Social Media 101 – Facing up to Facebook

WHAT’S PLAYING: Alicia KeysTry Sleeping With a Broken Heart

I joined Facebook a while ago, and I’m still not sure if it was the right move. I am a loner after all. Why go looking for more people to “friend” when I can barely manage the friends I have? I’ve been told that FB is a good place to reconnect with old friends from high school and college. This might be true, but if they were really my friends, then I wouldn’t have lost touch with them in the first place. (Some of you are probably shaking your head at me, but you know it’s true.)

I have serious reservations about social media and how it changes people. I’m “friends” with a few of my younger relatives, and they are completely different online. It’s as if they go from intelligent, well-spoken young people to profane idiots who couldn’t conjugate a verb to save their lives with just a click of a mouse. (You know who you are. Now stop it.) Then there’s the oversharing. (FYI: I don’t want to know what you had for breakfast this morning, or how wasted you got last night. And I really don’t want to see pictures.) The good news is that both issues are easily solved. All I have to do is click a button.

Another good thing is, since I’m not obsessed with making new friends or reconnecting with old ones, FB doesn’t take up too much of my time. I check it maybe once or twice a week at most, and I’ve only posted twice in the last six months.

The problem with FB is that it’s turned me into a bit of a stalker. Not a creepy, rabbit boiling, love-me-or-die stalker. I use it to keep track of what my friends and family are up to and how their lives are going. Which would be fine if I didn’t suck so much at actually checking in with them in real life. Sometimes I go months without talking to them. FB provides me with the unique opportunity to keep abreast of what’s going on my loved ones lives without actually having to speak with them. It’s a loner’s dream. All the important info with none of the messy contact.

Sometimes I wonder if this is healthy. Is it OK to allow a social network to maintain personal connections I should be forming myself? After all, the point of this blog, of all my forays into social media, was to connect with other people. Is it cheating to just sit back and watch my loved ones’ lives unfold on the computer screen without actually joining in?

Truth is, when it comes to connecting with people, I’m crap. I forget birthdays. (Unless FB reminds me.) I have no pictures of my friends or family. (Except for those I’ve downloaded from  FB.) And I couldn’t tell you how old my nieces and nephews are. (No wait, they’re on FB too.)

 Huh.

 Now all I have to do is find an app to take my place at family dinners.

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Social Media 101: Tweet This

WHAT’S PLAYING: Ideal “Get Gone”

Recently, I did something I swore I never would. I joined Twitter. It was a homework assignment, but still, it went against every instinct I possess. Now that I’ve been a semi-active part of the Twitter-verse for over a month, I feel qualified to comment on it. 

When it comes to Twitter, I’m of two minds about it. I like it. I didn’t think I would, but I do. I like the brevity, the way it forces me to be concise, to say what I have to say in 140 characters or less. I think it makes me a better writer. I like knowing when my favorite authors are releasing new stuff, or when they’re in my area for a reading or a book signing.

What I don’t like is the insidious way it’s gotten into my head. Every time something remotely interesting happens, I find myself reaching for my cell phone. Just the other night, I had to stop myself from Tweeting about the return of Salsa Rio Doritos. (Though to be fair, Salsa Rio is like the McRib of Doritos. They pop up every other year or so for a limited time and then disappear as quickly as they came.) When I first signed up, I promised myself that I wouldn’t be that person. You know the one. The chick who will Tweet about everything from her kids to her latest visit to the gynecologist.

I also hate the feeling of having to post something – anything – to keep up with all the other people in the Twitter-verse. It’s as if I’m in a race, running as fast as I can, and yet I’m still somewhere in the back with little old ladies power walking their way past me. What can I say? My life just isn’t that interesting. Plus, I don’t want to add to the mindless chatter already out there.

My biggest issue with social media like Twitter and Facebook is that for people like me, it can be a boon or a curse, a bridge to other people or a wall that separates us from the rest of the world. It can bring us together or alienate us even further.

The real world is scary, full of unknown dangers, both physical and emotional. Who wouldn’t prefer connecting with others from the safety of their living room? It’s much easier to reduce yourself to 140 characters. What is the touch of a lover’s hand when compared to the visceral rush that comes with amassing over hundred thousand followers?

I’m still not sure about the term “follower.” Sounds stalker-y. I mean seriously, Jesus had followers, but he also had an important, world-altering message to deliver. All I can got are a couple of anecdotes and blog posts that are hopefully funny, interesting, and most of all, useful.

Twitter is a great tool if you know how to use it. I wanted to connect with other writers, loners and fantasy geeks, and I have. And if I’m completely honest, I like that it gives me an opportunity to meet other people, while providing an excuse to avoid them in the real world. (I am a loner, after all.)

What about you? Do you use social media as a bridge or a wall?

However you use it, try to restrain yourself from Tweeting about Doritos. That’s my thing.

Website Coming Soon

WHAT’S PLAYING: DuffyRain on Your Parade

Holy sh*t! I have a website!

Well, not really. Not yet. But it should be up and running by the first of the year. It feels strange, topsy-turvy. I haven’t even published (or finished) my book yet, and here I am already setting up an author website and Facebook page. Is it just me, or does all of this seem a little backward?

Turns out, it isn’t. I’ve talked to half a dozen authors, agents, editors and marketing execs, and they all agree that the best time to start building a platform is now. I don’t really like the term “platform”. It makes me feel as though potential readers are little more than a surface on which I’m supposed to build my career. That doesn’t sound…well, right. I’m not trying to sell anybody anything. (I don’t have anything to sell.)

I’m doing this to connect with potential readers and people in general. I have to admit that it’s a little odd though. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding people, closeted in my room safe from the minefields of social interaction and the subsequent humiliation that comes with it, that actually trying to attract other people’s attention is like trying to speak Russian while walking a tightrope suspended over Niagara Falls.

Let’s jut say it usually doesn’t end well.

To be brutally honest, I suck at it. I joined both Twitter and Facebook, but have yet to post on either site. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that I can’t imagine that anyone would want to hear it. My friend, M, has graciously agreed to help me set up an online profile, but I keep chickening out. Every time she starts explaining the various ways to manipulate social media, I suddenly turn into a moron. It’s not that I’m not interested or that she’s a bad teacher, it’s just that when it comes to certain things, my brain shuts down.

I usually wind up feeling the need to assure her that I really am smart. (I am. Really. I swear.)

And that brings us to the website. What the hell am I going to do with it? To that end, I’ve signed up for a Social Media 101 course. Don’t laugh. Some you probably don’t know much about nuclear chemistry.

So there.

Some cool links for you:

http://halfwaybetweenthegutter.wordpress.com/

Fearless honesty and haunting poetry. This young woman’s journey is not for the faint of heart, but the fact that she’s still trying to move forward makes her an inspiration.

http://astoryeveryday.com/

This is for anyone who has a story they want to share, fiction or nonfiction. Send them a story, long or short, or even a picture, and they will post it for the world to see. (Disclaimer: despite the title, they don’t really post stories every day, but it’s still a cool place to drop by.)

http://www.john-shirley.com/blog/

John Shirley’s blog. Full of current and relevant observations and strong opinions on such. Warning: you may come away smarter or at least, more aware than you were before.