Tuesday, June 8, 2010

FACELESS

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.

Cheers, Donna

6 comments:

  1. I can understand how you feel. As one who has gone whole hog into Social Networking, I can tell you to do it successfully, it does take a lot of time. It cuts into writing time. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming.

    But, that said, it has put me in touch with so many wonderful, wonderful people. Had I not gotten involved in SN, there is so much writing info I would have missed. I would also not get the opportunity to put a human face on so many writers out there, published and unpublished, who are all working to make the world a better place. Yes, I think that's what we writers do! Sharing what's inside us is a beautiful thing.

    Will my time in SN translate into sales down the road? I don't know. I don't have a book in hand just yet. But I do hope that it will help spread the word about it, and me, and perhaps give it a chance to stand out among so many other wonderful novels out there. Until that day comes, I continue to learn and grow through the people I know online and am content. Whatever I give, I always get back so much more, I think. :)

    It is all about balance. And everyone has to be an advocate for their own writing and time, and do what works best for them. There are many paths to succeed (and promote, learn, etc), not just one.

    Hope you're doing well!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  2. Donna said: 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.

    *grins with self-conscious amusement* It does sometimes seem like you're connecting with the immediate known universe...and other times? *cricket serenade*

    I do invest a lot of time online that I sometimes might better spend actually writing the novels that I'm advance-promoting. SN creates a huge demand on our time and energy, but I do think it's a good thing, and a necessary thing, in moderation.

    Angela, thanks for stopping in and offering your take. And you're so right, we are our own best advocates when it comes to rationing our available time.

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  3. Well, I do have a facebook account - only recently activated - I have 6 friends - a couple of which I don't know. I don't see the point to be honest and I might as well delete the thing. I'm not good at using it so why bother? I think I probably don't do as much as I could to market myself. I'm British. We just don't blow our own trumpet. My self-confidence is always shaky. It takes very little to knock me down and I really just want to hide away and write. But if I want to sell my books, I can't so yes - it's balance - finding the right mix of the use of your time. But like you, Donna, for me, I don't think FB is the way to go. I really don't get how to use it. Maybe I'm the dinosaur.

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  4. Wonderful comments, everyone, and I'm tempted to agree with you all, because I truly am torn on this issue. The social networks I participate in have brought me true friendship, professional mentoring and a deep sense of community. But there is a constant pull toward the "dark side", like some black hole of infinitely regressing self-promotion. And, like you, Barbara, that makes me squirm. On the other hand, there is the fear that whatever we do or say will be greeted with, as you say, Laurie, the "cricket serenade".

    I keep returning in my mind to Jackie Lichtenburg's thought that SN is not about what you take from it, but what you give to it. In that case, the marketing analysis is correct--we can't expect to use social networking to sell books. We can expect to use it to build relationships. And the quality of those relationships will depend on the amount of time we can devote to them.

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  5. Great post, Donna, and great follow-up comments. Are you familiar with Ricky Gervais, creator and star of the original The Office? I looked him up on twitter once. There were six posts, terminating with:

    "I am sorry, but I am going to stop these tweets because I don't see the point. Please follow my blog at rickygervais.com."

    This cracked me up because I feel exactly the same way. But I do tweet on a limited basis. I follow the tweets of various scientists and scientific organizations and find out about all sorts of cool stuff that way. But if my muse is already playing hide-and-seek on a particular day, having such an easy distraction at my fingertips is not really a good thing.

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  6. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to stop these tweets because I don't see the point . . ." LOL At least he recognized it. I fear there are just too many people out there going, "Somebody stop me before I hurt someone!" :)

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