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Copyright © 2010 Nate Marsh via Flickr, cc Some rights reserved

You’ve heard it. I know you have. Several sources shouting the importance of social networking. Various agents, publishers and writers discussing the need for an online, active presence in the writer world. It’s how we get to know industry, craft and connections. We keep our fingers tightly pressed against the pulse of the writer community. We tweet, blog, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon and just plain stumble. We’re searching for answers and insights and sometimes friends. We rejoice in finding others who understand “being a writer” or who have paved the way, leaving stepping stones for us to follow. We find comfort in community.

But we also find discouragement. Seeing so many around us succeed and wondering if we’ve missed our chance. We see the steps so far ahead… places we should be and things we should be doing but we’re back here on step 1 or maybe 2. Can we get there? Can we make it? Can we be a NYT Bestseller? Or even just a published author? Why doesn’t anyone #FF me or RT me? What am I doing wrong? Am I getting anything right? Why do people love author X when I find him/her to be intolerable?

In these moments of anxiety I thing we need to ask ourselves, is our connection to the Internet world still just an Ethernet cable or has it become an umbilical cord? How can you know?

Social Networking via Ethernet Cable

  • You limit your blog reading to the essential (or suggested) posts so you are “current” but still have time for writing.
  • Author Y just hit the NYT bestseller list. You tweet a quick congrats and move on. You have your own work to polish.
  • Someone gave a friend an #FF. You RT to spread the word because @awesomesauce deserves the title.
  • A blog talks about POV and the benefits of first vs. third. Maybe they indicate that first is better. You take notes, appreciate their insight, but realize that third is best for your novel.
  • Agent Z hates faeries. Her tweet: “If I see one more faerie query cross my desk I’m going to scream and send mythical atom bomb to faerie land.” Note to self: Do not send agent Z my faerie query.
  • It’s a snow day. Your hubby’s home and you haven’t had time together in a long time. You turn off your computer to spend a fun day with the man you love. Besides, you only do this once in a blue moon.
Social Networking via Umbilical Cord
  • You MUST. READ. EVERYTHING. You spend hours sifting through every blog and tweet known to man. Doesn’t matter if author X only posts fluff. She’s PUBLISHED! Must. Read.
  • Why oh WHY did author Y hit the NYT bestsellers? Why aren’t you there? There isn’t enough room for all of you. You stalk author Y to figure out his/her “secrets”, lamenting your own inadequacies the whole time.
  • You search your back logs looking for a #FF in your favor. What are you doing wrong? Why has no one tweeted #FF @insecurenewb? You’re kind of like @awesomesauce… well… at least you follow her.
  • The POV blog post has you in hysterics. You begin to re-write your third person POV novel into first person based what the post said.
  • Agent Z hates faeries? What?!? But your whole book is about faeries! That must mean the industry is against them. You begin another re-write substituting faeries for werewolves… wait? Are werewolves in?!? Maybe they should be zombies? You spend another 5 hours trying to figure out what’s the hottest paranormal creature right now.
  • What? The hubby wants you to LEAVE your computer?!? What is he thinking! He’ll have to pry the keyboard from your cold dead fingers. Really… what if you MISS something important during your day off! An agent could offer you a contract over twitter and you’ll miss it! Mental note: Prep divorce papers.

I think you get my point. Social networking IS important. Getting to know others and studying information on industry and craft will only help you improve. I am at the front of the line when it comes to sifting through blogs and learning from others’ awesome. But when you can’t turn it off or walk away… when the networking overrides the writing… you know you’re Ethernet cable has mysteriously shifted into an umbilical cord. You’re addicted. And that addiction can destroy you.

What do you think? Can too much social networking be bad for your writing health?