I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure books. You know, the ones where you would read a few pages, then be presented with a set of options. You’d choose one, and then flip to the page of the book it told you to and keep reading. Those kind of books never got boring, and there was always something new to experience around every corner. I would spend hours, days, reading those books.

Choose Your Own Adventure. Not unlike the Web, eh?

We are constantly being bombarded with information on how to make the most of your online experience. I spend countless hours working with my students and my clients on how to get the most of the Web and social media. Suggestions, recommendations and advice abound, and they are all great.

But ultimately, you get to choose what page to turn to next.

The problem is, it can be hard to know where to start. With a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, you always start at the beginning. Well, the Web doesn’t really have a beginning. There’s no big red “X” on the map saying “Start Here”. So, you feel uncertain, kind of stressed, and you put off starting entirely. Weeks go by and you still haven’t started your blog (or posted in months). You haven’t really found where the one conversations are that you want to be involved in. You haven’t started your Facebook page, or signed up for Twitter. Nobody is forcing you to do this stuff, not at all. You want to do these things. You’ve been shown all of the benefits of creating these spaces, but jumping off the cliff without knowing where the bottom is, is scary stuff.

But what’s cool about the Web, is that you can start anywhere. Maybe it’s just a simple Google search on a topic that interests you. Maybe it’s setting up your Google Reader and subscribing to some blogs that a friend or teacher has recommended to you. Perhaps you just go and poke around in Twitter Search for a while and see what’s up. Or you watch some videos. Like the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you pick the path you want to go down. You let your curiosity get the best of you for a while and you just choose the next thing that catches your attention or holds your interest. All the while, you keep your mind open to the experience, step by step.

Every day you spend some time with it. Eventually, you work your way into a comfortable groove. More of the names start to become familiar. You learn who the key players are. You form opinions, and ideas about things. Then maybe you turn a page, and here’s where you decide you want to say something. So you comment on a blog post here or there. You open a document and start typing your own post. You turn on your web cam and say a few words. You take that step from consumer to creator.

The point is, every step of the way, you get to choose. Have an experience for a while, then click a link and go in another direction. It doesn’t always have to be 100% focused, but it helps if you’ve started by knowing what you want to ultimately achieve.

The Web is the ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure book. The question is, which path are you going to choose?

[photo by majcher]