Friday, September 9, 2011

Rhys Muses on Social Media

RHYS BOWEN: My friends all begin with A. That’s a slight exaggeration, but many of them do. Not because I have a fondness for Alexs and Annas but because when I first joined Facebook and Twitter I was told that the way to find friends was through other friends’ lists of friends. And those lists always started with the As.

So I’d click away merrily at all the Alans and Audreys and then run out of steam by the Cs. I have absolutely no friends called Zach or Zenobia.

And a tip for expectant parents: if you want your child to be popular call him Aaron and her Abby. They will never want for Facebook friends.

This got me thinking about the whole social media phenom and how strange it is. We get really close online to people we have never met and really don’t know. When I get a friend request I almost always accept it, unless the person is called “I Worship Satan”, Of course I’ve had to rapidly unfriend a few who seem to think that Facebook friendship actually means more than it is. One gentleman from Africa wanted to move into my house with me. Quick, where’s the unfriend button? Sometimes they’ll send a message that starts with “You are so beautiful and…” This convinces me that either they are shortsighted or looking for what I’m not offering. I point out that my profile says MARRIED and that the reason I am on Facebook is to keep in touch with my fellow writers, readers and industry professionals.

I usually follow back those who follow me on Twitter. Then I started reading their descriptions of themselves. Have you ever actually done that? Here are a few I’ve gleaned:
Murderess. Peacock. God’s Chosen One
Prisoner at the Eden Hotel
My Salon at Grand Hotel was a refuge for clever people
Leading authority on Verbal Abuse
Raging against the dying of the night

If you have a moment, read some. They are fascinating, and strange. And make you wonder if you really want them following you.

But the amazing thing about social media is that real connections are made. I love finding out what my real friends, like Hank and Deb, are doing on a daily basis. But I've also developed a true fondness for people I've never met in person. When I bought a leather purse in Morocco and when I got it home it smelled terrible, I posted this on Facebook. I got hundreds of suggestions about how to remove the smell—many of them really good and effective. Months later when I go around the country to speak someone will ask me, “What happened to the purse? Does it still smell?”

And when I broke my wrist I posted that on Facebook and was overwhelmed at the outpouring of sympathy, hints to make life easier and kind offers. Ten people even offered to type my manuscripts for me until I could work again. I was gobsmacked, as we say in England.

Now, of course, it has become an addiction. I can’t start the morning without seeing who has tweeted what and who has said what on Facebook. But I do wonder if the next generation will actually ever go out and make… uh… real friends in the flesh.

So how about you—social media-love it or hate it?


  1. Rhys! How did you get the smell out of the bag???

    (I googled exactly the same question...LOVE to know what you did!)

    Baking soda? Coffee beans? Febreze? Dryer sheets?

  2. Yes, it's very strange, isn't it? And interesting. I love knowing what my friends and family (unfortunately not my brother, who is a FB holdout) are doing on a daily basis, and I keep in touch better than I ever did by email, or God forbid, letters (for those who remember them . . .) And I've made friends I've never met, friends that I've since met, and friends that I hope I will meet.

    Like Rhys, I'll friend pretty much anyone unless their profile says "ax-murderer", but I will unfriend anyone immediately who makes unpleasant religious or political statements. ESPECIALLY on my page. But I have, on the whole, found social media to be quite remakably civil, and I love the sense of community.

    But I may have to look at the Twitter followers a little more closely . . .

  3. The bag--I used baking soda, scrunched up newspaper, white vinegar, leaving out in the sun, then spraying with pleasant cologne.

  4. I think social media has its place - and many good reasons why have already been mentioned. But I think, most importantly, that it fills a void that has been left by our changing society. We no longer grow up and remain in one community; we no longer remain close to supportive family. I think social media helps fill that need (eg, instead of taking that smelly bag to my mom, I'd ask my online family). But social media can't take the place of the "real thing" (flesh and blood friends).

  5. I do love social media, though it's a terrible time-suck, isn't it? I think it's funny how I keep hearing that publishers are leaning heavily on Facebook to be the next big marketing breakthrough. If you figure out how that will work, let me know!

    But yes to making new friends! We have a wonderful community right here on JRW--so much fun to hear real people's take on things...not just the blah, blah, blah of people in our minds:).

  6. I work from home most of the time (like several of you, I'm sure). Some days I have wall-to-wall calls, other days I have wall-to-wall silence. Twitter and FB are my coffee/water-cooler breaks on the days of ringing silence.

    Yesterday I had meetings downtown. On the train ride home I used Twitter to complain about the woman sitting in front of me. She was non-stop COMPLAINING--without the aid of social media. If she'd complained via FB or Twitter, I wouldn't have had to listen to her. I'm not saying my method of complaining makes me a better person, but it was less disturbing to those around me and was a new experience. (The only way I could "unfollow" her complaining was to get off the train. Or be rude, I guess.) ;-)

  7. My dearest friend in life isn't on Facebook or Twitter, meaning I know more about the daily thoughts of people I don't know well than I do about Pat.

    FB has drawn me closer to my nieces in the Midwest and it's created this wonderful world of author compatriots that I ADORE, so I vote 'yes', we're lucky to live in this social media age.

    But wow, I will unFriend a whiner faster than they can type "I hate my life."

    I agree with Missy—FB and Twitter are the contemporary water coolers.