Why I Am a Sociomediapath
During the 1990s I started to get worried about the effect that email might have on my ability to function as a novelist. I ended up writing a little essay entitled "Why I Am a Bad Correspondent" which has since been read by many people and reprinted in "Some Remarks." Its subject was plain old email. This was long before the ubiquitous mobile Internet came along to bring us worldwide, 24/7 social media platforms exquisitely tuned to make us want to check them every few minutes--and to intrude on our screens with notifications when we fail to do so.
Though I never became a heavy poster on social media, I did reach a point last year when I was checking Twitter and my personal Facebook every few minutes. When I found myself manually refreshing the Facebook window in the hopes of dredging up posts I hadn't seen yet, I decided it was time to think a little harder about the effect that this was having on my ability to get things done.
By that, I mean writing novels. Various events during 2013 brought it home to me that, though I pursue a number of interests with varying degrees of success, I really am an idiot savant whose "superpower," as the saying goes, is writing novels. Now in my mid-fifties, I still have a lot of productive time left in my career, but I can sense the end of it off in the distance--a situation best expressed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem Mezzo Cammin ("Middle of the Road")
Half my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,--
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,--
And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.
I feel that now is the time when I should devote as many of my waking hours as possible to doing what I'm good at, and to minimize time spent reading comment threads and viewing pictures of other people's cats. So far, it's been working well; I completed SEVENEVES recently and have three other novel projects in the works. Somewhat perversely, however, using social media has now become part of a novelist's job. It's one thing if you stay off social media altogether and cultivate an identity as a Luddite or recluse. But if you have a public Facebook page, Google+ identity, and Twitter feed, as I do, and you don't actively use them to talk about and promote your work, it strikes people as being a little weird--it sends a mixed message.
The best solution I can come up with is this. I'm going to keep the social media presences I mentioned, and maybe sign up for more of them as they come along. With the help of some friends I'm rigging up a way to do automated cross-posting among those platforms. I realize that some people find this off-putting, but it's the best way for me to make this work. Some of the posts are going to come directly from me, others from my publisher or from people I trust to post content that my social media followers will find interesting. And except in very rare cases I'm not going to read the comments. Because I am a sociomediapath.
With that as prolog, here are links to my social media: