If you want to participate in the modern world, you have to understand, and take part in the network of interpersonal and collective communication known as social media. This means updating your status on Facebook, using twitter to describe the minutiae of your daily life, and using your mobile phone to ‘check in’ with location-based networks like Foursquare at every café, restaurant, bar or shop you happen to swing by. Informing the tech-savvy citizens of the planet about almost everything you’re doing and thinking about during your day is a must for anyone hoping to master the etiquette of the social media universe.
Social media is a way, as the name would suggest, to be ‘virtually social,’ but more importantly, it’s a method of marketing yourself and selling things. Anyone who writes for a living, or a partial living, is well aware of this fact. It doesn’t matter if you write opinion pieces, science articles, fiction or non-fiction. Social media is an essential tool for the modern writer. Deepak Chopra, the best selling health writer, has acknowledged the power of social media in relation to the remarkable rise of e-books over the last few years and the absolute necessity of self-promotion, even for big name writers like himself.
While I understand the need and ease of use of social media in the business realm (although I don’t always like it), I still appreciate a bit of mystique when it comes to the arts. The moment inspiration hits, especially concerning the written word, it’s important to let an idea simmer for a while, until it’s ready to be served to the masses.
I’ve often gravitated toward some of the stronger, rougher male writers, like Ernest Hemingway, Robert Ruark and Cormac McCarthy. I can’t help but think if Twitter had been around in Hemingway’s day, how a constant update about his opinions and emotional state would have ruined the allure and charm of his admittedly macho, yet brilliant prose.
In Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast, Ernest tells a tender story about how he reassures F. Scott Fitzgerald about the size of his male member. Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, had been criticizing Scott about his diminutive size. At lunch, while listening to his friend’s anxieties and concerns, Hemingway suggests Scott “Come out to the office (men’s room).” After a quick inspection, he lets Fitzgerald know that he has nothing to worry about, and that his measurements are just fine. The vignette is told with warmth and compassion, especially considering the gruff nature of the writer telling it. Now imagine, after the event had occurred, Hemingway had immediately tweeted about it.
Just inspected Fitzgerald’s junk. Not bad. Seems he measures up to the task. #peepee #insecurities
All right, Hemingway probably wouldn’t have used the world ‘junk,’ but you get the idea. While a Twitter post might have created a humorous (probably not for Scott) social buzz, it would have killed any chance for Hemingway to relate the story at a later date, in a more sensitive and artful manner. Of course, one could argue that he shouldn’t have written about his friend’s penis in the first place, but a tweet right after the fact would have given him no time for reflection whatsoever.
Open channels of communication are important in our private and professional lives, but it seems we’ve gone too far with the amount of information we’re willing to divulge, and the frequency with which we divulge it. Every aspect of our existence is now potentially open to reporting. Some people might contend that what we share, or don’t share, is a matter of choice. Yes, it’s a personal decision, but the trend is moving toward the point where we’ll be posting pictures of our colonoscopy along with photos of the fish taco we just had for lunch. By constantly sharing large quantities of information from our daily lives, we run the risk of becoming merely a collection of reported facts and opinions, quickly forgotten in a sea of tweets and status updates.
I don’t know if your friends and business partners appreciate the amount of information you impart digitally, but I do know data miners, political advisors and marketers are ecstatic about the level of detail many of us are now willing to share about practically every aspect of our existence. When it comes to personal information, it seems everything is fair game these days.
Hemingway fictionalized his experiences as an ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War in his novel A Farewell to Arms. When his protagonist is wounded, he convalesces in an Italian hospital, and falls for the nurse tending him. In reality, the American nurse Hemingway fell in love with left him for an Italian officer. From these painful experiences, we now have a beautiful work of fiction. What would we have if Ernest had tweeted every moment of the turbulent affair, like some modern Hollywood celebrity, as they happened? The romance, as well as the time to create a poetic interpretation of his very personal story, would have been lost.
Nurse Agnes dumped me. I hate that cow. Broken-hearted. Getting plastered now. #futurenovel #evilnurses #drunkentweets
Sometimes we need to hold onto things for a while before we hand them over to the world. Modern technology means we don’t have to wait a moment longer than it takes us to type a message and press send, although that’s not always a good thing. Go on, share your thoughts with the rest of us from time to time, but for heaven’s sake, keep a little mystery about yourself, and remember to share wisely.
Read more: Perchance to Dream: My First Colonoscopy, By Geoffrey Philp
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