My job involves learning about, and sharing, digital engagement and social media tools. A lot.
Sometimes it’s too easy to forget about why the web is great on a personal level; to contact friends, book a hotel or share photos.
The day job is about trying to deliver innovative online communications to an audience of which I am not always a part – doctors, mums or teenagers, for example. This means building up an understanding of how the web works for them.
The problem is, my Facebook profile is now used less for staying in touch with friends, and more for understanding how digital campaigns are being delivered, and audiences reached. That’s all well and good but I’ve ended up living my own digital engagement experiences through the audiences I work with. Which isn’t much use to me or my friends.
But when it comes to trying out a new tool or technique, I am finding it useful to think about my needs and interests first, instead of thinking about everything in a work-related context.
Here are the online spaces that I like to use first and foremost, as a consumer:

1. Facebook
An obvious starting point, but I had quickly forgotten what a difference it has made for me. When my Grandfather died six years ago, one of my fears was that I would lose touch with my cousins and their families who all lived near to him, but a long way from my home. And although I don’t see them that often, we can keep in touch through Facebook. Would we have emailed, written letters, or called each other? Unlikely. But with Facebook we can share photos, events, highs and lows; so when I do see them, I still feel I know them.

A Victorian advert for ballpoint pens

Was Great Uncle Richard responsible for this?

2. Ancestry
If you are even vaguely curious about tracing your family’s past, this is a fantastic resource. It isn’t cheap to subscribe, but it does mean you can learn more than you ever imagined about your ancestors, all from your computer screen.
I discovered that a Great Great Uncle of mine was an Advertising Director. A Victorian Advertising Director. I though Mad Men was retro. More about him another time.

3. Pistonheads
If you love cars, this is an indispensable source of inspiration. If you don’t love cars, you probably won’t enjoy this. The forums are full of useful information – I recently bought a car on the strength of the advice I received here.

4. WordPress
I couldn’t leave this out, seeing as I am using it right now to create this post. I have always been aware of the power of the web and social platforms to make everyone a  publisher, but WordPress and other blogging tools have taken content generation from simple status updates and video sharing to complete end-to-end website creation. It provides a space to share those every day thoughts and experiences in greater detail.

Don’t lose sight of the things you enjoy using online – they’re the reason you are interested in the web in the first place.