My eight-year-old grandson has a Facebook account. That seems a little precocious to me, but I’m not naïve enough to believe he’s the only child his age to have one. In our society, the technology long ago outraced our ability to make any rational decision as to whether this makes sense. In our family, I can only hope his father and stepmother are monitoring what goes on with the account.
More personally, this presents me with a dilemma. If I want to visit my grandson’s “page”, I have to open my own Facebook account. This is something I have steadfastly refused to do. Call me a dinosaur, a hermit, a Luddite standing foolishly in the way of progress. And, laugh, too, that I specialize in writing about the future while adamantly believing that our headlong rush to embrace all aspects of it is insanity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a complete cyber-cave-dweller. I consider myself a friendly sort. I have a website (in fact, I have two under my own names and will soon maintain a third for a group I belong to); I contribute to this blog; I follow three professional loops closely and several others for fun; I comment frequently (and politely); I know how to use the Internet to do research and how to contact people both professionally and personally by email.
But that’s enough, people! I do not need to be connected at all hours of the day and night through my cell phone or BlackBerry or iPad. I do not need to Tweet or be Tweeted to or be friends with half the planet. Really.
Several recent news items have only encouraged my introverted tendencies. One business article noted that young people are cutting back dramatically on their public profile usage, erecting privacy walls on their accounts and even dropping their accounts altogether, in fear of a negative impact on their careers.
A controversy exploded not long ago in one of my online groups when it was discovered that an agent had rejected dozens of fiction submissions en masse via Twitter. (I guess I was one of those rejected. I was blissfully unaware, since I don’t follow said agent’s Twitter account.)
As writers we’ve been encouraged to actively engage in as many forms of social networking as possible to build our platforms, advertise our “brands” and generally keep our audiences in cyber-thrall. Yet, in “The Hidden Costs of Social Networking” (http://chipmacgregor.typepad.com/main/2010/05/the-hidden-costs-of-social-networking.html), market specialist Rob Eager argues that all of our blogging, blog tours, Tweeting, Facebooking and other forms of social networking rarely help book sales. He advises his client authors to put their time into traditional face-to-face speaking engagements, book tours and media interviews.
Eager says many authors easily spend more than ten hours a week on just one aspect of social networking--surfing and contributing to social sites online. He suggests—gently—that perhaps some of their time might be more productively used to, say, write that next book.
Now there’s a thought. I’ll admit I’m no Stephen King. On a good day, I might get five hours of writing time in—and that’s only if I get up at 4:45 a.m. (which I do four days a week) to log in two hours before everyone else’s day begins. All the rest of my day I have other commitments—emotional, personal, logistical, business and otherwise—that take up precious hours. So I could really use two extra "days" of writing time every week, though I don’t suppose I’ll be giving up all of my online time just yet. I have to have fun sometime.
But if it comes down to a choice between my writing, my family, my friends and a burgeoning social network that could include the immediate universe, then my priorities are clear. Real relationships take work. They take time and energy and focus. I can only do so much. Facebook represents a drain on my resources I can ill afford. So, no, I won’t be starting an account anytime soon. I’ll be emailing my grandson and calling him on Skype. (See, Nonna’s not a total Neanderthal.) I’ll gladly communicate with you all here (and welcome your comments). I’ll see you over at the SFR Brigade site, too.
But if you Tweet that I’m a grumpy old witch on the loser train or the equivalent in 145 characters or less, I’ll be missing that message. I think it’s just as well.