You’ll never guess where I discovered this month’s cover subject. On second thought, once you read her profile, it probably won’t seem all that surprising: I first encountered Gwen Bell (@gwenbell) on Twitter.
A friend of mine must have retweeted one of Gwen’s tweets — it’s funny that I can’t even recall now how I first ran across her or decided to follow her. But follow her I did, and Gwen’s Twitter feed turned out to be smart and funny and interesting, so I read her blog, which was terrific.
Then I checked out some of the healthy-lifestyle links and social media resources she recommended and found them helpful and thought provoking, too. A few of those links sparked article ideas. Others inspired changes to our magazine’s Web site and social media strategy, both of which we’re in the process of enhancing.
Next, while doing a little deeper research into Gwen’s background (I couldn’t help but wonder, where did this fascinating woman come from?), I discovered we had a whole passel of interests, passions and people in common.
It struck me that there was something wonderful about this never-ending stream of “wows!” and “neats!” and “who knews?” I found it wonderful, too, that they were all borne of my initial stumbling — in a forest of 140-character blips — across a single individual. That subsequently led me to hit on the idea: “Hey, this woman would be a perfect fit for the cover of our ‘Discover Something Wonderful’ issue!”
What dawned on me, in a very personal, gee-whiz way it hadn’t before, is that the world of social media isn’t just another warehouse for information or den of networking diehards — it’s a portal for daily discovery. It’s a river of “ahas!” we can splash around in when we choose, or allow to flow by us when we like.
Yes, it’s easy to get mired in the muck of nonsensical chatter that sources like Twitter and Facebook churn up on a moment-by-moment basis. And yes, one can be sucked into wasting absurd amounts of time in the whirling vortex of random bits and bytes that deliver little in the way of real value. But in my newbie experience (I’ve been active on Twitter [@pgerasimo] and Facebook [pgerasimo] just a little over a year), there are also all kinds of unexpected rewards that make exploring these worlds worthwhile.
By way of evidence, here’s a quick list of recent discoveries I made on Facebook and Twitter:
The “How I Did It” story slated for our July/August 2010 issue (weight-loss blogger Andra Ruscoe at www.lovetoeathatetoexercise.blogspot.com)
Some nice roasted broccoli recipes plus how-to videos from Food 52 (www.food52.com)
Lovely affirmations from Louise L. Hay’s wonderful “Heal Your Life” blog (www.healyourlife.com)
The 10 best TED talks of 2010, as curated by GOOD magazine (www.good.is/post/the-10-best-talks-from-ted-2010)
A whole collection of pictures of my childhood that I had never seen before (a good friend had scanned and posted them in a Facebook album — you can see a couple of them in my “I Beg to Differ” blog at blogs.experiencelife.lifetime.life)
A variety of great books, podcasts and videos too numerous to mention and, of course, our cover model for this issue
I have always been jazzed by learning new things. It turns out, in fact, that curiosity is one of my “signature strengths.” (You can discover your own by taking the VIA Survey at www.viacharacter.org/VIASurvey.) What I’m seeing now is that social media is really just one more learning-rich and discovery-studded realm for me to explore.
What’s especially exciting to me is that something as intrinsically rewarding as being open to new ideas, insights and experiences can also have benefits for health, longevity, happiness, intelligence and more (see “The Power of Curiosity”).
It’s with all this in mind that I offer you two pieces of counsel that have proven valuable to me over the years: 1) If something interests you, pursue it, even if it seems silly or unproductive; 2) If you think you know all there is to know about something, prepare to be surprised, because there is always more to learn.