Confessions of a social media failure

One of the coolest, and most unexpected, side benefits of getting an agent and a book deal has been the opportunities to meet other authors.  Amazing things happen, like getting invited to join in a group blog (HAI GUYS), or writing fan mail and having it actually be answered, personally! And then getting invited to hang out with said writer at conventions!


But one of the number one things I hear from all the amazing new authors I meet is “Oh! Are you on Twitter?” or “Oh! Let’s follow each other on facebook!” and then I have to sort of hem and haw around the fact that I am not, in fact, twitterpatted, and while I do have a facebook, I only got it for work, and I never use it. It’s not because I’m old fashioned or some kind of social media luddite, far from it, it’s just that I don’t really like social media.

Part of it is that I’m really just not that interesting. Honestly! I get up, I go to work, I write, I play videogames, I have a stable relationship with my husband, not exactly high drama. I have to work myself into a froth to be interesting once a week for you guys, the idea of doing it daily makes me green around the gills, especially the thought of doing it on Twitter.

Now I love the idea of Twitter. It’s like the ultimate short form, except for the part where I’m really bad at short form anything.  I tried to write a tweet once, on a dare from a coworker, and I failed. Oh how I failed. I seem to be incapable of being clever in anything less than a paragraph (though whether I can be clever within a paragraph is yet to be discovered.)

So, Twitter is out more through my personal failing than any real objections, but facebook? You don’t have to be clever on facebook, right? So why do I take enormous pains to avoid even visiting the site, let alone logging in?

I think part of it is my upbringing. I come from a very old, southern family where talking too much about yourself was the height of rudeness. So when I see all the facebook apps and profiles full of personal information, I don’t see them as items of interest for my friends, I see them as a vaguely embarrassing overabundance of personal information. For example, in my day job, my company makes social networking sites on occasion (hence why I have a facebook for work), and while we were putting together the user photos section I noticed there was a tab for “photos of me,” even in your friend’s albums. When I saw this, I became offended cat. “What?” I screeched. “There’s a whole section just for pictures of me? That’s so narcissistic!”

My boss’s answer? “Facebook does it.”

The whole focus on the user as the center of their social universe, while the point of a social networking site, offends me deeply and, frankly, kind of stupidly. To steal a phrase of my mother’s, “they didn’t make it to offend you.” Social media may be narcissistic, but it’s also not going anywhere. Lots people love it, including people I love, and I just need to (to steal yet another phrase of my mother’s) get over myself and get on. After all, when my book comes out I would be an idiot not to take advantage of the ready made social platforms to try and shore up any slips into obscurity. In the end, not using my resources because I don’t like them is just another form of narcissism. A dangerous one that could do real harm to my carreer if I persist in my social media failure.

At the end of the day, I want to be a successful author more than I want to stay away from social media. What’s the point of working so hard on these books if no one buys them? I can’t guarantee that having a facebook/Twitter presence will sell my books, but it certainly can’t hurt. And with so many entertainment options out there jostling my poor little paperback, I’ll take everything I can get.

3 Responses to “Confessions of a social media failure”

  1. July 24, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    While I do agree with you that social networking can become incredibly narcissistic at times, I think there’s also something to be said for how you choose to approach it. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of posting excess info about myself, especially on Facebook, but originally signed up to keep in touch with various friends and family that seem to have abandoned all other forms of communication. I use it moreso to keep in touch with what they’re doing, see what’s going on through the photos they post, and the like. They may post those photos for selfish motives, but they’re not the only ones enjoying looking at them. Likewise I view the “pictures of me!” feature as a handy way to hunt down photos of them on their pages. My own page has a glorious two photos, only because I realized my old profile pic was outdated, so searching for me wouldn’t really accomplish much.

    Overall I prefer Twitter to Facebook because it does seem less self-oriented. I don’t want people that only tweet their blog updates, releases, and the like, and instead follow people who share links (not just their own), information, and offer good conversation. There’s definitely something to be said for getting a personal feel for a favourite author, which will definitely be a benefit should you choose to get involved, even if it’s just getting to know another writer’s daily routine, or when they get stuck and have problems. It seems to be consensus that a user’s content should be about 95% worthwhile, and 5% promotion. In the end though, you do want to get attention for your book and market your product, so there’s certainly a self-serving quality, but think of it this way, you’re not representing yourself, so much as your book and your writing. If you’re being selfish and blatantly promoting now and then, you’re doing it for ‘someone’ who can’t 😉

  2. July 25, 2009 at 12:02 am

    I think it’s possible to become a successful author without using social media — amazingly, people did it before the internet — but these days I do think you have to keep in mind how the audience thinks. There’s soooo much information out there — Long Tail, etc. — that sorting it is tough, and social media is one of the ways people do it. Used to be, back in the days when the book industry published a few hundred books a year, you could ask your friends for recommendations and get a roughly similar set of answers. These days there are tens of thousands of books published per year, and nobody reads them all or anywhere near, and the usual group of friends is insufficient to allow word-of-mouth to work the way it used to. Ask your friends for recs and you’ll get 10 different lists. Social networks allow a wider net for “friendships” (even if they’re not really friends) to be cast.

    That said, you can build this net the analog way, but I think it’s harder to do. Become popular in other ways — join organizations, make a kickass book trailer, etc. It can be done.

  3. 3 Jeremy
    July 25, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I have to agree with Nora, here. I’m actually an example of what she was saying — she’s someone I knew online from back when she was heavily into anime fandom and was writing fanfic on a regular basis, and we even met in person once, by accident rather than design, because of that shared fandom. We both drifted away from it, though, and thus ended that association. Until, as I’m occasionally wont to do, a year or two ago I was searching for people I knew once upon a time, came across her LJ, and said hi. And so I ended up here, too, and ‘met’ all the rest of the Magic District authors. Would I have found you otherwise? Probably not.

    In short, by virtue of having the public presence, she’s gotten at least one more book sale, and without having to do much more than say hi back when I left a comment on her LJ. And, in this case, so have some of you all. So it can definitely be easier, since it means your audience can more easily come to you, but there are plenty of people who don’t use social networking sites (or read blogs), so by going for a different route, you might be more likely to draw in some of them.

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