Okay I Was Wrong: My Story Arc from Social Media Wallflower to Media Party Hopper

I first have to admit that I'm over 50. That likely predisposes me, much as I hate to admit it, to some natural reticence about social media. I still write thank-you notes, with a pen. I make phone calls. I send cards. While I’m not hesitant to admit my age, I don’t like to admit my reticence. I like to think of myself as progressive, embracing of new ideas, and an ever growing, evolving type. But the whole Facebook, Twitter thing--from the outside looking in, anyway--just seemed a silly time-suck to me and likely the stuff for tweens and teens; a modern equivalent of passing notes in class and writing in slam books. To say nothing of the fact that as both a therapist and a natural introvert, the "over-sharing" TMI kind of stuff people often display on these media just, well, bugged me. I mean do I really need to read about people's flu symptoms? Their cat's digestive problems? What they just bought at Pottery Barn? The short answer for me is a resounding NO!  And sorry if I offend anybody, but when I watched adult friends of mine buying Farmville silos and worrying about their virtual artichoke crops, I knew the social media thing was just beyond me. I didn't get the appeal.

To top it off, whenever I heard about these sites, it seemed that when people weren’t swirling in the time-sucking virtual vortex, they were just hawking their wares all the time. I left the Girl Scouts because I didn't want to sell the cookies and vowed never in my life to have a profession where I was trying to sell stuff to friends and family. I was disgusted by the insecurity of it all. Like me. Follow me. Endorse me. Puh-lease. It just seemed so needy and pathetic. I already have friends . . . real ones! Besides, I had a book to finish and an agent to find. I had no time for such nonsense.

Then along came Goodreads. I'm not sure how it happened; likely someone I trust sent me an invitation. But when I first saw Goodreads in August of 2008 I thought, "Finally, a site for book-reading grown-ups! I could get into this." With no idea that I was actually developing a network or laying the very first boards of my future author platform, I joined. "Good way to keep track of the books I've read," I said to myself. I didn't even use my last name in my profile. (P.S. I only discovered that leftover tidbit today and corrected it). I thought that I'd invite a few of my book-loving buddies to join me so I could see what they were reading. Kinda fun. And confessedly, I didn't even think of it as a social media network. Just a secret little site for book lovers. Like a first purchase from a dealer, it seemed innocent enough and I was at no risk for the harder stuff.

Now, the next years are a blur as far as the progression goes. But as a writer aspiring to publish--likely an indie author at that--I could no longer ignore that writerly friends whom I admire were using social media, and not just for selling their books. They were learning about resources and events, tools of our craft, and connecting to other writers and their readers, too. They were sending and receiving real information. Real inspiration. They started talking about connecting to authors they admired and having meaningful exchanges, then actually meeting one another at writers’ conferences and such. I felt just a teeny bit left out.

I started getting invitations to join LinkedIn. Friend requests . . . from actual friends. What’s the harm? So I made my first unsure and uninformed steps into creating sites for myself. They were clumsy. Kind of useless, really, and unattended for so long that I'd regularly forget passwords and user names. I certainly wasn’t aggressive about soliciting for members, friends, likes, or endorsements. I refused to use the word “friend” as a verb, as in “I friended you on Facebook.” My pages and sites sat dormant for much of the next 3 years. Oh, I’d accept the occasional request. I’d poke around on someone’s wall if something intriguing crossed my path. I even dipped my toe into commenting on people’s posts, though I couldn’t yet determine the value of “liking” someone. Still too pathetic.    

I started to meet non-writers who were using Facebook and other sites to make real and meaningful connections to real and meaningful people. I met an amazing, inspiring transplant nurse, Charles Reardon, who had been part of transporting the first-ever infant heart cross-country for successful implantation in another infant. In the ensuing years that infant had grown up and was having a baby of her own, also a first. They “met” on Facebook, started an exchange, and have since formed a relationship that is soul-filling for them and their families as well. You could friend Charles and read all about it. Take that, skeptical Betsy!

This inspired me. I started to put a little muscle into hosting my sites. Talked with more tech-savvy buddies. Got a little help in making things look better and operate in a meaningful way. I heard a tip during a seminar from Frances Caballo, the author of Social Media Just for Writers, who said that only 20% of what you post on any social media should be about promoting your work. The other 80% should be for providing information, inspiration, or promoting the ideas and works of others. This appealed to me. (And hey, did you notice me promoting someone else’s work here?) Maybe if I’m providing something useful, people won’t mind if I promote my book and events now and then. If they like it, all of my "friends" will pass the word and I won't be the one having to do all of the book hawking. At a recent book launch of a friend, I met author Atta Arghandiwal. Lovely man who has written Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story. He spoke with me about Twitter--an unlikely topic, I would have thought. Now if you saw this guy--smart, worldly, thoughtful, literary--you’d understand why I didn’t instantly connect him with my demeaning and completely ignorant assumptions that Twitter is just for people literally twiddling their thumbs with comments while watching The Real Housewives. On the contrary. Atta talked to me about how Twitter has acquainted him with people all over the world and ideas he’d never before encountered. Not only that, he credits Twitter and the “real” relationships he’s formed through this medium for much of the sales success of his book. I bought a copy and am reading it now. Beautiful. You could go onto Goodreads and see my post.

I’m also learning about ways to reduce what annoys me most in social media. I discovered that you can use Facebook settings so that those who habitually post inanity and TMI won’t appear on your wall, and you don’t have to “unfriend” them--something I could not bring myself to do. I’m still swimming in the shallow end of all of the tools, widgets, and apps (many of them still a mystery, I admit), but I’m learning ways to make social media work for me. I limit my time so that I’m not sucked into the vortex. I have had lovely exchanges with other writers, reconnected with old friends, and have learned about events that I’d never have heard of had I not been “following” someone on Twitter. I’ve researched the new novel I’m writing by talking with people who live in the places I’m writing about or who have experienced the ails of my characters. I’ve been sent quotes, photographs, and inspirations that I’d have encountered no other way but for social media. I’m still not planting any virtual artichokes. Won’t do it.   

Suffice it to say that while much of the flotsam and jetsam of social media (still don’t want to know about your cat’s digestive problems) remains of little interest to me, I have now begun to see the true, deeper value of connecting via these modern day communication vehicles. Sure, there’s junk out there. But I’m sure not every letter sent by stagecoach was deep and meaningful either.

 

So what’s the end to the arc of my own social media story? You can find me under my name, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, at Goodreads, Linkedin, Facebook, and, of course, She Writes.

Website: www.betsygrazianifasbinder.com

Twitter:  @WriterBGF

Some of the work is still under construction and I’ve got help to make it work better. Linkedin is overdue for major renovation. But whatever their condition, I look forward to the surprising connections to be made with these modern day conversation opportunities.  Hope to meet some of you there and perhaps, become friends.

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Tags: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, media, social

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Comment by Betsy Graziani Fasbinder on December 27, 2012 at 4:15pm

Thanks, Diane.  I'll check out your blog.  I've just begun mine at artfindsaway.com.  

I'll look forward to the virtual crossings of our paths.  

Comment by Diane Lewis on December 27, 2012 at 3:58pm

Hello Betsy. Great article about the upside of social media. I too seek community and, like you, have found that there are times when the "community" I seek is found on-line. Thus the subscription to She Writes, a blog at wordpress (check it out if you wish at peace4diane@wordpress.com) and a presence on Twitter and Facebook, too. Over the holiday break, I finally took the time to reinovate my LinkedIn account as well.

Anyway, keep up the great writing. Looking forward to your next article.

Comment by Betsy Graziani Fasbinder on December 10, 2012 at 4:33pm

Thanks Cheryl.  I once read that when the train was first invented (given that no one had ever moved through space so quickly) that many were so afraid that the speed would blow their bodies apart that they simply wouldn't consider riding.  Now I'll admit that I likely would have let at least a load or two of passengers deboard intact before I climbed on, but then, "ALL ABOARD, baby!"  I sure don't want to miss the next dimension of innovation because of fear or misunderstanding.  

Mari, glad you're inspired to put your toe in the water.  That's how such things start.  Here's to retirement!! 

Comment by Cheryl Roshak on December 6, 2012 at 3:35am

What a great post, Betsy! We all have prejudices and resistances towards things, especially new things, but some of my friends are such Luddites and adamantly refuse to even explore or are even curious about what is happening in the world around them, I call them my dinosaur friends. Of course they make fun of me too, as I am a bit of an addict when it comes to the Internet. What is special about you is your willingness to explore and be open, even if you started off with a negative predisposition, for anything that challenges the status quo can be daunting at times. But change with the times we must and use whatever as it serves us best, in our own way for our own needs. 

I became involved in all this through my career in the late 80's and grew up with it and whether I liked it or not was not the issue, it was the way of the future and my livelihood, which had nothing to do with my writing life, which didn't start till later. So I applaud your courage and sense of adventure and thank you for sharing your story! :)

Comment by Betsy Graziani Fasbinder on December 5, 2012 at 8:15am

I never thought of my delete button as a bad boyfriend, Toni, but now that you mention it...

My thinking is that bad blogs and TMI posts shouldn't keep us from participating in social media any more than poorly written bestsellers should keep us from writing books.  I say let's elevate the art form!  But I'd also say there's room in social media to play around a little.  Sometimes some funny little missive lifts my spirits, and it's not literary art, that's for sure.  Plus, this gives me permission not to be a perfectionist all the time.  

Comment by Toni Piccinini on December 5, 2012 at 8:05am

Betsy, your post has me questioning my resistance. I cringe at what some of my friends post, too. The content and the prose. Then all I have to do is read something that wasn't very good and I freeze up. This sends me into the "I can only squeeze out three innocuous words" response place and I rush back into the arms of my bad-ass boyfriend—Mr. Delete Button for protection. He does suck as a BF. He acts like he is protecting me, but all he wants to do is silence me. He reminds me of the consequences of a poorly written blog. The most frightening thing is the permanence. Seriously, social media is the new writing in stone. But so what! Recently, I received an email from an esteemed writer. There were errors (gasp!) and like your post it was a gift. He was sharing information with me not working on his opus. Like the scratches on our old letters the gaffs just don't matter. You've inspired me! I'm breaking up with Mr. DB, right after I have another cup of coffee.

Comment by Mariana Dietl on December 4, 2012 at 7:22pm

Great post, Betsy!! Thanks for sharing. Hopefully you'll inspire me to plunge a little deeper into these virtual waters!

Comment by Cindy Brown on December 4, 2012 at 6:25pm

You are right about all of the ridiculous things you see on social media sites. It can be very juvenile! However, it's the gems hidden in there that keep me returning. Were it not for a casual comment in a LinkedIn thread, I would not be a published author, included in my first anthology right now. If it weren't for Twitter, I wouldn't have been asked to guest post on a high profile individual's blog. If it weren't for SheWrites, I wouldn't have half my followers on my blog. I love social media. Its benefits outweigh the flu symptoms.

Comment by Betsy Graziani Fasbinder on December 4, 2012 at 4:50pm

Not to worry, Jagoda.  I give social media only a portion of my time and it's different given the circumstances.  Right now, for instance, I'm tidying my office (much needed), so it's fun to be interrupted to respond to a post or a tweet, thank you very much.  When I want focus on a task or just time to think, I shut the internet off and do as the Buddhists suggest.  "Be here now" and I leave the whole cyberworld behind.  It will intrude only as much as you allow it.  That's my promise to myself.  

Comment by Jagoda Perich-Anderson on December 4, 2012 at 4:44pm

I so relate to your experience, Betsy, and that of many of those commenting. Twitter is still on the horizon for me, though I did sign up. Having this sort of discussion and the She Writes community helps me feel less alone in my social media wanderings. I appreciate more and more what social media has to offer and recognize that I have to set boundaries about which ones I participate in, and how much time I spend on them. When I make the right choices for me, it's all good...interesting people and information and inspiration abound.

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