A few days ago, I read a lovely piece about the author Ann Patchett and the bookstore she’s opening in Nashville. Ann Patchett doesn’t tweet. Or have a Facebook page. She’s never Googled herself, let alone Google +ed herself. When I read this, my first thought was: Dreamy. Both the bookstore and the utter lack of social media.
I do love Twitter. And Facebook. I haven’t yet joined Google+ because I’m on deadline, have a lot of freelance work and very little childcare this summer (in other words, no energy to learn something new right now), but come fall, I’ll be there. Thanks to social media, I rarely feel like I’m home alone at my desk in Maine. I feel connected—to the world of publishing, to authors, to editors and agents. To readers. To ideas. To news and entertainment. To old friends and relatives who live hundreds of miles away. I’ve gotten to know so many authors who now feel like can’t-wait-to-chat-with-them friends at the water cooler. I have a daily (okay, many times daily) check in with my universe. Because of Twitter, I know that Beverly Cleary is Judy Blume’s idol (and this is something that warmed my heart to know.) Because of Facebook, I discovered that Amy Winehouse died and that many of my Facebook friends are very compassionate. Social media is more than just typing something into a little box and hitting send; it’s a world of connection, in every sense of the world. It’s a wonderful thing and I love it.
There’s often a but, and the but with social media is that sometimes it can feel like it’s squeezing the lifeblood out of you. Like you’re not a part of anything at all. Like you’re very much all alone at your desk in Maine. For all the times I unplug, though, I happily come right back, refreshed and ready to rejoin the social mediaverse.
Another but, which came to me this past weekend after a particular tweet made me gasp, is this: If you’re not on social media, your work, like Ann Patchett's, speaks for itself, speaks for you. That’s a good thing. Social media, on the other hand, does a lot of our speaking for us. Every now and then, I read tweets by authors that make me raise an eyebrow, but I move on down the feed, enjoying the various personalities and sensibilities and breakfasts of those I follow.
Until this past weekend and that gasp. A New York Times bestselling author tweeted something that turned me off to the point that I’d never read a blog post this author wrote, let alone buy another book. And I’m not easy to offend, I swear! I have a sense of humor. I know some things are just stupid-funny. But this tweet, this mean-spirited (albeit maybe very funny to some) bad-taste tweet, all the more wrong especially in light of what the tweet was about, actually managed to offend me. It was a tweet written in the aren’t I clever, aren’t I snarky vein. And all I could think was: Is this who you really are?
That I was turned off to ever reading this author again seems to me a #twitterfail. One of the main points of social media for an author, in my opinion, is for readers and potential readers to discover a face/voice/heart/soul behind the pages. Turning off readers with bad-taste snark (and trust me, I very much appreciate brilliant snark), can’t be good tweeting.
Says me. A thousand others may not have been offended in the slightest. Might have found that tweet very funny. Should authors be mindful of others on social media so that they don’t turn off readers? Everyone has his/her own point of view, sense of humor, way of looking at the world, way of communicating. I follow over a thousand people on Twitter and can’t remember ever reacting so negatively to a tweet.
Do you ever get turned off by what you read on social media? Facebook status updates that make you hit hide or unfriend? Tweets that make you hit unfollow? P.S. If the answer is yes, remember not to be specific! I VERY PURPOSEFULLY didn’t reveal any details about the tweet that bugged me so much. I’m not all that comfortable posting this bit of negativity in the first place. For all I know, I've tweeted a thing or two that has turned someone off.
Again, what’s vicious to me might be hilarious to someome else. What’s “Yeah! Sing-it, sister!” to me might make someone else hit unfollow. Should authors be careful on social media? Does the author who snark-tweeted care that a reader or two might have been lost? Should that author care? That is the question, I suppose.Bio: Melissa Senate is the author of 10 novels, including her latest, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School. She lives on the coast of Maine. P.S. She'd love you to friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.