Wednesday 15 June 2011

The pitfalls of social media (author perspective)

Recently, my mind has been dwelling on social media for authors (hey, throw in some caps and it's a good title for a paper). Obviously, all this is based on my niche inside a niche and my own experiences, and definitely also by observing other authors and the issues they are facing when dealing with social media. (This, BTW, is not a "marketing" post, but really about networking.)

And as an aside, I love social media and jumped into it full force. I don't believe it's a bad thing. I'm just cautioning that it's not always a Good Thing (especially when people use it to gather a pitchfork-wielding mob when anybody is posting an unpopular opinion - then social media helps assemble the torch-wielders that jump on shit out of peer pressure or the heat of the moment).

But I disgress.

So, with those two things out of the way (that I do love social media and that these are NOT just my experiences but an amalgamation of things I've seen over the last months), here are my humble thoughts on the whole thing.

1) Social Media makes you trackable. Say, you get an email and need some time to respond to it and think things through. If you *are* on Twitter, it's very likely that the sender of that email will send you a Direct Message saying "oy, respond to my email", or, subtler "did you get my email?" (Yes I did, "losing email" is usually an excuse, thank you very much.)

This, very often, is totally counter-productive. Social Media exerts pressure on us to do things immediately and respond to everything immediately. I'm not sure about you, but sometimes I like to think things through and discuss it with other people before I respond. Your Twitter and Facebook accounts make this almost impossible. Basically, people can easily bully you into responding AT ONCE.

2) Being "friends" with somebody you signed a contract with - any kind of contact - is at best a double-edged, poisoned blade. All goes well until you get cut. If you get cut, it's really bad.

I do not friend my RL bosses on Facebook, and have asked them not to friend me. It's too awkward. I might want to say something about work, and I can't, or a minor gripe (you know, just venting) suddenly turns into a Disciplinary Issue. I don't need that kind of shit in my life, so I'm not doing it.

The same holds true with publishers. Say, you've promised them a sequel this month, but then you post on Twitter that, actually, you will now write the three-part fantasy epic. If the publisher is switched on, they'll go "Whut?" and what ensues is drama. Since personally, I'm a very bad liar because I can't keep my stories straight, I don't want to follow my publishers anymore and feel queasy if they follow me. Since the rulebook on internet and social media etiquette hasn't really been written yet, this is very difficult territory to navigate. I've seen enough fuck-ups that I'm wary as hell about it all.

3) Banter changes your relationship. Say, you sign a contract with a publisher, you like each other, you banter. Then something goes really, really wrong in either your personal relationship OR your business relationship with that person.

Result: It makes things really awkward. That's why you don't mix business with friendship. If you really like the person, you might be tempted to let them get away with stuff you wouldn't otherwise take (and might end up getting taken advantage of). If you really like the business side of things, it will still get tarnished if the personal relationship went wrong. Fact is, some absolute scumbags are at the same time very good business people, and some utterly lovely people are atrocious at business.

Choose the side of them you like, and stay away from the rest of it. It makes for a lot more sanity in your life. Professional distance is a good thing. You can be friends with your readers, but I highly doubt you can be real friends with a publisher or editor or anybody you have a legal relationship with - amiable respect is probably the best thing that can be achieved.

4) Very often, Social Media creates the same mood and feel of High School (or the German equivalent of it). People *are* petty and childish, there *will* be bullying, there's DRAMAZ!, there is sniping from the back and, definitely, back-stabbing. I don't know about you, but I hated (the German equivalent of) High School. I've also found that this "storm in a tea cup" drama really, really detracts from my writing time and energy. I sometimes come away from Twitter feeling utterly "meh" about writing. Sometimes, sorting shit out and making things right again take so much energy that I'm losing whole chapters to DRAMAZ.

Personally, I don't think it's worth it - or at the very least, I need to think more and harder about how to have more fun and less stress on SocMedia sites.


  1. You make some good points, both for other authors and for people in general. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  2. I wonder if pulling away is a good idea, though the thought occurs every day. The public in general have very short memories. I guess I choose to "weeny out" and remain light and fluffy, that way, nothing controversial happens. I can't afford the "Dramaz" either, it saps the life right out of me. Too old for shit, to be honest.

    Expectations are high for those of us who are "out there." Sometimes I just want to be in my writing cave and have the world pass me by, but then I don't want the world to forget I've spent hours in my writing cave to produce a book they might like.

    Double edged sword indeed.

    Good post, Aleks. Hope the drama didn't sap too much of your energy.


  3. Good luck, its hard to find the balance between cyber life and real life.
    That was a great post and I made a deep and meaningful heartfelt comment but lost in the #$%@# wordpress sign in process. Oh well. I'll come back. :-)