Social Networking for a Cause

I’ve only been active on Facebook for a couple of years, if
you could call having a few family members as friends “active”. In a sense, I’d
been wading gradually into the social networking scene up until fairly
recently. I’d always signed up for listservs and yahoo groups for professional
purposes, but there have been increasing opportunities to connect with other
professionals through Facebook that have made me, well, a little addicted. In
fact, with the exception of close family, I’ve pretty much only got friends,
groups and “likes” that have something to do with my professional work. My
social networking has a cause, so to speak.

Testing the waters

We are very fortunate to live in an age where the Internet
has our backs. I took a class at the NAJIT Conference in Long Beach a couple of
years ago, presented by our colleague Judy Jenner (Web 2.0). She promotes
networking in many different ways, not only to stay connected with colleagues
but for purposes that make good business sense. This was a good introduction
for me, and was the foundational information I needed to start exploring the
possibilities of Facebook beyond sharing pictures of my latest family outing.
It made sense for me to start having a presence in social networking, but not
necessarily for purposes of building business, at least not yet.

Quick, casual, professional

I find it surprising that so many of my colleagues do not
participate in my favorite groups, so I’m always sure to share our most recent
discussions to spark their interest. When it was a matter of only having the
e-mail sorts of networking, I could understand why people wouldn’t want to
shuffle through messages galore just to find threads they were interested in. In
fact, I am always much quicker to reply to posts in my forums than in some very
good discussions on the e-mail format. This instant networking allows us to
enjoy quick, easy quips of information shared, questions posed and much more, and
decide instantly whether to follow and participate. For the heavier, more
sensitive issues, I think the e-mail format is probably a lot safer and
definitely permits more detailed responses to issues raised.

What’s more, with the quick and easy platform that Facebook
offers, it’s a place we can go to bounce terminology off of dozens of
participants (most of whom probably get a notification to their smartphones
instantly); we can appropriately vent about a particularly difficult or funny
moment in our day; we can share upcoming event information; we can pass on
requests for work; we can discuss ethics. There is really no limit to what we
can do. The key is to sign up and participate.

At the time this article was about to be posted, our Blog
group lost Nancy Festinger (see Bethany’s beautiful tribute here: Although
the loss was shared widely over several social networking sites, the quick
communication offered by Facebook was by far the fastest way to spread the word
about the loss of a colleague.

Finding new
colleagues and reconnecting with previous contacts

As I started participating in more groups, I discovered how
one can lead to another in the blink of an eye. A comment was made on one group
about several colleagues coming together to form a cooperative effort to
improve interpreter working conditions and the like. Within minutes, a new
Facebook page was created, everyone was invited to participate, and there have
been extensive discussions about that specific issue going on ever since. Now,
when I want to know about that issue, I can toggle to that group to see the
latest news. That sure beats shuffling through my emails!

One of the groups I love participating in is for certified
interpreters in my language group. There are dozens of my colleagues from all
over Southern California who post pretty often, and I’ve gotten to know many
others from all over the place just through their interesting quips, comments
and opinions. An unexpected yet logical bonus of these connections was a couple
of weeks ago when I attended the ATA Conference. There were people there and,
were it not for Facebook, I might not have had the courage to approach them,
let alone give a big hug and greeting to as if we’d been lifelong friends. Wow,
social networking can be good for the soul!

You see, we are all in this together. When colleagues from
our profession post on listservs and groups, and on Facebook, there is an
instant “connection” and barriers are broken down. Approaching somebody
“virtually” takes a bit less courage than in person, and certainly lends itself
wonderfully to creating new bonds that less than a decade ago we might not have
created. Having the ability to be part of the community of our profession has
been huge for me, especially when an issue comes up at work: I can say, hey…
let’s see what our colleagues from all over the country can contribute to our
discussions! There are always responses that guide us and help improve our
daily work. It’s like the “phone a friend” feature on the gameshows!

Just five years ago, when multiple interpreters were being
brought from adjacent counties to my court on a daily basis as independent
contractors, bonds were formed that last to this day. Now, with the courts in
California being filled with full-time staffers, at my court we don’t get the
chance to meet new people much anymore. Just by working together a few years
ago, I was able to form life-long friendships and meet incredibly sharp,
well-educated and talented interpreters; but the newer colleagues in my office
who aren’t meeting those independents nowadays aren’t afforded that same opportunity.
A-ha! That’s where the social networking can come in!

Keeping a clean

Needless to say, there are endless possibilities for
connecting with colleagues on Facebook and other social media. We do have to
take special care to be professional and appropriate when using any of these.
Perhaps other virtual venues are “safer” from the public eye, or considered more
prudent from a business standpoint. But, if we can keep discussions within the
boundaries of professionalism and avoid anything that might tend to tarnish our
reputations, the quick and easy “fix” we can get by connecting with colleagues
every day is well worth our time. Be sure to check out Gio Lester’s upcoming
article here on the NAJIT Blog for a more in-depth look at the various types of
social media and how they can fit into our professional lives.


In the end, every professional has to decide who they want
to connect with, and may have some decisions to make regarding which method is
best to protect their business. In looking at how careful I’d like to think I
am in choosing my Facebook friends and colleagues, and the subjects I chime in
on, I’m not too worried about any negative impacts. The wonderful benefits of
belonging to a virtual community help me stay informed, involved, and
connected. After all, if we can connect to like-minded individuals, we become
more unified as a profession, and our lives are greatly enriched and enhanced. By
using the settings on your current Facebook account, you can probably feel very
comfortable about sharing your professional self with those of us who would
love to meet you. Now go search for a group and click Like! See you in

5 thoughts on “Social Networking for a Cause”

  1. Gio Lester says:

    It is incredible all the good that social media does for our lives – personal and professional! Thanks for bringing this up, Jennifer. We really cannot be afraid of technology.

    1. Jennifer De La Cruz says:

      Hi, Gio! I agree! We have to lose that fear. Social networking has sometimes been called cold and impersonal. They aren’t connected to the same groups as I am, I guess, because I feel the warmth all the time! Then when you get to meet the people? It’s like, wow!!! Instant connection!

      Hey, Al! Thanks for the Google+! The more people get involved there, I think the more the migration to that format could happen. Thanks to you and your colleagues for all the great efforts! It takes a lot of work!

  2. Al Navas says:

    Thank you, Jennifer – you raise excellent points!

    May I suggest one more network that might be of interest to others?

    It is Google+.

    My partners in the Endless Possibilities Talks, Esther Navarro-Hall (of Monterey Institute of International Studies fame) and Gerda Prato-Espejo (court interpreter in MA, PA, and NJ), gave a talk during ATA 2012. It was under TIP-5:

    Google+ might be a wonderful option to others who are looking beyond Facebook. However, regardless the person’s choice of social network, embracing one or more will help us discover technologies and collaboration opportunities we did not even dream about only a few years ago!


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