Social Media

I was eleven years old when my parents bought me a lovely camera as a Christmas present. They knew that with the muscular weakness in my right hand I would find loading and operating a standard film camera a little bit difficult to do on my own, so they purchased a Kodak Instamatic 100. This type I could manage, as instead of the the standard type of film that had to be deftly threaded into the camera in order to make it work, this one used a drop-in cartridge. I could also hold the camera and work the shutter button with the index finger of my left hand rather than my right and still keep the camera steady. Then a few years later I bought a better camera, this was still a Kodak Instamatic but the 333 model which had a light meter built in and that automatically adjusted the shutter speed. I used this for a fair while but then I bought a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, an Asahi Pentax SP1000, which did use a standard film but by now I could manage. This one allowed me to change lenses, it used a prism and mirror system to view the image that I was wanting to take directly through the lens itself, I was also able to manually adjust the shutter speed, aperture and focussing. As soon as the film was used up, I would then take it in to a chemists shop in Peterborough where it would be processed. The helpful assistant knew a great deal about photography and would often look at my photos with me. I was able to discuss the results with him and he taught me the basics of lighting, focussing and other camera techniques. After a while I began using a different film which meant I was now obtaining colour slides rather than prints by sending the film off to Kodak in a pre-paid envelope, I then received the slides in the post about a week later from their processing department in Hemel Hempstead. Now this photography was something that I could do and enjoy. I continued with my hobby all through my thirty-eight years working for British Telecom, but perhaps not always as much as I might have liked. So when my time with BT ended I didn’t give it much thought to begin with, but I slowly picked it up again. I was still using a standard film camera, thirty-six exposures at a time and sending the exposed film away for processing. Then I decided to move over to digital, but to begin with I bought a small Olympus camera and experimented with that. It served me very well, especially when I decided to have a holiday in the U.S.A. Once I was happy with that and could afford to, I looked around for a digital SLR. I had previously used an Asahi Pentax but couldn’t find a digital version that I liked, so I bought a Canon digital SLR camera and over the next few years added a couple of lenses with different focal lengths as these enabled me to ‘zoom in’ on what I was photographing. I was able to get some good results with those. I had also been doing some voluntary work with a charity and one day was chatting to a man in a nearby office. I saw that on his desk he had a really lovely old camera which I admired and commented on, the next thing I knew I was involved in photography work with a new venture he was setting up called a Social Media Cafe. This met once a week and it got me out and about. I took photos of local events, but there were a just few occasions when we had to be careful like the times a few of us were photographing EDL marches. But most times were fun, like Sky Ride. I did this for a few years and I will admit to being rather pleased with a few of the photos that I managed to take in that time, I was fortunate enough to get some in a local newspaper and one item was later enlarged and put on the wall of the local library for a little while after the place had re-opened following a major makeover. There was also a rather large advertising project I was involved in with the city council where I took the photographs which were then added to posters and displayed around the city. That was quite something.

Asahi Pentax SP1000

But I was now looking for a much-needed job, I also think the folk in the JobCentre were trying to get me off their books and with my experience as a tutor/trainer with British Telecom it was felt that I could put that to good use. At first so did I, but it seemed that my experience with BT counted for nought out in the big wide world! So I went to Leicester college and got myself a proper teaching qualification. Then was I able to start up my own business, so I did just that by combining my knowledge of computers, my love of photography and my teaching skills into Adwaen Photography and Computer Training. I chose the name ‘Adwaen’ because of my ancestry, as the word means ‘I know’ or ‘I understand’ in Welsh which I felt was quite appropriate because I really wanted others to hopefully learn from me and perhaps then help others as a result. I provided training on basic photography as well as using computers, I linked and combined these into various media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Flipboard as well as running training sessions on Social Media. I can look back now and smile, as this business had actually started out from a quite casual conversation as I admired the camera on that man’s desk. So thank you John, we never know where things can lead. In fact what this initial contact did was to also lead me into not just showing and teaching others about social media, but actively doing more of it myself. I did not want to lose this skill, this knowledge, so when I found myself in a Care Home recovering from heart problems and Covid-19 I decided to write this weekly blog. It has been going a year now and folk seem happy with it, so that pleases me and encourages me. A blog is defined as a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. Each entry is ‘posted’ onto the website and are typically displayed in reverse chronological order so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page. Blogs evolved from online diaries and journals in the mid-1990s and at that time many internet users were already running personal web pages where they published regular updates about their own lives and thoughts, as well as social commentary. The term web log was first used during the late 1990s, which later became ‘weblog’, then ‘we blog’, and finally just ‘blog’. Due to the growing number of such web pages, several programs and websites started to appear which made it easier for users to create online journals and personal blogs. It made the technology accessible to many non-technical users and helped popularise blogging. The only real difference between a blog and other types of website is that typical websites are static in nature where content is organised in pages and they are not updated so frequently, whereas a blog is dynamic, and it is usually updated more frequently. In fact some bloggers (those who write blogs) publish multiple new articles on a daily basis. These blogs can be on a theme, on personal views, events, anything that the writer chooses to write about. I post an updated blog each week on a Friday morning.

Prior to the rise of computers, especially home computers and the Internet, folk would communicate by writing letters and then use the postal system to send them. I believe though that some fathers were unhappy when the postal service was first established all those years ago, as it meant their daughters could send messages without their parents knowing! Urgent items of information used telegrams, there was also telegraphic signalling with morse code, and after that came the telephone system. In latter years mobile phones have come along, but in general these all have a common theme which is either one-to-one or one-to-many communication. Then came the Internet. Websites and blogging brought along social media, which as I have said consists of websites and various applications which enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. This enabled many-to-many communication, which is generally a great idea and extremely useful when used appropriately. We have a few different ways of doing this form of communication and as a result there have had to be rules and regulations brought in. I have already said about a blog, which is short for web log and is a personal website where individuals may write about opinions, activities and experiences. We also have Twitter, which is a ’micro-blogging’ system that allows you to send and receive short posts called tweets. These tweets can be up to a hundred and forty characters long, they may also include links to relevant websites and resources. Twitter users ‘follow’ other users. If you follow someone you can see their tweets in your Twitter ‘timeline’. You can choose to follow people as well as organisations with similar academic and personal interests to you. Also you can create your own tweets or you can re-tweet information that has been tweeted by others. Retweeting means that information can be shared both quickly and efficiently between a large number of people. Twitter itself only allows for basic text and no pictures, but other programs do work well with Twitter to allow images to be included. There are a few others around, some which use a neat magazine format and one I like is Flipboard, which is an online magazine where the user can easily ‘flip’ or copy items and articles from existing websites into an online magazine. This is especially good for specific subjects like hobbies, but it can also be used for general information. I have included a photo from my collection, I took this one very cold winter’s morning at Southend whilst I was attending a few days training with BT.

Winter Sunrise at Southend

I think one website that most will have heard of and are possibly using now to view this blog post of mine is Facebook. Where this differs so much is that you can share words, pictures, videos of events, hobbies, fun, things you like, in fact almost anything within reason. There are strict guidelines and support for the system, where users can report anything they feel is inappropriate and then if necessary a user will have the item they have posted removed by a moderator. The user may even be barred from Facebook and we have seen that happening quite recently in the U.S.A. when a user was deliberately posting false as well as misleading information. There are also groups that may be set up that refer to specific subjects or areas and users will only be allowed in to that ‘closed’ user group if they answer certain questions correctly. For example I am in such a group relating to the town where I grew up and was educated. A user may have many Facebook friends and some folk choose to be ‘Facebook friends’ with people they do not directly know but who do share a common interest. A user may also prevent another user from having any contact with themselves if they wish. I must say that I find Facebook useful, however there are some folk who put what I do regard as inappropriate or excessive information on Facebook at times. For example, an article in the Leicester Mercury newspaper appeared a little while ago saying about a new Mum who was posting onto Facebook every little thing (including photos) that her new baby was doing, like wearing a new outfit, crawling off the mat, six months old, etc. Naturally her Facebook friends were delighted for her to begin with, but in the end they asked her to stop as too much was too much. That Mum might have been better off keeping a personal diary. I use a program called Day One, where I can keep a daily diary and I have found it most useful to refer back to at times, for important information! The Facebook system allows users to check and change various settings, in particular the Security settings, so you know who can see what you’re posting! I will admit to occasionally getting ‘friend’ requests from people I do not know and so I check on their profile. I hardly ever agree to such requests, as once agreed to friends can see all the comments other people post, even if they are not their own friends! As to whether anyone is right or wrong to join Facebook, it must be down to the individual. So I have a fun example for you to explain the system. Imagine you have taken a photograph of your dog. You then post it just once on Facebook for people to see and comment on. They can then comment on that and share your post with others like their friends, some of whom you may not know, for them to see and share with their Facebook friends if they wish. This is rather like walking down the street and stopping everyone you see to look at the photo and comment on it. You even give them a copy of the photo and they can then do the same to everyone they meet. Alternatively, you can limit it to just your Facebook friends and in that case you would be then going round and visiting each and every one of the friends you have in the whole wide world, showing them the photo and allowing each one of them to comment on it. So it does have its good points, it is easy to share information, keep in contact with people and be up to date with events all around the world as well as locally. Items can be deleted and edited, which is very useful sometimes. For me, the only real down-side to the system are the adverts, as these are almost always unwanted but are done so users aren’t paying for access to the Facebook service. I try to be careful when I am sharing information, but in general I am in favour of Facebook, so long as we are careful and just think before clicking on that ‘send’ or ‘post’ button. I have seen a few heated arguments appear online at times and a moderator has had comments as well as posts reported to them and the relevant items removed. Having folk from all around the world see what you are saying can be great, but it really has highlighted to me a few differences in the meaning of words and that’s just in the English language. I still wonder at how our biscuits are called cookies in American English, whilst their biscuits are what we call scones. I also wonder what technology will bring to us in the future world of Social Media!

This week, we have…
Friends of mine recently found a bird’s nest that was being re-used. It was noted that there were no eggs there on Sunday, but one egg on Monday and two eggs by Tuesday. I told them I knew why – because Sunday is meant to be a day of rest…

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