Friend Request

One of the many necessary things aspiring authors must do to build name recognition is to grow an audience of people who enjoy their craft. Sure, we write for ourselves, but I can’t imagine any author with books available for sale who doesn’t have an inner desire for validation from more than friends and family.

Expectations are high in our social-media-saturated world. We are expected to have rich “author platforms” with websites and Facebook pages and newsletters and Twitter accounts and YouTube videos and the list goes on-and-on-and-on. But it’s not enough simply to have those platforms, we’re also expected to be available to our (hopefully growing) audience 24/7. Some authors refuse to play this game called marketing. They argue that they’d rather be writing and working on their next release than interacting with the sometimes unwashed masses.

Yes, we all have different goals as authors, and my goal is to reach as many people as I can with my stories. I want to make them laugh and cry and engage in discussions. I want them to anticipate my next book.

And so, much to my mother’s chagrin, I have been quite open over the years with accepting friend requests willy-nilly. Every new friend is a potential new reader, and except for that 8-month sabbatical I took from the FB world a while back, I’ve never felt the need to “unfriend” anyone. At least not until yesterday.

I clicked “accept friend request” from someone who looked like he could be a West Point classmate and within moments I got a personal message:

hello thank you so much to make me your friend and i like to keep more of you

as good friends so are you in the USA? have nice day..

I read it a couple of times and couldn’t help hearing Borat’s voice. So I wrote back:

Yes, but please tell me why you sent me a friend request?

My immediate concern was that he wanted “to keep more of” me, and although I was pretty sure he didn’t mean it in a “Silence of the Lambs” kind of way, I nevertheless checked out his page. No mutual friends. Just as I was about to delete him, this sad tale popped up:

Thank you so much to make me your friend and i like to keep more of you as

 good friends so  i m from Kansas is in the South, in the North of the United

States, i m 58 and wife die in child birth.i have daughter and one gran son,i m

widowed for 23 year ago.i live alone in my home, i m working as I’m a Civil

Engineer of oil pipelines,I work for myself as a private contractor.I travel with

my work alot. so tell me more about your self? How old are you? Are you

single? Do you have kids? what do you do for a living?  I hope to read back

from you soon

I couldn’t make that up if I tried, and it’s really not as sad when you read it aloud with a Borat accent (my son did this brilliantly and added my new potential “friend” was probably from Kansastan), but within seconds I did what I never thought I’d do to a potential new follower: Unfriend.

Guess I’ll do a bit more snooping before accepting any more silly-willy-nilly friend requests. Pretty sure this one wouldn’t have enjoyed my writing anyway.


Seven Days to Sanity: Regaining my life after killing my Facebook page

Just like that, whatever that is, I’m walking away from Facebook. Although I’m not sure what pushed me over the edge—probably a comment from my proper 85-year-old New England mother who told me I looked like a “floozy” in some of my photos—I’ve made the decision to delete my personal page.

Facebook was made for people like me, people who can’t walk away from a controversy without adding their nickel’s worth, who eat the entire bag of chocolate chips without making a single cookie, who like people to like them. People who can’t not click on the latest adorable kitten video or clip of a five-year-old belting out the National Anthem like nobody’s business.

I’m no longer comfortable being one of those people.

My youngest son was the first person I knew to walk away from Facebook. I didn’t even know it was legal. “Too stressful,” he said, simply, and now I understand.

I love my friends and family and I’ve become accustomed to knowing their every thought every day. I’m accustomed to hitting the “Like” button—like a caged rat anticipating a treat—every time I read a status or see a new profile photo. It has become too much.

I’ve stopped buying bags of chocolate chips. I will stop my addiction to wanting everyone to know what I think and what my dog is doing every day.

I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg will call asking what he can do to bring me back. I hear he’s friends with everyone in his brilliant world. Whatever will he do without me and my 611 friends visiting hourly? How will he survive without the possibility that I might click on one of the endless ads for Zappos shoes or Games I May Like, without my taking a quiz to determine which GOT character I’m most like (Khaleesi, I would hope), without letting the world know I’ve just spilled red wine on my white cotton shirt (frowny-face emoticon)?

Here goes. My seven-day cleanse.

Day 1. The freedom I felt last night after making the delete decision was tainted by withdrawal pangs today. After requesting the download of my account, something my son suggested I should do, I told Facebook I would like to delete my page. It wanted to know why, so instead of being honest and checking the “I spend too much time on Facebook” circle, I checked the “I have another Facebook page” option. It’s true. I kept my Leadville Laurel page dedicated to writing pursuits, so I suppose I’m not really going cold-turkey on this venture, but I still feel anxious. It will let me know when my download is complete. Until then, I have a personal presence out there.

Day 2. It is done. Had to catch myself several times today after receiving the zip file of my Facebook download from the machine. Once I saved it to my computer, I was tempted to unzip and look at the contents, but I stopped myself. I don’t want to go backward. Even came pretty close to deleting my page before getting the download. I’ll blame (credit?) my older son’s recent purge of our garage with my desire to set it all free. Like the stacks of photo albums hidden in a closet under our stairs, this zip file now lurks for some future disposition. As I have for the albums, I will ignore this electronic validation of my past. I’ll also credit my son with pulling out a cookbook and saying, “Let’s try this tonight.” I do believe today was the first day I shopped with a list. Dinner was spectacular.

Day 3. Actually focused on my writing. Took a walk with the pooch and picked up two bags of trash and heaps of inspiration along the way. After picking up a book, I had to overcome a twinge of guilt when I realized it was still light outside. Until today, reading was a luxury to be enjoyed 15 minutes before the book crashed onto my sleeping face. I feel giddy! Oh so giddy! I have no idea whose birthday it is (happy new year, everyone!), what recipe someone has tried, or the latest president-bashing meme circulating the ionosphere. I feel unburdened. This is good.

Day 4. Watched an entire documentary (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”) without checking my iPhone once. That used to be a habit, too. “What are you doing?” my husband would ask, catching me in the dirty act of seeing if anyone “liked” or commented on my latest personal status. So much ego! Earlier I completed a letter to the editor about our local rogue dog issue. Now that I will be posting more blogs on my Leadville Laurel page, I mustn’t fall into the same pattern of compulsive checking. I’ll allow myself 15 minutes first thing in the morning after walking the pooch and then log off until the next morning. Nothing I post requires immediate action or response. I’ve just fooled myself into thinking it has in the past.

Day 5. My posture has improved now that I’m not stooping surreptitiously each time I pass my computer screen hoping to see a little red bubble indicating contact with the outside world. I only keep my email open now and rarely notice messages in bold black. Perhaps I’ll apply the same rule to email. Check it right after my 15 minutes of indulgence on my professional page. There! Just shut it down. As a writer I have the luxury of making myself unavailable, something most people do not. Et voilà! I’m a writer again! I had convinced myself my personal status update posts were “writing.” They were not.

Day 6. A friend warned me about pink cloud syndrome and wished me luck against relapse. Facebook probably knows about it as well. It gives you 14 days to change your mind once you hit the “Delete Page” button—two weeks to decide if you can truly make the break. I’m not counting the days. With newfound time and energy, I attacked the attic. After several hours of sorting and some occasional dawdling down memory lane (sometimes you have to go backward to move forward), I have a new pile for the dump. Don’t think I’ll need those 32-year-old electrical engineering notes anymore. Pretty sure I’ll sleep better tonight knowing the burden above me has lightened.

Day 7. Beautiful sleep last night followed by another day of accomplishment. The time I have regained in the absence of neurotic personal status updates makes me feel liberated. Freed. Like I’ve lost 5 pounds without even trying. Zuckerberg never did call and I finally stopped checking my phone for missed messages. I have no expectation he’ll call on Day 14. He probably never really was my friend anyway.


Hitting “Delete”

“Either he deleted his Facebook page or he’s blocked me,” said my husband first thing this morning.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “Why would he do either?”

Our 20-year-old son Jake is a computer guru, and has been for a very long time. He makes his living doing “computer things.” I open my Facebook page and search his name. I find it and click on it.

Black boxes and emptiness.


I pick up the phone and call him immediately.

“Hey, Mum,” he mumbles. Clearly I have woken him, but I am delighted to hear his voice.

“You okay?” I ask.

“Yeah, just a bit sleepy,” he says.

“Sorry to wake you,” I say, “but we saw that you weren’t on Facebook anymore. How come?”

“Too stressful,” he responds simply.

“Good for you,” I tell him. “If I weren’t such a famous public figure, I might do the same.” He laughs, and so do I. I laugh because I know that as soon as I write about this, I’ll post it to my blog and then link it to my Facebook page. And then I’ll wait for people to give me feedback.

I’m a feedback addict.

I understand what he means about the stress, though, and my decision to remove “Words with Friends” from my new iPhone this year seriously helped me breathe a little easier. I loved the challenge, but I always had about five games going, and although I justified playing because it was “words,” when I really looked at those hours of mental maneuvering of letters to make meaningless “points,” I see that they were hours that could have been better spent.

We live in a world that caters to people like me, the extroverts of the world, the “Look at MEs” of the world, the people who need attention and that burst of excitement that comes when we open our Facebook and see those red notification bubbles.

But I understand the stress that comes with addiction, and wonder now what I’m going to do about it. I can justify all of my status updates as necessary for me to stay connected with and to entertain my friends and family…it’s what extroverts do.

I’ll be waiting for your feedback.



A Penny for . . .

The last paragraph in a letter dated March 22, 1943 reminds me to take stock of all that I own, and of the conveniences of living in the 21st century:

“Pass this news on to the fellows and tell them I can’t write them all because I’ll only have to tell them all the same news . . . tell them and the LeBlancs that this is sure a swell pen & pencil set. The pen writes by itself. All I have to do is hold it. I really appreciate it. This watch that you gave me is really on the ball. It will go pretty near two days on one winding and it’s keeping good time.”

Just the thought of having to write individual letters to all my friends and family leaves me exhausted. With Facebook and other social media, I can update all 255 of my closest peeps (!) with the click of a key. I do, though, remember receiving my own gift pen & pencil set when I left for my first college, and treasured it as I did my Smith Corona electric typewriter (which was quite a technological advancement from the manual one on which I learned to type at Braintree High School). Do we make wind-up watches anymore? I wonder what percentage of our population even wears a wrist watch in 2011.

Earlier in this same letter, Dad asks his family to remind any of the “fellows” to follow that they should bring 10 hangers with them, and requests “a carton of book matches, if you can get them. All they have down here are those penny boxes of wooden matches and they are too bulky to carry around.” To smoke was the status quo, and if cigarette manufacturers had the knowledge then of the destructive physical results, they sure didn’t tell anyone. Soldiers would find cigarettes in their meal rations . . . “’Spuds,’ ‘Wings,’ and if we were lucky,” Dad tells me, “Chelseys.”  They came four in a pack. I am reminded of being a child in a time when chalky candy cigarettes from the “Penny Store” were a treat. Ugh.