Ask Daphne! When Is It Too Much?

July 8th, 2009 • Kate

swankSwank, vintage-looking party shoes for Jamie, who writes with a thought-provoking question about social networking:

I am a big fan of social networking. No matter what I’m doing or where I am, I have my phone close by so I can check in with my twitter or facebook account to stay up to date on everything. I know it’s important to build a following, and to meet and talk about things with literary agents and fellow writers, but I am also scared that I am going to put off some of the agents I really love by being so accessible at all times and always commenting on their statuses and twitter updates.

How do we find the balance? I feel like the internet can really help my career, but I don’t want to overdo it.

In other words, Am I stalking my future agent?

Are you? Probably not. The wonderful thing about Twitter and Facebook is that the interaction is gated, to a degree. As agents, heck, as PEOPLE, we want to be followed, and friended. We’re choosing to interact with authors and readers, and that means two-way interaction. That being said, there are structures in place with both that allow agents and other public figures a remove, if we need it. On Twitter, for instance, someone can’t send me a direct message if I’m not following them. And I only see @ replies to me if I choose to go look at them (which I do, regularly, but the structure is there to avoid them if need be). On Facebook, I have to accept a friend request to give permission to view and comment on my status updates. If I don’t want someone to see those anymore, I can un-friend them — although that phrase brings to mind all sorts of squeaky girl trauma about breaking up with your best friend, and stuff like that. Anyway, moving on…

But you don’t want to be that person you gets blocked on Twitter or de-friended on Facebook, do you? Of course not. So what to do? Well, let’s go with a stalker analogy. Are you sharing a walk home with someone because you’re interested in what they have to say, and having a dialogue, or are you following them home from a distance, watching them through binoculars, and pawing through their trash to find out more about them? Are you commenting on their updates because something about them connects with you, or just to reply, to remind them that you exist? Social networking conversations, great as they are, aren’t actual conversations. No one minds a little silence, and not everyone involved in the conversation needs to have input into it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love comments of all sorts — on my blog, on Facebook, and in @ replies on Twitter. But the ones that work best for me are the ones with something to say, that add something meaningful to the conversation. If you’re doing that, then you’re cool by me.

So what’s too much? Well, there’s nothing wrong with reading every update, but save your comments and replies for the ones that matter.

What do you think? Where’s the line between interacting online and over-indulging?

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9 Responses to “Ask Daphne! When Is It Too Much?”

  1. beth Says:

    I agree–you don't have to comment on everything just to assert your existence. I've found that life's too short for that, anyway!

    A follow-up question: Have you ever recognized a name in the slush pile from Twitter/Facebook/Blogging? If so, did your thoughts on representing that person change? (I.e. if that person was very friendly and agreeable on Twitter, did that make you consider the person more because they'd be easy to work with? Or if that person was a twit on Twitter, did that have a negative effect on you?)

  2. Kate Says:

    Beth — I was just thinking about the negative side of things, so thanks for the question.

    As a follow-up to my post, the downside of ANY response on Twitter, Facebook, blog, etc. is if you're wildly antagonistic, rude, or belittling. Why would you do that? That's not going to help you build a community, and that's the point of social networking.

    It's about inclusion, not exclusion.

    I do certainly recognize names from comments in my query pile, but it doesn't change how I look at their material. Being friendly, or even funny or witty in comments has little to no bearing to what your manuscript looks like!

  3. Tim White Says:

    I still exist. 😉

  4. Jamie Says:

    Oh, I like my party shoes! I love when the Unfeasable One answers my questions!

    I have been thinking a lot about this… and there's a whole other side to this. There are some agents that have a lot of the same interests as me, and I love to follow their tweets. (For example- they talk about getting frustrated in a bad instance run, and I TOTALLY feel their pain because I pretty much hate nothing more than a sucktastic instance run-no matter how geekafied that might be) Those agents are people I genuinely have things in common with-the ones raising kids and telling funny stories of how they accidentally drove out of the country with their children in tow-that's totally something I would do. So, those people are people I talk back and forth a lot with on twitter, facebook, etc.

    But then, there's a whole other end of the spectrum-there are some really GREAT agents out there that I have straight up NOTHING in common with. I don't live in New York in a tiny apartment and take subways places. I've never even BEEN ON a subway- or to New York for that matter. So, when they're talking about a power outage underground or something like that- I have NOTHING to say. I can talk about writing related things with them… but I am out on the every day life stuff.

    I think that's kind of the cool part of social networking though- it only works if we're genuine people. People who take pictures of the beach and post them- and people who give each other virtual high fives and hugs for successes and failures.

    I do appreciate that twitter gives people that sort of barrier though- and the ability to cyber stalk whomever they please. 🙂

    oh- and as a side note- while I was reading back through this post… I totally fell right out of my office desk chair. Just thought you'd all like to know.

  5. SM Blooding Says:

    I sometimes like to get involved in the commentors' discussions because that can be very entertaining, but…there's always that nagging doubt that says, "What if you're creeping them out or over-commenting?"

    Personally, I think that the blogs are a more laid back, interactive environment. With that said, I don't think that it would be wholely wrong to comment…sometimes daily. However, keep in the back of your mind that you should always be professional and not be posting a comment just to get your name out there. There was a blog entry yesterday and all the comments said the exact same thing. "Thank you for posting this. I agree."

    *shrug* Blogging and commenting are really easy, which makes it very laid back. That, in some people's minds, means no rules.

  6. Jamie Says:

    Now, I totally disagree with that. I feel like I have to be ten times more professional in the comments of a blog post than in a quick tweet or facebook status update.

    Now, I have much to think about…

  7. beth Says:

    Since we've been discussing online presences, I've been thinking (actually since I made the first comment, this is what's been germinating in my mind…).

    I know several agents have requested that aspiring authors have a web presence of some form, such as a blog or webpage. But the problem is…it's really hard to know what kind of content to include in a webpage when you're not published yet. Would you ever consider critiquing some aspiring authors' webpages and/or so that we can all learn? I really want to be as professional as possible, but I could really use some examples of what to do and not do when it comes to an online presence.

    (PS: Sorry if this is a little off-topic! It's just been what's been going through my mind all day…perhaps because I was busy working on my own webpage inbetween checking blogs!)

  8. Detox Health Diet &m Says:

    when using desk chairs, i would always prefer to use wood instead of plastic desk chairs -*-

  9. Friday’s Interesting Links | Tales to Tide You Over Says:

    […] A nice summation on how to be human on Twitter and the like:http://ktliterary.com/2009/07/ask-daphne-when-is-it-too-much/ […]