Back in law school, I was at a bar, and a total douchebag sat on a stool next to me and shouted his conversation to his similarly predisposed buddies. Over the course of the night, I discovered that he was in a band, that he was about to “tour,” and several other factoids that I’ve since forgotten. But I still remember that he uttered three sentences that I swore would never cross my lips:
○ “Man, last night I was so wasted that I…[insert douchebag comment].”
○ “Yo, dawg, who’s your publicist?”
○ “Dude, I’m part of an online networking site that has totally changed my life.”
Fast forward almost ten years. To my mild disgust, I’ve said all three (although usually without the “man,” “dawg,” and “dude”) and can pretty much bet that I’ll say them again in the future. I’ll skip the first one (I mean, really, who hasn’t said that?). The second, I’ll get to in a minute. The third is what I want to talk about. I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to say that an online networking site—in my case, Facebook—has totally changed my life, but I know that it has broadened it significantly. Before I started writing, and even after my book had sold, I never considered getting a Facebook page. I didn’t know a soul who had one, and all of my friends felt too old to learn what the Internets had to offer. It was the cliché of clichés of prejudices—FB was unfamiliar, and we were too ignorant to give it a go. So, it became that thing, that generation-defining eccentricity that had ensnared young people (okay, I’m only 32, but there are so many times when I feel like an old 32. I mean, come on, I love soft foods that don’t require teeth. It’s just a matter of time before I’m leaving the house in a housedress to yell at the kids to get off my lawn).
Then, my publicists said that I had to get a FB page. It’s marketing, they said. It’s effective. Please. Just. Do. It. So, I did. With great trepidation. I filled out my profile info and added my headshot. And then I waited, wondering what it meant to poke people, to super poke people, to write on each other’s walls, and to engage in the thousand other bizarre, Japanese-game-show like applications that came with it. A list of suggested friends appeared in a column, inviting me to invite them to be my friend. I didn’t know any of them. And it seemed to me that if I invited strangers to be my friends, they would likely say, um, no, loser who’s destined to eat soft foods and yell at her neighbor’s kids, I don’t know you. Who wants to be rejected online when the non-cyberspace world is already chock full of rejection? Then a sweetheart from work added me to his friends, which took away the pressure that I’d be alone on FB, sad that the cool kids hadn’t invited me to sit at their lunch table. And then another kind soul invited me. And then another. Soon, I started inviting people to be my friends, and now, I’ve got an overwhelming number of friends who are constantly updating their statuses, posting pictures and links, super poking and writing on each other’s walls.
Well, as it turns out—FB kind of did change my life. Or at least my perspective anyway. A large number of my FB friends are writers themselves. They’re successful, multiply published authors. Or they’re struggling to find an agent. They’re serious non-fiction creatures. Or witty, comic playwrights. Wherever they are in their careers, they’ve been uniformly and incredibly encouraging and thoughtful and uplifting and inspiring and funny and everything I value in a person. They’ve written me heartbreakingly kind notes in an industry that is anything but, compelled me to do the same for them. And over the past six months or so, I got to know them so that they’re no longer fuzzy ideas of people, but my real friends. What’s even crazier is that they shrunk my perception of the publishing world from a vast ocean into a very small pond, and in a true game of Six Degrees of Separation (or in this case, only one or two degrees), it seems that everyone in the writing community knows everyone else. Including me. And the knowledge that there are people who understand exactly what I'm going through — that I’m not alone in this erstwhile solitary journey — is the reason I plan to stay on FB.
P.S. I said that I’d come back to the publicists part. Indeedy, I have two—one in-house, the other independent. They are a vital, vital part of the book world, and, I’m happy to say, also my very dear friends. I know that I’m ultimately a product, an ISBN number who’d do best to run in the black, but I also know that my publicists care for me as a person, too. And in the end, isn’t that what we all want?
P.P.S. So, I’ve come to discover that many of my pre-FB friends aren’t the Luddites that I thought they were. They’ve got their own FB pages, and the number of applications they’ve got running is proof that they’ve broadened their notions on communication and relationships. And in an age when time and geography can wreak havoc on rapports, I’ve found that we can all connect on this wonderful place called the Web. Maybe I won’t be sucking pudding through a straw and terrorizing my neighbors anytime soon.