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The snow is melting off my winter garden this morning and the small Japanese fern emerging quite green in the corner says new growth is not far off now and may have already silently started.

Today marks fifty days of my experiment with social media and this was also the year I passed fifty years. To celebrate 2011 it seemed right to change from resolutions on what not to do,  to experiments on what to do. If I’ve made it half a century, I think the rest is really extra time to play. I’ve been an experimentalist for a long time, much to the aggravation of my family members old and young, but this new one with social media is one they don’t mind, not so far at least.

Typical to my style of research, observation, intervention and play–I’ve started by reading, Shama’s “Zen of Social Marketing” followed by Jarvis’ “What Would Google Do?” then looked through their favorite sites, joined a few and started some myself.

Hypothesis: social media can be fun rather than threatening.

Intervention: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, LuLu, WordPress.

Outcomes: Fun? Yes. Threatening? No, not even a little bit. Not yet.

I’ve shared ideas, photos, comedy, and stories online with people from my past but I think also my future. Not just virtually from the inspiring revolution in Egypt, to public health at Harvard and the New Yorker, to philosophy in Tibet, but also live at a friend’s jazz performance at Iridium, my daughter’s live theater off-Broadway, and a political conference on Baldwin at Brecht Forum.

In the last fifty days my world has unfolded like that old Japanese fern in the garden corner sensing longer daylight hours of spring, and some of the strange knots that I don’t even know how I ever tied have begun to loosen in my heart. While it’s a stereotype that scientists are socially awkward, it’s also somewhat true. For me, social media has far fewer brambly barriers to climb over than parties, bars, family gatherings, and those other places I never even approach mentally without extreme anxiety let alone actually attend.

Admitting limitations of the study that 50 days isn’t a big sampling, I’m compelled to conclude that social media can be fun. Further, I’m starting to think the next 50 years could be a lot more fun than I had ever imagined. Where I used to check the news on CNN for a few minutes in the morning and evening, now I spend those same few minutes better, joining the millions who Link, Facebook, Tweet, ReadIt, StumbleUpon, Tumble, and Buzz their way along with new media.

Spring is on the way indeed.

Please leave a comment to share your favorite social media experiences.