I listened for a few minutes before asking, “How many of you are on Facebook?” Every hand went up—all but mine. I was writing It Started with Dracula then and beginning to study the world of book publicity. Like two country roads converging under a sign, those threads intersected when I realized that social media could help me connect with others personally and professionally.I did what I usually do when faced with a challenge: I bought a book. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook wasn’t written for me, of course--I'm sure the bookstore clerk realized that immediately--but I knew it would explain the concepts clearly and that I could refer back to it if needed.
I’ve had a Facebook account for a while now. The site has surpassed its role of helping us tell our friends what’s up; for example, a page was created in the aftermath of spring storms that devastated the South. Its purpose was to reunite pictures, documents, and other scattered mementos with their rightful owners.Facebook makes me wonder how big the Internet really is. Consider all of those postings, day after day, rolling down the page and out of sight. Where do they go? And that blank box at the top of the page—the one that asks, “What’s on your mind?"--still stumps me sometimes; I’m not one to record my every move for others.
The best reward Facebook has brought me is the feeling of connectedness, now that I’m retired and spending most days alone at my computer. I understand it now. Later on I’ll investigate starting a fan page for my memoir.About the same time I learned to use Facebook, I was invited to start a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is like a business version of Facebook, its purpose being to connect people professionally. I visit LinkedIn much less frequently, but I do keep my profile up to date.
My final frontier of social media was Twitter, which on the surface seems like the easiest of all: Postings cannot exceed 140 characters. Twitter feeds adorn the websites of movie stars, where many of the “tweets” announce guest appearances or new product lines. The thinly disguised advertising was a turnoff, but I joined the party anyway, choosing a few feeds to follow and posting my first tweet for the world to see. Incidentally, I had four followers before I wrote a single word. How is that possible?My first tweet was my last, so far. Twitter is designed to be speedy, a constant stream of little messages. I can’t commit to that. Maybe the rich and famous hire people to tweet for them, but for me Twitter seems a lot to manage. I may go back and try again, but already I have to sign out of Facebook several times a day to keep my focus on my work.
So, compared to my friends in the restaurant, I’ve moved into social media slowly. The important thing is to begin and to find your own way. I still won’t call myself a complete idiot —even if I do buy their books.