To be — or not to be — exposed

In Saturday’s New York Times, I came across this article about how many news personalities are addicted to revealing their every moves on Twitter and Facebook. These people are already famous, yet they feel the need to let the world know what they’re doing, moment to moment, as if the world cares. Well actually, the world probably does care, because these people are celebrities. But still — who wants to give strangers such an intimate peek into your life? Yet that seems to be the trend nowadays, for people in the public eye. For reporters and actors and … novelists.

I confess, I now have both a Facebook and a Myspace page. I have them because I was encouraged to do so by other authors who consider them absolutely essential to anyone who wants to increase readership. But I get a bit of a queasy reaction to this mass movement toward Twitter and Facebook pages. And it’s because I (like a lot of other writers, I suspect) am a private person. I spend most of my days cooped up in my office, having imaginary conversations with imaginary people. I’m happy doing that. Get me out in the real world, in a social setting, and I feel like a fish scooped out of my nice comfortable aquarium and tossed, gasping and flopping around, onto the beach. I can survive big public gatherings for short spurts, and can manage to be charming for an hour or two. But then I want to dive right back into my aquarium and swim into a cave.

Twitter and Facebook have allowed me to be both private and public at the same time. To advertise my every private move while not stepping outside my house. Authors are made to feel that we must expose ourselves to the world in order to sell books, but I admit, it feels weird to advertise my every private move. Does anyone care that I spent this weekend sneezing and aching from the flu? Or that I’m planning my trip to Cappadocia in the fall? Or that I cooked mussels for dinner? I hope not.

I hope they’ve got other, and better, things to think about.

19 replies
  1. hist
    hist says:

    I understand your queasy feeling about having these types of pages. They’re not for everyone, though I get why they could be important for publicity.

    Now having created them, do you find they’ve helped, or is it just too new? And how do you handle friend requests? MySpace is a lot different than Facebook in that respect. Since “friends” on there a lot of times means “fans,” but it’s not necessarily so on Facebook. Do you accept all of them?

    I’ve joined the “fan” page for you, but I didn’t want to send a friend request without knowing how you felt about that.

  2. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    Honestly? I have better things to think about than most of that stuff, but if you have the flu or are under the weather, I care about that. I’ll always hope that you’re feeling good and doing well, and if you’re not, then I’d want to keep you in my good thoughts and prayers.


  3. joey_j
    joey_j says:

    I had the same reaction to Twitter back in mid 2008–how can I expose my private thoughts and actions with the world? Now, Twitter has become integral to my communication. I pose questions and get answers. I make statements and get challenged. I know what my friends are doing without them having to tell me. The funniest thing about the skepticism of Twitter is that it is similar to the reaction to blogging several years ago. Many people thought that blogging was such a waste of time and too personal. Today, blogs are extremely valuable and Twitter is blogging–just more frequent, concise and two-way. Responding to a tweet is nothing more than a “special” tweet. That cannot be said for blog post comments, which are treated as attributes of the blog post–not as a blog post.

    I still don’t personally see the value in Facebook and Myspace, but that’s another story.

  4. PackingPadre
    PackingPadre says:


    I don’t have enough time in the day to deal with Twitter, although I do have Facebook, MySpace and a web site for my church. But as a monastic, I too am quite private except with people who have become friends. I also do pastoral counseling.

  5. therese
    therese says:

    Facebook has been a delight for me, because I’m unknown, and have kept it mainly as a family connection. This has brought me into the worlds of grown and distant nieces and nephews, and I love seeing who they reveal. I pick and choose who I accept as friends.

    Blogging is entirely different. A few years ago, I tried out a few of the group types, and spent tons of time checking out blogs across a spectrum of interests. I finally chose the ones I liked the most. There are only five I follow, and a few professional group blogs I check often.

    My own blogging is a combination of what I learned from the blogs I like, and comments I’ve gotten from others about the way I write personal emails. I’m enjoying it very much and get few comments, but have people viewing it daily. I’ve made some cool connections too!

    I’ll use MySpace only as a link to my website and I’ll probably never do Twitter for reasons that would take too long to explain. I love being home in my office, working with words. But that is now, and I’ve earned the peace.

  6. JMH
    JMH says:

    Using Facebook and Twitter as a method of advertising or actual communication is one thing. But for most users, I’m afraid, it’s merely a sign of insecurity. If someone pays attention to them, that means they’re alive, so they seek attention and as many hits and “friends” as they can get. The sad reality is that it’s all shallow and, in the end, probably gets in the way of doing someting meaningful. It’s the equivalent of playing a video game instead of engaging in real life activities.

  7. wy82331
    wy82331 says:

    I think when someone as famous as Tess, who has written many excellent books would not need to be on such websites. people are crazy for information about those that are famous. There has to be a cut off, and end, a bit of privacy.
    I once was planning on having a home built.
    I asked the prospective builder if he had advertised. He said, ” No, my past clients advertise for me by way of word of mouth.”
    Everyone in the world isn’t going to read a book no matter whom may have written it. I would think each author has their own following. And, like the builder, that following will grow via word of mouth.
    We need out quiet time, our private places and moments. Folks, no matter how well their intent is, don’t need to know which color of blouse you are going to wear tomorrow..

  8. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    I have no idea what “Twitter”is but I’m seeing it around a lot.I wouldn’t belong to Facebook or MySpace either.I cannot imagine anyone caring about what I’m doing at any given time.
    Being an author,I guess it behooves you to be outgoing and you are always very pleasant in person.To hear that it is not an easy task for you makes me admire you more.
    But how does a doctor,even a retired doctor,get the flu?Didn’t you get a shot?
    It works.I’ve never had the flu since I started taking them years ago.My son won’t take one,and he was sick for 2 weeks with it.
    Did you build a snowman or have a snowball fight after posting those photos?
    When I was a kid in NYC all the buildings used coal for heating and we packed the snowballs with clinker ash.Ouch!!

  9. Sue Clark
    Sue Clark says:

    Now I had to register to reply to this post. 🙂

    I felt the same way as many, but have come to appreciate Twitter. It’s so much more than “What are you doing.” If it was just that, it would have fallen flat on its face a long time ago.

    It’s the ultimate in networking, if you use it properly. You find and follow those who have the same interest(s) as you, and you begin to see its benefits.

    You can let your followers know when you’ve posted a new article, pose questions regarding your niche, share other good stories/articles found on the web, fundraise, share photos, monitor breaking news events, and so much more.

    Too many people are stuck in the dark ages of internet communication. It’s more than email. And what joey_j says is very true. Twitter is the ultimate, imnmediate, microblogging platform.

    Oh yes, and I agree with him too about facebook and myspace. But those can’t be ignored either. Especially since so many of my generation (elder, just so you know :)) have managed to adopt it.

  10. Tess
    Tess says:

    Thanks for all the comments! I’m just learning about Twitter myself, and have also heard from a number of people who swear by it. It does seem to be yet another thing we’d have to keep track of, though, in our already busy lives.

    Joe, I did get a flu shot back in November. Too bad it didn’t protect me this time around.

    Sue, isn’t it funny how Facebook has been taken over by our generation? The kids are wondering what we’re doing in THEIR territory!

  11. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    As you already know, I am already on Facebook, and I enjoy “conversing” with you. I am also Facebook friends with 3 other well known authors as well as 5 members of NY’s Eyewitness News Team. Sometimes we like to delve into their lives without digging too deeply into their privacy. If it’s none of my business to know something, then they tell me. But I find it interesting to know that I will never meet these people (aside from you), but being Facebook friends with them gives me the feeling that I do “know” them, and it makes me the envy of my friend and family.

  12. ingbranch
    ingbranch says:

    Hi Tess,
    I’ve only recently created a twitter account myself and I’d be surprised if anyone is interested in my daily accounts; but with this site I hold myself accountable in reaching a goal of mine. In this case, it’s writing and illustrating children’s books. I’m quite the beginner and need a kick in the caboose to keep myself going. Twitter makes sure I’m doing something everyday or every minute or every hour (well, you get the point) towards achieving that goal. I would love to ‘follow’ other writers and illustrators to see their writing and drawing and creating processes as well. I don’t put anything too personal on the site. Good judgement is very important in this cyber age. But there’s enough there to let me know that I’m on track.

  13. PackingPadre
    PackingPadre says:

    I hsve to follow up on my friend Abe’s remarks. The nice thing about facebook isn’t only meeting celebrities, as I’d had e-mail contact with the two I’d count as frinds, Tess and Nevada Barr, but also to stay in touch with friends that joined about the same time, such as Abe, Associated Press exec Darrell Christian, an old poker buddy back in the day, and Pastor Kenneth Blanchard, the black man with a gun, my fellow 2nd amendment defender and fellow preacher. In addition to Kenn, I’ve found members of my own Catholic Charismatic Church and the Roman Orthodox Church, a fine group to which I once belonged.

    And Tess, you sorta, kinda started the whole thing, so a warm thanks for uniting me with friends old and new.

  14. therese
    therese says:

    I want to add to what PackingPadre said, it was this blog, Tess, that helped me decide how to do my own blogging, with a touch of class.

    As Abe said about Facebook, it’s cool to converse with interesting people, outside of our normal sphere, that wouldn’t be possible without this techno age.

    I do agree that some people use Twitter, MySpace, etc., because they are insecure and desperate for a feeling of connection. These people have my sympathy because I’d hate to feel so alone. In my opinion, anything that connects people to others, is a good thing, however we use it.

  15. Autumn Anderson
    Autumn Anderson says:

    Recently, I have set up a Twitter account, and a Facebook account after a mentor suggested I do. Again for the same reasons: promoting, and adding readership. However, I am more than private, I am a happy recluse, a homebody, and find it annoying that many can jump on twitter and have a “spaz” moment and share it with everyone “following”. How is it that people have time in an hour to Twitter 5-10 times? I don’t care who’s taking a shower…who’s cat is acting as though it is on drugs, etc. I am not really into “following” but I do follow the news, NASA, etc and find it fascinating to get breaking news and events at the end of my day…not like when we had round dials on our phones, wood enveloping our T.V… I do not have many “updates” as really, my life is not that spectacular and does not need to be shared… Regarding facebook, I have always been a firm believer in tight knit, close, deep friendships…facebook is like a popularity party…I did not enjoy them in highschool and actually my highschool still exists on facebook, we are just older and done skipping class! Facebook is so impersonal…and it is amazing how many request friendships just to get numbers, just to get noticed. I am going to give it another couple of weeks before deciding if all this “tech connection” is for me…or the birds.
    Reading the Bone Garden and LOVING it! I am going to do a peice on it, with a link to your blog, in my newspaper article. Enough
    procrastinating…back to work.

  16. Tess
    Tess says:

    have to laugh about your life not being “spectacular.” I certainly feel the same way about my life! I suspect most writers are like us — how spectacular can our day-to-day activities be when we spend it locked in our offices all day?

  17. Kyle K.
    Kyle K. says:

    I think that Twitter is something best left for you and your friends, if it’s something you feel like you want to do. I know that I have a Twitter account, and more often than not I post something in there that I wouldn’t want people other than my friends to see… I would never put it on my website, and I’m not even a published author (yet!)…

    If you want to do it for YOU, then make one under a fake name and only tell your friends about it… Anyone can “follow” you on Twitter, but I think there’s a setting in there you can turn on that only people you allow can see your posts.

    I think, as a writer, this website/blog and facebook/myspace is PLENTY good for you. If you have a BlackBerry or an iPhone, you can even download a Facebook application that will allow you to make status updates and check your messages away from your computer! No need to get Twitter if you don’t want it… though, knowing myself, I’d probably follow you if you did! 😀

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