“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!” – Enid Blyton, The Folk of the Faraway Tree
The Faraway Tree is a story or series of stories by Enid Blyton. The first of the stories was written in 1939. The story is that in an enchanted wood, there is a giant tree – a tree that is a portal to magical worlds. Its branches reach high into the sky, so much so that its top most branches are immersed in the clouds. Three children discover the Faraway Tree and journey up into its realms. Each time they discover a new world and have a different experience. It is a story of adventure, discovery and challenge.
The #Wegettogether unConference is happening on February 29th at the University of Salford. It will be celebrating social media in health care, as well as exploring its future possibilities. It will be an opportunity to bring together people with a shared interest in health and social media; people who may have strong connections to each other online, but who may not have had the opportunity to meet together in a physical space. It will be a homegrown event, created by the Twitter community, for the Twitter community. The magic will be in the emergent conversations and creative ideas that spring forth from bringing together a community that embraces the spirit of the collaborative, social era.
But, it will also be an unConference with a difference, as it will be bringing the outside in, through the use of digital and social media. In particular, it will try to ensure that geographical boundaries do not restrict people from taking part in the rich conversations and social opportunities of the day. In fact while one of the authors has co developed the event, the other author, who is unable to physically attend will seek to be joined digitally via twitter throughout the day
The authors believe that Social Media and Twitter in particular can be likened to the Faraway Tree. We discover social media and climb into its branches. It can transport us into a world that we were not expecting to find; a world that can be exciting, but also challenging; a world that can seem so removed from the reality we live in that when we journey back down from the tree, we might at first struggle to re adjust. We don’t always know where we are heading each time we venture into these lands, but we remain curious and open minded about the opportunities and experiences that are awaiting us. Mostly it brings us positive experiences and it can be revelatory, offering us new ways of looking at things. However, sometimes our journey takes us to dark places and unexpectedly into territory that makes us feel uncomfortable. It can make us falter and consider abandoning the journey, but then we meet new people and lands- communities like @Wenurses, @WeMHNurses, WeMidwives and @WeLDNurses and once again we feel energized and inspired
Just like life in general, our experiences on social media can lead us to feeling assured or insecure, happy or sad. The faraway tree has the potential to expose us to so many rich and varied experiences- those that fill us with energy and light and which transcend the minutiae of everyday life. We can feel like we are transported to faraway places that make us forget and dream a little bit more, but there are also those times when we might feel that our hearts are breaking, when we are stumbling or feel that we don’t have the courage to go on. Either way, when we come down the tree from our journey, we feel changed in some way. It might be in a very subtle way or it might be a really deep and fundamental shift, but either way, we never forget the journey we’ve been on or the people who have touched our lives along the way.
One lesson from this land that the authors would like to share is not often spoken of, but it is perhaps the most important of all – it is the hidden world of social media. The conversations and friendships that emerge when a connection is made and rapport is established online. These can lead to more private exchanges through DM’s, emails and Whatsapp messages. It is often the experience of the authors that the foundations of relationships are often established online, but that subsequently meeting someone in person who you have connected with online, deepens these connections. Social Media can provide us with this precious space where we can share dreams, hopes and struggles with other like-minded souls. From this encounter can flow the most beautiful friendships, deep learning and positive work.
Twitter can be an effective route to seeking out connection with others and there is often something quite serendipitous about these encounters. In the same way that the Far Away Tree gave the children access to different worlds, Twitter provides us with an opportunity to connect with people quickly but often profoundly; to talk to people in a space that feels more neutral and free, enabling us to metaphorically remove the shackles of imposed arbitrary boundaries, so manifest in the offline world. We recognize that there are limitations in having these conversations in public spaces and we believe that this is partly why many of us seek opportunities to deepen these connections in an offline arena.
We have a hunch that these relationships, developed in digital spaces and deepened by very real and meaningful investment offline are redefining where many of us seek and find support and friendship in the health community. We think that the social era is creating vast opportunities for the health care community to breakdown health care siloes by embracing a more open and collaborative style and by tapping into the creative assets and potential that exists within its own community and beyond. The challenge is in how we call those not sure to join us. We believe it is in these engaging spaces, that the real magic is occurring.
So, as the WeGetTogether unConference approaches, let us all remember that silently, in a million unseen ways, we are starting to make ripples. Ripples that are supporting people to care, grow and share.
Vanessa Garrity and John Walsh