Pet peeves. In truth, I don’t have many in life, but thanks to the birth of social media, I am developing a growing little arsenal of them that begin and end with how we, as a society….as human beings….are beginning to treat one another on a day to day basis. Perhaps I am a bit naïve in my expectations of the world, but I was always brought up with the idea of something called “common courtesy” when it came to dealing with others and how they might feel. In the realm of social media faux pas, let us take a look at Twitter for example, because my latest and greatest pet peeve has grown out of that realm’s 140-character mode of social buckshot communication.
Allow me to begin my rant with a caveat that says I don’t know what the heck I am doing when it comes to marketing and self-promotion. I love writing my novels. I occasionally (very occasionally) get a blog post idea. You can tell I am not great at it because I usually only manage about one blog post a month if I am lucky – hardly impressive by anyone’s standards. I am not much for social media, and I don’t know how to sell myself to the world at large. Probably not something I should be openly admitting, but what the heck.
In fact, talking about myself as though I am something worth noticing is the hardest thing for me to do. Ask me about writing, and I can make a good conversation. Ask me about topics that interest me, and I can pretty much talk all day. Ask me about my dog, and I positively yammer on without end. Ask me about me, and I tend to hem and haw, shuffle my feet, stare at the ceiling, and pray for a giant Acme hole to spontaneously appear beneath me.
In spite of my ineptitude, I have managed well enough in this highly electronic social world of ours, and I am learning new things every day. I am “getting out” more on the Internet, and am making connections with people around the world that I never would have made without this ever-growing global network. Now here is where I begin to rankle.
I realize that everyone is terribly busy which means having a personal, deep, unending friendship with all five bazillion people you are connected to is not only hard to manage; it is downright unrealistic and impossible. If you are a writer like me, you probably have a day job (or two), you have writing projects, editing tasks that you avoid with great vigor, ‘to do’ lists that are a mile long, all piled on top of that odd thing we like to call the rest of your daily life. Since there are still only twenty four hours in a day (last time I checked), that leaves about ten minutes to throw out a few general tweets, make a few new connections, write on a blog post, and get about fifteen minutes of sleep before the next day starts….. assuming your dog hasn’t demanded you use those precious remaining minutes for play time. In which case, the dog wins out, you get no sleep, but you feel better having made your pooch happy.
If this sounds anything like your life, you can understand why my spending a few minutes a day (when I can) to say hi to new connections, to reach out to new people, to take that time in general, is such a big thing for me. I generally remember each and every person I connect with, especially when I have interacted with them in some meaningful capacity.
Here is how my Twitter peeve has been birthed. It usually starts out the same. I see someone has followed me. I go to their page, make sure they aren’t a perv or general bad guy (as much as I can in this day and age), I thank them for the follow, I follow them back, and do my best to find some way to connect with them on a personal level. It might be their reference to coffee in their short blurb about themselves. It might be the dog they have in their picture. It might be a tweet they just posted about something that is important to them. Whatever it is, I try and take the time to say something to them that relates to them. Invariably it leads to a back and forth, and those are the things I remember.
Once the connection is made, I do an odd thing. I share my connections. I share because I know most people are trying to build their numbers, their audience, their exposure to the world. Writers are looking for readers. Artists are looking for buyers. Restaurants are looking for patrons. Heck, even puppy pages are looking for people to just be silly with. So I share to help other people connect because I know how hard it is for me. What I have discovered is that with some people, there is a darker purpose to their “reaching out”. I call it surface boosting, and it is one of the most underhanded and unkind trends to hit the Twitter community since its inception.
The way you do it simple. You reach out to a bunch of people and follow them. Most people (like me) will follow back. You pretend to be interested and you pretend to want to connect. You maintain that connection for a few months until things die down. People get busy. Conversations ebb. When your followers least expect it, you unfollow their account. Unless they are using a service like Unfollow, they won’t even know it has happened. Go through this process enough times and your number of followers will soar while the number of people you follow remains relatively low. The lower the number of people you follow and the larger the number of your followers, the more special the next victims feel. It’s like the new kid getting friend bombed by the popular kid just so the popular kid can pump the new kid for information and leave the new kid lying in the dust where the popular kid found him.
Why would anyone do this? Well, there is a tremendous amount of pressure out there for people looking to make a name for themselves to “make their bones.” Unfortunately part of the pressure comes in the form of a popularity contest.
For the indie author or even the small time published author, one of the first questions that is asked is “What kind of a following do you have?” Twitter and Facebook have become one of the fastest ways to gauge that following when measurable sales figures are not readily at hand or when those figures are too small to impress. For whatever reason, more and more professional hopefuls believe that the lower their “Following” numbers are, the more legitimate, popular, or important they think they appear to the rest of the world.
The thing is, in the world we live in today, my pet peeve has a double-edged sword. Things have a way of coming around full circle. I have seen it enough times in my life to know it is true. For example, the person who is abused by their supervisor may one day be the big boss for another company, and the jerk who gave them such a hard time when they were the low man on the totem pole may be the one begging them for employment.
The lesson here is simple. Courtesy and kindness don’t cost you anything. In fact, they are two free investments in life that offer the richest rewards. No one forgets the jerk who screwed them over, but more importantly, everyone remembers the person who showed a little kindness when they didn’t have to. Whether you are famous or unknown, your actions will have a bearing on your life. What that impact is in the long run remains entirely up to you.
I will just say that Karma is a witch, and I am pretty sure she has a blog and a Twitter account, so tread lightly on the feelings of those around you lest you find yourself a victim of your own unkind devices. Some day you may need the help of someone you tried to dupe in the past. They may or may not remember your duplicity, but in a day and age when everything and everyone has an electronic memory, it is best to play it safe and treat everyone with the courtesy you wish to receive in turn.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to connect with H.L. Stephens on Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. Also check out H.L. Stephen’s mystery series The Chronicles of Mister Marmee. Book 1 – The Case of Jack the Nipper and book 2 – The Case of the Wayward Fae are available in print and eBook format. Coming Soon! Book 3 – The Case of the Monkey’s Misfortune.