiences with the most distant of strangers? Without a doubt.
That's what Social Media is about: selling yourself/your brand to complete strangers in the hopes of building lasting connections and creating important, life-changing conversations over a variety of web platforms that highlight user-created content.
Of course, it isn't for everyone. I got started on this all 13 years ago (man I'm old), and sometimes it feels too big even for me. But I wouldn't change my experiences for anything in the world. This is the future, folks. Embrace social media. It's the present and the future. Don't believe me? Watch this awesome video below (hat tip to @bryfy).