CAPTAIN KIRK WAS WRONG. Space isn’t the final frontier. The Internet is. And here in the land of the tech-obsessed, Mónica Guzmán is our ambassador to the social media solar system. In three years at the P-I and seattlepi.com, the New Hampshire native and self-professed “culture geek” showed old newshounds new media tricks by turning Twitter and Facebook into journalistic weapons of mass dissemination—and she built an impressive online following along the way. Now, at 27, Guzmán’s the director of editorial outreach at Intersect (intersect.com), a Seattle social networking startup that lets users tell the stories of their lives and make connections that they never knew they had. It’s like she came from the future to help us rediscover our past.
Authenticity is huge to me. I feel gross even considering posting something that isn’t really me or isn’t really coming from me.
There’s lots of little microdecisions that I make with each tweet or each thing I choose to share. Sometimes I really want to share something that’s negative, but then I stop myself, because what’s the point? If it’s social enough that I think enough people get it, where a conversation might actually be productive, then I’ll share a negative thing. But most of the time, I want to put out the things that make me happy. I want to share things that could get cool conversations going.
All of us have things in our lives that we need discipline for. Some people like chocolate too much. For me, if I don’t watch myself, I can get lost in social media. It’s like, Okay, let me check Twitter. Oh, nothing new on Twitter. Let met check Facebook. Nothing new there. Let me check email. Nothing new there. Let’s go back to Twitter… After a few cycles of that, you have to stop.
I guess because I am sort of this social geek, a lot of my friends are people who feel exactly the same way I do about sharing things from their lives. In fact, I remember one friend once asked me—he was at a party at my house—“Can I check in on Foursquare here?” And I was like, “No, you can’t. You are not putting my address out there.” There are limits.
People in Seattle feel so allowed to express ideas and share them. It is absolutely a positive, encouraging community. Where I grew up on the East Coast, I’d never run into that kind of energy. I think it helped unleash some of mine.
I’m big into karaoke. I feel like I’m a pretty okay singer, and karaoke is something you can actually share. People can dance to it. It’s such an awesome rush. Why not open that up, why keep that inside when people can get something out of it?
Social media today focuses so much on real time. So you have your Twitter stream and then you have your Facebook wall, but after a couple days it’s gone. And for a while, I just thought, “Well, that’s the way social media is. It’s about right now, and right now keeps moving.” But Intersect isn’t just real time, it’s all time. You can connect over your whole life.
I got this unpaid internship at New Hampshire Public Radio the summer after my freshman year in college. The first time that one of my pieces went on air, the president came down to my editor and said, “Who was the 12-year-old who just delivered the news?” My voice was really high-pitched. I was nervous. Sometimes I’d forget to turn on the mike. So anyway, print media was the way to go.
I was actually very awkward as a kid. I had the big glasses and the braces and the eyebrows. I had terrible fashion sense. I remember we’d be at a Burger King somewhere in rural New Hampshire, and my mom would be like, “Can you go ask them for more salt?” And I’d say, “Do I have to?” I didn’t even want to go up to the counter. I’d fight it. I’d be like, “Mom, can you do it? I really don’t want to. You don’t need salt. You eat too much salt anyway.”
People with kids keep telling me, “Yeah, you’re all over the place now. Just wait until you have a kid. Your life is going to completely transform.” They’re probably right. But I also see myself being a bit of a mommy blogger.
This isn’t something I orchestrated. This isn’t anything I set out to do. It’s just fun. I was on Facebook before I was a journalist. And then Twitter started out as fun before I even thought about bringing work into it. The only reason I brought work into it is because work is a part of me.
The idea that there are people who have passions that no one will ever know about just kills me.
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