Yesterday’s accidental New Year’s resolution was to spend less time promoting books I don’t like and would never read by authors I don’t know. (For the past few years, I’ve been posting book excerpts from any author who sent me one, and then promoting it via Twitter and Facebook.) Today’s accidental resolution is to spend less time on Facebook. This resolution isn’t accidental — I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go with my online life. What’s accidental is the timing. What was supposed to be simply a resolution has accidentally become a New Year’s resolution.
Like many authors, I joined Facebook as a way of promoting my books, and I “friended” as many people as possible to get the word out. When I realized I wasn’t getting the results I’d hoped for, I started going for quality — trying to get to know the people I was connected with. That worked to a certain extent — I’ve met wonderful people and have had interesting discussions with them — but now the site has lost its luster. Or maybe I am growing beyond what the site has to offer. I never did like the games that keep so many people occupied, but I liked the feeling that something was always going on, that there was always a chance for an incredible encounter.
A growing problem is that for me there are two Facebooks running concurrently. There is the professional side, where I meet and connect with other authors, and there is the personal side. I’ve tried separating out the two — I have both a personal profile and an author page — but I’m still connected to more than a thousand people on my personal profile that I don’t know, and the constant flow of their personal tragedies and triumphs is beginning to weigh me down.
I don’t know which is worse — the brags about how many books people have sold, how many pages they have written, what awards they have won, their ratings on Amazon, or the announcements of anniversaries, illnesses, hospitalizations, accidents, and deaths of relatives and pets. (Actually, I do know what is worst — the happy announcements of wedding anniversaries. They remind me of what I have lost.)
I sound curmudgeonly, don’t I? In a cosmic sense, what happens to each person affects us all, but in a microcosmic way, knowledge of these events can add an immeasurable burden. Yes, I’m glad of people’s triumphs. (Or at least I want to be.) Yes, I’m sorry about their tragedies. But how do my feelings make a difference to their lives? I’m a stranger to them as they are to me. And if I turn off my computer, they no longer exist. (Ah, such power!)
I can’t completely get rid of Facebook, nor do I want — it’s a good way of connecting with people and getting to know them — but I can curtail my time on the site, and that I will do.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+