Posts tagged with: agita

Social Media Agita

For authors, it’s pretty much de rigueur to promote our work, and engage with our readers, using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. But for many people in the information technology field, willingly supplying personal information to any third party unless it’s absolutely required is…unthinkable. Anathema. Gets you sprinkled with loser dust.

Being both an author and a technologist, social media is a subject of massive personal agita for me.

My native mindset is that of the technologist: security and risk focused.  I have an innate personal desire for silence and privacy, near-zero socialization needs, am massively introverted, and have an ongoing challenge with digital overload…add growing up Scandanavian and Lutheran in Minnesota, where, as Garrison Keillor says about Lake Wobegon on A Prairie Home Companion, every child is above average, so there’s no need to go tooting your horn, little missy. Is it any wonder social media and promotion are not exactly natural fits for me?

And then there’s the physical safety issue.

There was an unfortunate incident recently that brought all this agita to the forefront:  a literary agent recently reported having been assaulted by a disgruntled author. As an assault and stalking victim myself, reading this story made my stomach plummet to my feet like an elevator in free-fall. As a technologist, I found the divergent attitudes toward social media to be rather eye-opening. From the story:

Van Hylckama Vlieg said the incident taught her to be more cautious about her job and social media usage. Until the incident, she had been a keen user of the location-based social networking service Foursquare, often sharing her location in and around her daughter’s school, where the attack took place.

“My husband works for Yahoo,” van Hylckama Vlieg says. “A lot of people who work in tech[nology] circles tend to be more open [with their information].”

I found this comment startling. It doesn’t align with my experience of technologists at all. Several commenters expressed similar views:

The IT people in my family are absolutely paranoid about the internet…constantly warning us all not to put anything out there at all. They don’t use any social media – no Facebook, no Tweet, no nothing. They even refuse to order stuff online using credit cards and each have several email addresses not using any variation of their names. –– Susan of Wales

Same with mine. My father’s in Information Security…he’s the most paranoid person in my family about sharing information over the internet. No addresses, alias when I post something (sometimes) and never do things like tell my age and stuff… I know very few IT people that are open with their information on the Web. – Mercy Grant

Being a successful author today pretty much requires that you reach out to readers, reviewers, and other writers using digital means. But what do you do when the requirements of the author’s job utterly collide with beliefs and behaviors forged by decades of professional experience and personal inclination?  From the technologist’s perspective, I’m a clueless loser if I willingly feed the digital maw with likes, tags, tweets and clicks, or provide more personal data than I absolutely must. From an author’s or publisher’s perspective, I’m a paranoid loser if I don’t.

Sometimes my brain feels utterly cleaved in two.

It’s a struggle for me to try to explain to friends and loved ones exactly why so many technologists are so rabid about data privacy. It’s challenging to talk about such a complex subject in a meaningful way without a shared vocabulary. How do you condense a career’s worth of knowledge, experience, research and concern into a casual conversation, or into a blog post? Where do you even start?  (I tried: “Ten Things You Can Do To Reduce Hack Risk” Part 1 and Part 2) Technologists are concerned because we simply don’t know who can access, use, buy or sell our personal data, now or into the future. We don’t know how our personal data might be used. The law is about fifteen years behind technology here – the last significant update to the Telecommunications Act was made in 1996 – so in the absence of meaningful and appropriate consumer protections, we choose to protect ourselves.

I try to make what I hope are informed compromises. Writing under a pseudonym has been very helpful for this purpose. Tamara has a Facebook account and fan page; Tammy doesn’t. Tamara has a Twitter feed; Tammy doesn’t. Yes, Tamara and Tammy share computers, ISPs, IP addresses, and other technological trackables, but the risk of any one individual having enough interest, time and skill to connect the digital dots between Tamara and Tammy is relatively low—not zero, mind you, but low. Making a mental distinction between Tamara and Tammy helps me navigate this risk more productively.

Like the children of Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, I want to be above average in everything I do, but when push comes to shove, Tammy’s concerns will always trump Tamara’s. Always. This means that Tamara, who writes and sells books, pays a price. She doesn’t always hold up her end of the bargain, promotion-wise.  She isn’t above average – at least as far as sales go.

And that realization really, really stings.

Do you ever experience social media agita? If so, what do you do about it?

Award-winning author Tamara Hogan loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her partner Mark and two naughty cats. When she’s not telecommuting to Silicon Valley, she enjoys writing edgy urban fantasy romance with a sci-fi twist. A feral reader with an unapologetic television addiction, Tammy is forever on the lookout for the perfect black boots.

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