Facebook for Writers: A Constitution

Alex Boyd (blogger, poet, editor, Parkdalian) and I got into an email conversation a couple weeks back about the uses and misuses of Facebook by the literary community. We started throwing around tongue-in-cheek “rules” to govern the Facebook behaviour of our peers. Eventually, we had a whole list, and thought we’d share. Some of these are his, and some are mine. If you’re offended by one of them, please assume the former.

Facebook for Writers: A Constitution in Ten Rules and One Appeal
by Alex Boyd and Jacob McArthur Mooney

1. First, decide if your profile is a personal or professional one. If you’re going to friend every other writer in the world, we don’t want to hear about how much you enjoyed your eggs.

***

2. On that note, you don’t need to friend everyone, and writers in another part of the continent will not race out to buy or review your book because you’re friends on Facebook. Seriously, it’s an epidemic. Be a person, not a computer virus. Friend the people you know, (and the people you’d like to know. Don’t befriend people you know you’ll never know, y’know?)

***

3. Do not complain about Facebook stealing all your writing time. This isn’t really what’s happening. Procrastinating writers existed before 2002. If it wasn’t Facebook, it’d be something else. Don’t steal others’ Facebook time with reminders about writing.

***

4. Don’t complain about Facebook in your Facebook status update. Even though you’re a writer who stands for truth and wisdom in all things, you look stupid when you complain about FB’s privacy settings from inside your profile. You’ve bought in. Deal with this. The only thing worse than acquiescing is acquiescing ironically.

***

5. Don’t have fan pages and invite people to be a fan of you. High school is over, and we should all be working to keep it that way. If someone had approached you decades ago to say someday you’ll have a machine in your home, and you’ll use it to try and get everyone you know to indicate they like you, you’d have said please go away and take your soul-destroying ideas with you. (You’d have been in the right.)

***

6. Profiles are for people and groups are for publishers and bookstores. Some of us aren’t comfortable being friends with anonymous entities (like Buzzard Wing Books, Alberta) that can look at all our photos.

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7. If someone invites you to an event, and you don’t want to go, hit the “Not Attending” button, not the “Ignore” button, and especially not the “Attending” button. Facebook offers you innumerable opportunities to be a passive-aggressive wimp. Don’t overdo it. The “Maybe” attending button is a decent compromise, and notes are often appreciated if you’re going to decline.

***

8. The following things are difficult to communicate through text, among others: sarcasm, tongue-in-cheekiness, and irony. Try to avoid these writerly tools around casual acquaintances as they may not be fully briefed on your staggering capacity for wit. When your bon mots crash against the sheer cliffs of others’ literal-mindedness, it will not be their fault. It will be yours.

***

9. Never confuse the apparent popularity of something’s Facebook presence with its actual popularity in the real world. Include yourself among these somethings. The following expressions are to be avoided: “This reading should have really been better attended, it got __ attendees on the FB invite.” and “If every one of my FB friends just bought 2 copies of my book, each, I could sell out on Amazon.”

***

10. If you feel another writer is using their profile as a personal soapbox to describe the mundane slog of their workaday lives instead of anything thoughtful about writing, and you want to call them on this, fair enough. But first, put yourself through the following test: copy and paste your last ten status updates to a word document. Now, scan through that document looking for references to your children or pets. How many did you find? Is it more than three? Yes? Okay, then shut up.

***

In closing, we all have writing in common, and we’re all sensitive enough to be writers. This makes us a loose community of the easily offended. Avoid dropping and blocking people because they reviewed your book poorly, or didn’t speak to you at an event, or anything else. It’s counter-productive to polarize the writing subcultures, plus it’s hurtful. We’re not saying we’re perfect people, and have never made mistakes, but let’s be honest – we were supposed to be done with turning our backs on inconvenient people somewhere around grade school. Okay, thanks for reading. Play nice, kids.

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14 Comments on “Facebook for Writers: A Constitution”

  1. Nikki Says:

    See, you’ve just tweaked my rebellious nature, and now I want to post about nothing BUT breakfast. Plus, what if they’re writers I don’t know who’ve friended ME? They should just deal with my constant cat picture updates. And did I mention I had an EXCELLENT omelette this morning?


  2. Rules are for chumps, chumps. I like my eggs like I like my lovers: over-easy.


  3. And occasionally scrambled.

  4. Chad Says:

    agreeable rules, funny too … except 10. If everyone else is allowed to talk about their workdays — teaching bratty grade 9s or serving coffee to assholes — so should a writer be able to talk mundanely of theirs?


  5. […] Facebook, Twitter, etc can also very problematic. I’ve just read an interesting “constitution” for writers using Facebook, here at Vox Populism. Although they admit the rules are “tongue in cheek,” it is hard to know what is and […]

  6. Nikki Says:

    Wait, you people *work* as writers? I was under the impression we all had day jobs. Pardon me while I go back to bitching about the photocopy machine.

  7. voxpopulism Says:

    I maintain a bestselling poetry blog that brings in over 0 figures a year.

  8. Chad Pelley Says:

    Nikki: I decided to take a year off and kick a massive dent in my second novel, no matter how financially irresponsible that was. I’ve been writing 50 hours a week, and, somehow, money has been falling from the sky as I need it — royalties, the odd literary award, writing reviews, adjudicating awards, writing grants — all of which I worked hard for, but still. 11 months sans dayjob is madman-ism and might end with me living in a cardbaord box: I am not sure how I will be paying the bills in Decemeber … but my agent will have his my second novel in his laps by mid- Decemeber …

  9. Carey Says:

    Very sage. I like how you blame Alex right off the bat. To our credit, though, was talking with a group of writers the other day and we agreed that there is already a good deal of self-editing that goes on, of course: even for those who are all business online, the real bizness goes down offline or by email, a social media tu-vous hierarchy of sorts. And regardless of how drunk anybody was at this or that reading, posting that kind of thing is grounds for getting unfriended (and rightly so). Point being that FB etiquette is alive and growing like a beansprout. Now I want to eat beansprouts…

  10. Nikki Says:

    Who’s blaming? Clearly this post relates to some incident known only to a few Toronna types.

    And Chad, I shouldn’t have made such a snarky remark about writing vs. work, seeing as how it opened up a big ‘ol can of personal worms. Most writers I know have day jobs, many teach. Good for you that hard-worked for money is coming your way. Truly, bully for you. I’m coming off 17 months of unemployment, during which time I racked up a shitload of debt trying to live. But then I’m not quite smart enough to make the writing thing pay, and I don’t win awards or anything like that and so I administrate. And complain. Now I’m going to delete my FB page, and eat a donut.

  11. chadpelley Says:

    Nikki: I didn’t find it snarky. Just funny and true. (Now I feel like what I said was defensive and snarky, as oppsoed to what I intended: a confession of quixotic madness.) So, no one was snarky, and here’s to money falling out of the sky and into our laps.
    best …

  12. Nikki Says:

    I think I just proved point #8. I blame my blood sugar from the aforementioned donut.

    xo
    N.

  13. voxpopulism Says:

    You two live on the exact farthest-apart opposite ends of the country. It is too much to expect you to speak the same language.


  14. […] 29th, 2010 Facebook for Writers: A Constitution. On the opposite end of the earnestness spectrum is this throw-away little funsized thingy I did […]


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