Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Facebook: My View from the Edge

I was on Facebook several years and, to be honest, I didn’t like it. OK, maybe I didn’t “get it” and that was the problem but I really thought it was lame. Well, it was lame – at least for me and I understand that now. For the other people it was wonderful and a lot of fun and also obviously speaking to whatever their needs were at the time but for me it wasn’t a good fit.

See, they were into things I had no interest in, stuff that left me cold, things that did not speak to my heart.

There was nothing inherently wrong or even weird about what those folks were doing on Facebook; for the most part they were playing games and yakking it up about their families and friends and what they planned for the weekend. It was harmless and pleasant but it just wasn’t me (not that I’m not harmless and pleasant exactly; hmmm…. maybe I should rephrase that… oh the hell with it, this is a blog, not my literary opus -- deal with it). 
Ah! Nothin' like a big meaty bone!

I was talked into trying Facebook again about ten months ago and rather grudgingly I did, but this time I went in with an entirely different attitude. I was looking for meat. Stuff I could sink my teeth into, bones I could suck the marrow out of, grizzle I could masticate to death. In short: substance, not fluff.

I wasn’t particularly looking for friends, new or long-lost, and I wasn’t particularly looking for acquaintances. I really wanted to use Facebook to help me follow the news -- track and monitor the great political divide in this country. Oh, I could find the news by myself; that wasn’t my problem.  I wanted to follow opinions about the news and possibly share in those discussions.

I’ve never bought what the right wing conservatives in the country are selling so it was a natural fit for me to align with groups and individuals sharing news links and opinions from a liberal left perspective. They’re not always 100% on the money but at least they don’t give me hives. The other side does.
What is it about some people that gives me the hives?
I need to watch the right wing, of course, because it’s what they’re doing that I think warrants watching but reading about it through the filter of left leaning analyses buffers it for me. I still get infuriated but the sense that I’m not alone mitigates against my despair.

Then I branched out and began to meet other writers, both of fiction and not, and also made a deliberate attempt to find people I could admire and learn from and this opened up even more doors. Before I’d friend request someone or accept their request I’d study their Info page on Facebook and/or their Wall and if we weren’t somehow compatible I’d move on. This could be a little problematic in cases where people block this information from people who aren’t yet their friends but I’d then consider who their other friends were; if we shared many in common I felt our relationship would work.

Today I really believe that I’ve found 1000 of the most absolutely fantastic human beings in the world on Facebook. How can you be friends with over 1000 people? I know it sounds absurd but you know what? You can. We all don’t communicate all the time about everything and some of us are far more connected than others but I have to tell you as a group I think those 1000-plus people could move mountains.

I know they’ve often moved me in the most unimaginable ways.

Facebook represents many things about where I am in life right now. For example, I’m not a gamer – in all the ways that is meant. I’ve never been a big game board or card player. I like chess but haven’t played it in years and given the chance to play it again I’d rather just sit and talk to my chess opponent.  If talk is not an option, then just give me a book or magazine.

See what I mean?

If you want to discuss politics I’m all in – but I don’t want to listen to the politics of hate and fear. Then I’m out. If you want to talk about your family and I already like you (because we don’t play games and we share a similar world view), then I’m all in. But you have to get to that point with me because I want reciprocity and if I don’t like you then there’s not much I’m going to share with you about my personal life and family (read that as: I will share nothing at all).

I don’t think I need to say I’m into kink or bungee jumping and I’m not looking for anyone to save me for the Lord on Facebook (and I resent anyone who tries).

I know that it’s absolutely mandatory that authors create a sophisticated social networking world; I’ve heard the mantra and I know how it works and when I waded into the Facebook waters this was certainly on my mind but it wasn’t at the top of my mind and that’s the truth. I thought that some day it could very well be a tool to promote myself as an author and my books but I wanted to become familiar with Facebook first and I definitely wanted a different way to collect and filter news and possibly connect with some like-minded people.

Let me explain something about my new life as a fiction writer. Writing fiction is very new to me. I mean really, really new – at least as an adult. I’ve been dreaming up stories since I could just about walk and that’s no joke… well, more truthfully, I was spinning tales before I could write them down but it worked out because I had the luxury of owning my very own scribe. His name was Roo and he was a man of color (ratty brown furry color to be exact – the kind that would cover the body of a stuffed kangaroo).

My Roo!

Family lore records I was about 2.5 years old when I started dictating my stories to Roo. My father was an attorney and my mother a legal secretary and sometimes she’d step in and help him (as when his secretary was on vacation). I was fascinated with my mother’s ability to take shorthand as she listened to my father. I mimicked this and began dictating to my beloved Roo. The thing was, as my astonished folks soon realized, I really was dictating a story, not just kiddy gibberish. My mother captured some of those stories but sadly they are now lost to me; I have no idea where they ended up although I know she kept them on a steno pad for years and years. She kept this pad with many of the things she cherished under the table pads in the 2nd drawer of the dining room buffet (makes sense, right?). Roo is also no more. He fell apart in the washing machine (I still mourn his loss). 
Does this professor look like a guy who would appreciate
a good yarn? Not likely.
If you think so, just try explaining
how the boys at the frat party ate your thesis.

Life took me on various other trajectories and I ended up (among other things) as a historian. As you may well guess, one does not boast about an ability to draft good fiction while simultaneously trying to earn bona fides as a credible historian. At least this is how it was at the university I attended. The History Department at my alma mater frowns on flights of fancy and other inventions and I’m sure you can appreciate why (unless of course you’re Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck but let’s not go there now…).

(This man is NOT a historian.)

But I digress... so, anyway, yesterday an aspiring young author contacted me and asked how I used Facebook to promote myself as an author. The truth is, my friend, I don’t.

But what I think I’ve done – what I hope I’ve done – is promote myself as a person.

I look serious here don't I?
Maybe even find myself as a person.

I have not been able to separate myself as the historian and political commentarian (is that a word?) from the newer persona of the author of January Moon, the first book in the Del Carter Calendar Series. Many people would advise me that this is a mistake.

It may well be – for them; I think it’s not a mistake for me.

I know I could create a writer’s reader fan page on Facebook and I did begin to create a page for January Moon but haven’t completed it. My heart’s just not there; it’s really not. I don’t want to talk about my writing all the time or even my beloved books and I know that’s a problem, especially for an indie who needs to constantly hustle and promote.

How can I explain this? Sure, I use my Facebook Wall to promote this blog and other articles I write elsewhere (such as The Pragmatic Progressive Forum & Opednews) and I also discuss January Moon and my reviews and my upcoming books as well. The fact is, however, I love discussing history and politics and I love following the news and it’s very important for me to watch trends and try to understand the many conflicting currents that dance over the American landscape.

I think that will always be how I use Facebook and doing so is necessary for me as a writer of fiction because my fiction is heavily embedded with observations and critiques about the many hot-button issues permeating society. In January Moon I wrote about FGM and domestic terrorism, cults and religious extremism, racism and madness, as well as families and love and loss. In March Storm I’m carrying over many of those themes and also wandering into areas about animal abuse, human trafficking, gay rights, and even Mother Nature and climate change.

When I send out a request to my Facebook friends to keep their eyes open for news about dog fighting or sex trafficking or gay bashing or even alpaca farming, I will receive fantastic news items from all over the country, even the world, in hours.

In that way my Facebook friends contribute to my writing in a remarkable way and invest their time in my efforts and become a part of the process. I’ve been floating some cover designs for March Storm on my Facebook page and that’s been fun and created some helpful feedback. I cherish this connection and I suspect many of them do as well.

But the fiction is a sidebar to the larger picture which, and I think we’re getting back to that young author’s question, is all about defining me as a person and the joys of building relationships with others. There is absolutely no way I could interact with so many people on a daily basis were it not for Facebook. I find this amazing and I love it.

I can’t advise another writer how to mine the depths of social networking to help sell books but I’d like to suggest it’s possible to use social networking to help define yourself as a person.

BTW: This picture was taken August '09 and that's Trooper at 10.5 weeks. It's a lousy pic of both of us but it will have to do... it's the only one we took that day. I always take lousy pictures so for me this was nothing new but Trooper was gorgeous! He was naturally photogenic and liked to pose. Trooper came and had to leave so that Shadow could come and I could write about Wolf. Their story is at the top of this blog, titled "Trooper, Shadow & Wolf."

Take care.


  1. It's been fun and informative having you as one of my FB buddies. I've also met many wonderful people. I learned a lot from social networking. I've met people I'd NEVER meet otherwise. Thanks for all you do! ;)

  2. be true to thy self - well said. I knowing your self you can truly give birth to your characters!

  3. Great post...I am so with you on political leanings as well as uses of Facebook. But there is something to be said of social media...I live in Switzerland, but discovered you on Twitter. A Windy City Ex-pat