Dealing with Disconnect

I’ve been struggling a bit lately with an increasing sense of disconnect in my life. Funny, how were are more connected than ever, what with Facebook, and Twitter, and various other social platforms–and yet there are times when I wonder what the heck I’m doing spending so much time connected to a device rather than the people and things that I love.

I said as much to the BF last night, after noting how he waited patiently me to stop participating in a chat so we could watch a movie together.

“Why do you say that?” His tone was wry. “Is it because you reach for your cell first thing in the morning to check your Tweets before even getting out of bed?”

In my defense, Twitter is the main way I keep up with some of my friends, and one of them has been very ill recently. I began looking for an update each morning (because of the time difference) ever since I’d missed an important message from her because it had been snowed under by the hundreds of promotional tweets I’d received.

Since then, I’ve thinned the Twitter nest and learned how to make lists, so I can check for the really important stuff every day and filter out the crap. Even so, my phone is constantly vibrating in my pocket. Hell, even when it doesn’t, I think it does, suffering from what Craig Ferguson calls Phantom Phone Vibration Syndrome.

No joke, I get upward of 100 emails a day, and that’s with me being on digest for 99% of my lists. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking people to stop emailing me–I LOVE it when you guys email me and give me feedback on a story, or ask me questions. I love, too, making internet friends and having nice thinky discussions either here on the blog, or via email. Please keep doing that!

What troubles me though is that my need to stay connected to the internet is almost an addiction. I circle through the same social networking sites looking for something to respond to, to ‘like’, to ‘retweet’. I check Twitter at stoplights. I find myself pushing my dog away and telling him I’ll take him out later–not because I am in the throes of a current chapter–but because I’m in the middle of a chat, or a blog hop, or answering 40 responses on Live Journal or a Goodreads thread.

So the irony here is that I’m more connected than ever–and yet increasingly isolated from everything that really matters to me. There’s got to be a better way of balancing things.

Initially when I began writing professionally, I quickly became overwhelmed by the degree of social media connections I was supposed to make and maintain. I rebelled, fighting the rallying cry to blow the self-promotion horn. I lurked on lists, I avoided live chats like the plague (I’m still not super comfortable with them), I wrote silly, self-indulgent blog posts titled “Are Blogs Dead?” and “Shut Up and Write.” I still believe there is merit in shutting up and writing, you know. I look at the time I spend in social media and the current level of productive writing and it makes me cringe.

So I think the key here is doing it effectively. Not the all-or-nothing I’ve been swinging back and forth from lately. I’ve been following Kristen Lamb’s blog for a while now, and she has some good things to say along these lines. What finally tipped me into buying her books, however, was taking a webinar on social media success that touted all things I hate most about that mentality–how to use automation, how to gain huge numbers of followers all with the idea of how they can best help you, presenting a fake persona to the public eye so as to never, ever offend anyone.

I spent the first 40 years of my life never offending anyone. I was practically sewn into a Cloak Of Invisibility. So it goes a bit against the grain now to be told to air only benign, generic opinions for fear of alienating people. I know, I know, I believe that a negative internet presence is more damaging than none, but I also believe in stating what I think and not being mealy-mouthed with my opinions. Anyway, I was so annoyed with the teachings of the webinar that I broke down and bought Kristen Lamb’s books:” We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” and “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.”

I say ‘broke down’ because my purchasing these books was akin to someone with an eating disorder being told they needed to keep a food diary. However, I found these books to be extremely useful (as well as easy to read and entertaining). Oh wow, nothing like discovering you’ve been doing everything wrong–and worse, that you were PROUD of it.

Okay, I still maintain that obsessively reading reviews and watching sales rank on Amazon just messes with your mind. But a lot of the other stuff I have defended–such as not blogging, or chatting, or promoting–well, let’s just say I was wrong and I was right.

I was right in that the methods I was being taught, the ones that rankled with me, were indeed counter-productive and off-putting to most people. And simply not effective. The key to social media is the social part. If you are acting like a spam-bot, people will treat you accordingly. Worse, you will actually make a negative association with your name.

Where I was wrong, however, was in my stance that social networking and self-promotion was unnecessary. Okay, I knew this on some level, but I still kept resisting the idea because putting myself out there is not really my thing.

So where does this leave me? Seeking balance. Finding a way to balance doing the necessary bits of being a writer with the important bits that give my life meaning. Taking the dog for a run in the woods. Riding my horse. Hanging out with my boyfriend. And yes, writing.

In that vein, I will be blogging more here. I will be doing more blog hops (because I love them) and fewer chat/promo/excerpt lists (because they make me squirrely). I invite you to email me (there’s a link on the side but I’ll give it to you here too: akasarahmadison at gmail dot com). I’ll post updates via Twitter and Facebook, but will spend less time there too.

Because I really want to get back to writing. After all, that’s the whole reason why I’m here.

Two guest blogs you might want to check out: I had a spot on QMO (Queer Magazine Online), where I talk about being ‘just’ a supporter of the GLBTQ community and a spot on E.m. Lynley’s blog (the editor of Going for Gold, the new anthology from MLR Press, in which I have a story) where I share a bit about not giving up on the dreams that really matter.

Going for Gold is now available on MLR Press.

Do contact me and let me know what you think! I really enjoy interacting with people online and my path to balance doesn’t preclude emails!


2 thoughts on “Dealing with Disconnect

  1. I must confess to having a firm no-Twitter, no-Facebook stance, because I’m pretty sure they would tip me over the edge into way too much to try to keep track of. But I’m not an author, so I don’t have the promo pressure, either – it does seem hard to avoid Twitter and Facebook because of that.
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  2. I could drop Facebook in a heartbeat and never miss it–were it not for everyone telling me I *must* maintain a presence there. Since it has become a public stock option and new ‘features’ have been added (like the fact that Facebook now controls who sees your posts and they are encouraging you to *buy* ad time to increase your visibility…) I don’t think it is as great or important a tool as it used to be.

    I enjoy Twitter though. I have about 20 or so friends I keep up with that way–I enjoy sharing tidbits about our days, or the latest fandom photo, or news articles that have my friends talking. It’s the other 780 people on the follow list that I could probably do without. The ones that see you as a potential audience and not someone to interact with. I struggle with whether or not to follow someone on a daily basis–and if their list of Tweets is one long promo or a series of RT’s only–with no evidence of a real person behind the account, it’s easy to give them a pass.

    But as you said, there’s the whole author thing. Because you don’t sell stories with advertising–it’s by having good stories, producing them frequently, and word of mouth. The word of mouth thing is undeniable: it’s like that old shampoo commercial where the woman says she told two friends about the wonderful shampoo, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on. It really does work that way, and in today’s age of social networking, the potential power of this system is enormous. It can raise a story out of obscurity and give it 50 Shades of Grey prominence.

    I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envy that sort of unprecedented sales. But I’m honest with myself: ain’t going to happen. I write in a small niche and am neither good enough nor bad enough to get noticed like that. I also hate the whole self promo thing. But I love to write… and selling stories allows me to carve a little time out of my day to write more stories. If I didn’t sell any, I would still write them, but at such a glacial pace that I’d be the only one that ever read them! 🙂

    OMG, I just linked back to your last post and saw all the great topics and links there! I might get lost for the rest of the weekend! 🙂

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