Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Introverts' Guide to Social Media

My kind of writing space: devoid of people!

I didn't realize I was an introvert growing up. Sure, I knew I felt energized by time alone, while my siblings craved social interaction. I was much happier living in my own off-campus apartment in college than the year I spent in a quad dorm room. But it wasn't until I had kids that I realized how introverted I am truly am. Suddenly someone wanted my attention 24/7, wanted to touch me and talk to me and generally make me do something besides think my beautiful thoughts. That is a challenge for me. Getting up, leaving the house, interacting with people takes a lot of energy for me - energy I'd rather devote to my creative side.

That's why my writing time is so sacred. After spending all morning reacting to what's going on around me, I need the kids' nap time to turn inside and shut down to all that external stimuli. It's my head space.

Now, with my book deal announced (wheeee!), my quiet head space and social interactions are colliding. My number of twitter followers, Facebook likes and blog subscribers have all gone up over the last week. Real, live people know I write now and are asking me questions - questions I thought I was comfortable answering. It's all left me feeling kind of...exposed. Like my soul is laid bare.

Not that I want to change anything. It's a growth opportunity. I remember the angst I felt the first time I posted to a pitch contest. The first blog post I published. The first time I tweeted a line from a work in progress. Every single step is terrifying. And every step is an opportunity for growth.

More and more, some kind of social media presence is expected from artists (writers, film makers, even bakers) and for many of us, it's hard to embrace a public image. I've been on twitter since 2008 and set up my blog and author Facebook page in 2011. It's been a slow, sometimes awkward journey but some days I swear I'm getting the hang of this thing.

So how does a confirmed introvert go about creating an online presence? I have a few tips. Some may work for you, others may not, but I hope these help someone, somewhere.

1.) Understand this is a persona. You are not your twitter profile or the number of hits on your blog or your Instagram followers. Who you are at home, with your real life friends and family is different from who you are online and that's okay. I am WAY more awkward in person. Here, I can collect my thoughts and delete things when I misspeak. I can be bolder and sillier than I am when I have to make eye contact and figure out what to do with my hands. Because I talk with my hands even when I'm on the phone. Seriously. I can be self-depricating and send hugs to everyone having a bad day because it's the internet and no one is actually seeing me blush or invading my personal space. My internet persona is me, wrapped in the anonymity and distance of the internet. It's me, but not me.

2.) It's okay to be inconsistent. Some days I'm on twitter from sun up to sun down, replying to everything and inserting myself into every conversation of interest. Others, I peek in, feel freaked out, and duck back out. This is okay. If you feel up to oversharing about that awkward attempt at a first kiss one day and can't imagine sharing a fictional kiss the next, it's okay. You don't have to share everything all the time. Or even anything ever. People will tell you to tweet X times a day, blog X times a week, always post on the same day or readers lose interest. I've tried it both ways. It's never made any difference in my stats (with the exception of when I went on maternity leave and didn't blog for like a month). Do you what you feel up to and nothing more.

3.) Be true to yourself. Confession: I hate the acronym LOL. It bugs me. I can't imagine saying it, so I don't use when posting online. Hahaha might look stupid, but it's more me. I'm okay with that. Don't feel like you need to do everything like everyone else does. You don't have to embrace ALL THE THINGS (an internet phrase I love). If gushing love and praise and this <33333333333 isn't your thing, you don't have to do it. If you want to tweet pictures of your dinner or can't stand the thought of posting a selfie (my husband is about to disown me for using that word in real life), it's okay. It's okay to have likes and dislikes online, just like in the real world.

4.) Friendly & polite wins the day. Let everyone else be true to themselves too. If you are a kind and caring person, it will come through. If you're constantly negative and criticizing others, that will come through too. Treat others as you would like to be treated. The anonymity of the internet is NOT an excuse to be a dipwad (although seriously, how gross is chewing tobacco?). Like it or not, you're building a reputation with everything you post online. When you are supportive and interested in other people, they will be interested in you. It's that easy - and it's that hard.

5.) Know your limits. Don't pursue a social media presence as the expense of your art. We all have limited time and energy. If you find yourself incapable of writing or painting or whatever you do creatively because you've put everything into this crazy virtual vacuum called the internet, pull back. When you're an artist, art comes first. Protecting yourself comes second (maybe it should come first, but come on. Who among us isn't at least a little bit self-descructive?) and building a platform comes last. Do not damage yourself or your creative output to gain a few more followers. It's not worth it.

There you go. A few tips, off the top of my head, to help online introverts trying to find some sanity between becoming a hermit and being a Kardashian. Anyone else have some tips to share? I'd love to hear them!


  1. Great post, thanks for sharing. I also talk with my hands when I'm on the phone. Sometimes I do it when I'm thinking about what to type on social media.

    One thing I'd say is: Don't be offended if no one responds.

    Social media is such a transient thing (especially Twitter). People can't possibly see every message in their feed. Sometimes, a tweet or facebook post just gets missed. It's nothing personal.

    1. Absolutely! I may need to add that! Don't be offended, don't take it personally & don't compare. Another person's success doesn't preclude yours. Someone a gazillion retweets & followers isn't necessarily more successful or more likely to reach your goal (publication, a record deal, whatever). DO NOT judge your success by social media numbers. Art doesn't work like that.

  2. Ack...social media :p. Thanks for these tips. Great ones :)

  3. Wow. Super helpful and reassuring. I'm a complete non-cyber savvy YA writer, which I'm fearful these days means I'm an obsolete YA writer. After a flurry of interest from agents and new imprints, I'm scrambling to join the throngs. But, I'm feeling a tad paranoid that my lack of tweeting and twittering even thus far might keep me at the non-published virtual lunch room table. Yes, I'd like to believe my writing stands on it's own but...
    Anyhow, hearing your journey and approach to it all makes me think: gee, I could do this, and it might even be (gasp!) fun!

  4. What a great post, Jenny. I am very much an exttrovert. I THRIVE around people but in order to write I need to be alone (or even if in a coffee shop, with headphones). I think all of these tips can be useful whether you are an introvert or extrovert - they are just useful to know! Congrats again on the deal - can't wait to meet Bria and Ben! :-)

  5. oh dang. i forgot to add mondo congrats on your deal in my previous post. your book sounds fantastic (as do all your other pending projects). can't wait to read it(them)!

  6. My mind zeroed in on tip #2. I think it is great to spend some time engaging followers, especially when they give you some feedback on your work. For newcomers, whether they're authors or in some other industry, I think it's important to be able to show that you can relate to your audience and possibly gain more followers. However, oversharing can also lead to people choosing to unfollow you, so knowing when to make a post, take part in a conversation, and how often to do so are key points in making social media work for you. --Mamie Patrick @ Focused Local Marketing

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  8. Clare, that is definitely true. Just because someone else’s post has garnered a hundred more retweets than yours doesn’t necessarily make it better. It may be just a combination of smart timing, luck and having lots of followers. At any rate, it shouldn’t be taken personally and shouldn’t be made as a gauge of who you are as a person.

    Sean Spear

  9. Thanks for sharing your social media survival guide, Jenny. They share strong points; however, tip #3 knocked me real hard. It summed up all five. Nothing is better than being honest with yourself in a good way. Always remember that what you write online is what your followers would think of you in person. Again, thanks for this post.

    Aligned Right