I have a love/hate relationship with social media. As a long-time writer and editor, I was slow to accept the value of social media as a content or marketing tool. I have come to embrace social media to the point that I probably spend too much time on it. But I’m making some valuable connections and gathering new ideas and information regularly.
I’ve been writing and researching online for longer than I care to admit because it would reveal way too much about my age. It’s amazing what we can find online today. Like any consumer trend, however, websites and social media have evolved with good and bad features. And like most trends, many social media platforms started out being more helpful than they’ve evolved to be at this stage. The reasons typically are commercialization and oversaturation, and a viral story about a young Instagram star that circulated this past week is a classic example of how fake social media can become in some instances.
I’m going to pick on Pinterest for my example, mostly because it’s a favored consumer platform for home and gardening information. When my sister-in-law first introduced me to pinning, I loved it! Finally, I found content that was curated by regular people, especially my friends, and not by commercial interests. I could follow her and other friends or family who had great taste and similar pastimes. And I could search for and pin relevant, trustworthy gardening information.
Then, Pinterest took off and the company has now decided that its bots know what I like better than I do. The feed is almost creepy, based on our Internet searches and recent pins. Some of it’s helpful, but I liked it better before. Further, as a blogger, I would rather build up my followers by providing them helpful and relevant pins and blog content. I’m also tired of seeing gardening myths spread on Pinterest; here’s a a past post on some gardening myths.
Embracing your inner skeptic
I don’t consider myself the foremost expert on gardening, but I know how to research to supplement my knowledge and experience to provide the most accurate and helpful information possible. That’s because I’ve spent nearly 20 years writing and editing professionally, about medical, science, gardening and sustainability topics. I’ve gotten pretty good at discerning quality information from junk. Maybe it’s just because I am a born skeptic.
The researcher and skeptic in me wants to scream out loud sometimes because I feel like it’s too easy for gardeners to get misinformation online. I want to transfer some of my writing and research skills to help those new to social media, online research or gardening improve their ability to distinguish good information from — maybe not so good.
The quality of a web page or blog post often has less to do with how it ranks in search engines and more to do with its authorship, purpose, and certainly with its content. Google has gotten much better at ranking according to content instead of key word stuffing and other tricks. But it’s up to users to quickly scan and verify how useful and truthful information is and how valid its source. In gardening, that’s especially important because growing in the mountains of New Mexico is nothing like gardening on the coast of North Carolina, for example.
Later this week, I’ll list a few “Do’s and “Don’ts” for online research, along with some favorite gardening blogs or sources. For now, check out my Resources page for some I rely on or recommend for topics I typically cover in my posts. Happy searching!