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In this day and age authors have to put ourselves out there, hanging weightless in cyberspace with multiple tentacles dangling into the ether.
We need a platform. We’ve got to have an online presence. It’s necessary to network. Because this day and age is cruel. No? Just me thinking that? Anyways. *nervous cough*
There are websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, podcasts, all asking for your online attention and participation. There are writer’s associations, critique groups, pitch fests, twitter pitch fests, conferences, panels, and countless other writing related events needing your digital or even physical presence (or they will need your presence again when it’s safe and the age of COVID is finally over).
None of it is a bad thing, per se. I’m not railing against social media. Ranting would be pointless, anyway, since these things are the way the world is. There is no real substitute for getting out there and making connections. I’m grateful for the multiple methods available to me when it comes to getting out and being social (internal Beaker screams notwithstanding).
At the same time, I realize that not being a very social person puts me at an automatic disadvantage in the arena. I am social-skills disadvantaged. There needs to be a support group for this. Except, no one would show up. Because-social anxiety. <insert sad deflated trumpet noise here in memorial of my terrible idea>
In summary: the social media beast requires regular sacrifices from introverts like me.
Being an extrovert comes with its own challenges, I’m sure. I just can’t write a post about how to deal with them—I wouldn’t know where to start. What I can do is list some of the ways I’ve found to limit and/or deal with the issues that come from being antisocial in a social butterfly world.
Here are some tips, from one introvert to any others, about how to minimize the pain while maximizing your interaction on social media.
- Learn to love the internet. Online opportunities for networking are nearly limitless, and there are so many different directions you can go. Also, it’s online, so you don’t have to actually put yourself in multiple stranger’s faces all day every day. The Internet is, like, tailor-made for us. We can write, and re-write, and edit every conversation before anyone else sees it. Initiate what contact we like, when we like. All the anxiety of unexpected communication is now gone.
- BUT! Pick the niche that works best for you, and focus on it. Find the online outlet you love best and become an active, valuable participant.
- In other words, don’t feel like you have to expose yourself all over every social media outlet, particularly the ones you don’t really like. That’s a recipe for burnout. Also, people can die from exposure. Scientific fact. Quality, over quantity.
- You don’t ALWAYS have to have something to add/post. Just listening actively and asking good, pertinent questions is valuable.
- There are a lot of other introverts out there. It’s possible we are now running the internet? Anyway, once you find your tribe and settle into your niche, things get a lot more comfortable, I promise.
- When it comes to actual social events that need you there, internal screaming and all, pick the ones that you think will have the most value for you. It’s okay to limit yourself to one a year, or ten a year, once it’s safe to attend again. Just don’t give yourself the excuse to stay home and never leave the Internet bubble. Push outside your comfort zone as much as you feel like you can once we’re safely vaccinated, we’ve achieved herd immunity, and these events have started again.
- Mentally rehearse, ahead of the event, what will be happening and how you might want to react. Example; an online live event. You’ll be meeting other authors, who may ask your name and what you write. Prepare a short biographical speech ahead of time and practice it. (And yes, we the socially anxious do actually practice our “lines” before meeting new people. Otherwise we freeze up and stutter and blurt and spend the next six years beating ourselves up over how dumb we sounded and wincing every time the memory surfaces and we’re a social mess, just go.)
- It’s easier to interact when it’s something you feel passionate about. You’ve rehearsed your introduction, but now someone wants to improvise. Panic! But if both of you are querying, or hate writing a synopsis, or both love Star Wars (except for Episode III, ALL DEADLY DEATH FIRE TO EPISODE III) you have common ground to retreat to. Rehearse a few questions beforehand that can help you find the common ground so the panic doesn’t shut your conversation down if someone wants to add-lib.
- Fake it til you make it. The more you act like an extroverted social person, the more confident you’ll get with it. It becomes easier and less scary as you practice. New situations will always be anxiety inducing, but at least the things you’ve done before will become more like comfortable, old, slightly cruel friends.
- Keep a healthy sense of humor. Your kids will bust into the middle of a Zoom meeting about writing erotic romance. Or you’ll experience technical difficulties. No matter what, something will go tits up. It helps a lot to remember you’re allowed to laugh about it.
If you’re also learning to navigate a social world, I’d love to hear what strategies you use! Throw them in the comments for me.