Most writers are solitary souls: they inhabit their own universe apart from the rest of the world. The clutter of life is a distraction. All this new social media network stuff is nothing but quicksand guaranteed to suck your attention away from the important work: the book. So why bother to plug in? For sure, fiction writers don't need Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and all the finely tuned and gently nuanced applications built to support these behemoths. Storytellers have been telling their tales for centuries without them. But is that the real question?
Except for a brief excursion now and then I stayed away from the new social networking world. I could see marketing application readily enough. I wasn't there. But then my fictional universe became populated with all these kids who were fully plugged in to the 21st century. Their daily lives reflected the impact of this social networking and even governed how they interacted. I watched as their actions became a direct result of their use of Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and Live Journal. What's a writer to do?
Does it become a matter of research only? Should you skim the surface, assume you know what's going on, and skate on your fictional characters' assumed knowledge? Or do you take a deeper look at what's happening and actually experience it? For me the answer led to my having accounts with Twitter and Facebook and then branching out into some other applications. It meant reading more about this phenomenon of collapsed walls between people and allowing myself to fully experience its impact on how I socialize, work, and act. To monitor how I respond during the day and watch to see if it remained a simple tool or took on a deeper, more enhanced connection.
Today this galloping online networking is embraced by millions of people. The swift and intimate connection with strangers is accepted and even sought. But what does that mean at a deeper level? What does it say about us as we slide into a world where there are no borders, no walls, and no constraints? How do we respond? Are we even able to keep up with this constantly evolving world? And what does it mean for our characters and our plots? How does all this sculpt our characters in ways that we, as fiction writers, never had to tackle before?
As fiction writers we might sit behind our safe monitor and screen the world, safe in the knowledge that we inhabit an imaginary universe that never collides with reality. But can we afford this luxury? If we want readers to connect with our characters and to believe in the imaginary construct of our fictional world, shouldn't we at least experience what is going on?
You tell me. Have you peered past the distraction and noise of Facebook and Twitter to consider how it really shapes you, your world, and that of your characters? Leave a comment or enter the new world. You'll find me—and this blog—on Facebook. Or just bite the apple and Twit me.