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Five Ways Social Media Can Destroy Your Writing (and, Potentially, Your Career)

By on Sep 25, 2011 in publication, social media, writing | 11 comments

Ah, social media. You can’t cross the street any more without having it cross your consciousness (I wonder if there’s a check-in here!). And as useful as social media can be for us writerly types, I guarantee you for every pro there is a serious and potentially hazardous con. Having written before on some of the reasons I love Twitter for writing, I thought I’d share five ways that social media can, you know, go all Cthulhu on your writing rather than foster it. 1) You drive yourself to distraction. This is perhaps the most obvious pitfall of social media. It’s damn distracting. There’s plenty of time to talk about writing, to meet new writers, to see and read and absorb everyone else’s processes and approaches and learn about the business and agents and publishing and… and… Wait, when was the last time you actually sat down and wrote something? And finished it? And submitted it? Yeah, I thought so. Spend too much time writing and thinking about social media, and before you know it that hard-earned writing time evaporates like wine on a hot skillet. There’s lots of time for learning the craft, and building a network is important. But the second you start spending more time broadcasting than actually creating you’ve got your priorities mixed up. (Don’t think you’re addicted: Check out the Oatmeal’s “How Addicted to Facebook Are You Quiz” for some laughs.) Solution: Some writers use various types of software to turn off Twitter, Facebook, etc., during writing times. Others are just self-disciplined. Me? I block out hour time periods. For that hour, I’m allowed only to write. Then, I get five or ten minutes to check the wide world. Honestly, sometimes I just keep on writing because, well, there’s a lot less noise out there. 2) You broadcast too much. This is something I’ve seen from very young, fledgeling writers, to established and critically acclaimed writers. Yes, there is too much of a good thing. Over sharing. Over gloating. TMI. You know what I mean. Sure, it’s up to you to do as you will with your social media accounts. I’m not the police. I’m just saying, as a book fan and a writer myself, there’ve been many people that I’ve stopped following simply because their feeds got too, well, uncomfortable or, to turn a phrase, commercial. As much as I don’t want to hear about every single meal and migraine, I don’t want to have to endure a feed that’s nothing but self-promotion. Balance, friends. Solution: Ask some good friends for critiques of your social media feeds if you’re worried. Write a manifesto about what you do and don’t share. If you care about that sort of thing. If you don’t, well, more power to you. Just know that your social media persona is as close as some of your fans, potential colleagues, and publishers are ever going to get to you. And if you want to make money off this writing thing, it’s probably a good idea to present yourself well. Okay, so maybe you have a huge, established audience and you couldn’t care less about what people think of you because you bathe in dollar bills. I still hold that one bad turn could ruin your career, especially if it reeks of scandal. 3) You get into arguments with other people. You know. Like, every other day. Yes, I believe that discourse is important. The only way that we progress is through understanding, which can sometimes take the form of heated discussions. But is social media the place for this? Likely not. And for a few reasons. a) it’s painfully public so everyone gets to listen to your late-night, Pabst-fueled rantings uncensored and before you have the chance to delete them b) the internet is FOREVER, man. Be a dick once, and it will haunt you for a lifetime, and c) it’s not a good place to be when you’re heated and angry and out for blood. (Penny Arcade even posits that even some folks probably aren’t in that good of a place when they sign up…) Solution: You’re really pissed off? Good. Maybe you can do something to change the injustice. But take some time to cool off before you oust Major Jerkward Editor to the world. Be tactful. Try blog posts, mobilize your friends, prepare a response. Then you’re not a hot-head drunkard writer who comes off looking petty and jealous, you’re a well-spoken expert on the situation who added something really cool to the discussion and changed a few minds. (Also: try not to take yourself so seriously. I swear, in four years, you’ll look back at this and have a good laugh. Or a cry. Hopefully the former and not the latter.) 4) You’re very vocal about whose writing you do and don’t like. This is beyond issues of content. If you really hate a particular writer simply for the way they write or a particular choice they made in their story, trumpeting it to the social network isn’t the best idea. Why? Well, take a quick look at how many people you’re connected on, say, Facebook. You know, the other day, Facebook recommended that I friend Peter Straub, because apparently we have a whole lot of friends in common. Yeah, that whole six-degrees thing just got a whole lost closer with social media. Thankfully, I like...