Facebook for Writers: A Constitution in Ten Rules and One Appeal

29Nov10

Co-written with Jacob McArthur Mooney, as a facetious guide to Facebook.

1. Decide if your profile is a personal or professional one. If you’re going to friend every other writer in the world, we don’t want to hear about how much you enjoyed your eggs.

2. On that note, you don’t need to friend everyone, and writers in another part of the continent will not race out to buy or review your book because you’re friends on Facebook. Seriously, it’s an epidemic. Be a person, not a computer virus. Friend the people you know, (and the people you’d like to know. Don’t befriend people you know you’ll never know, y’know?)

3. Do not complain about Facebook stealing all your writing time. This isn’t really what’s happening. Procrastinating writers existed before 2002. If it wasn’t Facebook, it’d be something else. Don’t steal others’ Facebook time with reminders about writing.

4. Don’t complain about Facebook in your Facebook status update. Even though you’re a writer who stands for truth and wisdom in all things, you look stupid when you complain about FB’s privacy settings from inside your profile. You’ve bought in. Deal with this. The only thing worse than acquiescing is acquiescing ironically.

5. Don’t have fan pages and invite people to be a fan of you. High school is over, and we should all be working to keep it that way.  If someone had approached you decades ago to say someday you’ll have a machine in your home, and you’ll use it to try and get everyone you know to indicate they like you, you’d have said please go away and take your soul-destroying ideas with you.  (You’d have been in the right.)

6. Profiles are for people and groups are for publishers and bookstores. Some of us aren’t comfortable being friends with anonymous entities (like Buzzard Wing Books, Alberta) that can look at all our photos.

7. If someone invites you to an event, and you don’t want to go, hit the “Not Attending” button, not the “Ignore” button, and especially not the “Attending” button. Facebook offers you innumerable opportunities to be a passive-aggressive wimp. Don’t overdo it. The “Maybe” attending button is a decent compromise, and notes are often appreciated if you’re going to decline.

8. The following things are difficult to communicate through text, among others: sarcasm, tongue-in-cheekiness, and irony. Try to avoid these writerly tools around casual acquaintances as they may not be fully briefed on your staggering capacity for wit. When your bon mots crash against the sheer cliffs of others’ literalness, it will not be their fault. It will be yours.

9. Never confuse the apparent popularity of something’s Facebook presence with its actual popularity in the real world. Include yourself among these somethings. The following expressions are to be avoided: “This reading should have really been better attended, it got __ attendees on the FB invite.” and “If every one of my FB friends just bought 2 copies of my book, each, I could sell out on Amazon.”

10. If you feel another writer is using their profile as a personal soapbox to describe the mundane slog of their workaday lives instead of anything thoughtful about writing, and you want to call them on this, fair enough. But first, put yourself through the following test: copy and paste your last ten status updates to a word document. Now, scan through that document looking for references to your children or pets. How many did you find? Is it more than three? Yes? Okay, then shut up.

In closing, we all have writing in common, and we’re all sensitive enough to be writers. This makes us a loose community of the easily offended. Avoid dropping and blocking people because they reviewed your book poorly, or didn’t speak to you at an event, or anything else. It’s counter-productive to polarize the writing subcultures, plus it’s hurtful. We’re not saying we’re perfect people, and have never made mistakes, but let’s be honest – we were supposed to be done with turning our backs on inconvenient people somewhere around grade school.

Happy Facebooking!

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One Response to “Facebook for Writers: A Constitution in Ten Rules and One Appeal”

  1. Alex, good advice. Not sure how many newbie writers will have the common sense to listen, though. I’m just looking into Facebook because my family are driving me nuts with “posts.” I wonder how they find time to do anything else. In my view, you want to be a writer, you write.
    Good post.
    Hampton Bush, trade magazine editor, author of Brothers of the Light on Amazon.


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