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Ask Daphne! When Is It Too Much?

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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