Frank Bruni recently wrote a fascinating New York Times column about politicians desperate for attention. One of them was former Congressman Anthony Weiner, now infamous for tweeting pictures of his privates to someone other than his wife, and then denying it.
Weiner explained his reckless behavior by saying he craved adulation, friends, and attention; he relentlessly sought them all via Facebook and Twitter. It was a sobering story and I think it has some lessons for us as authors.
When I published my first book, there was no Internet that we could search to see how our books were doing and where our careers might be headed. There were reviews in print, and that was it. By a certain point after a book was published, there wasn't much to read anymore about yourself or your book, unless you were touring and there were interviews or features along the way.
Today, we're drowning in information. Maureen Dowd put it cleverly in the Times: "Everybody is continuously connected to everybody else on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Reddit, e-mailing, texting, faster and faster, with the flood of information jeopardizing meaning. Everybody's talking at once in a hypnotic, hyper din: the cocktail party from hell."
And we authors now have endless opportunities to make ourselves miserable by insatiably reading every last Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads review; checking whether our Facebook author page is getting likes; worrying about whether our tweets will get re-tweeted; obsessing over comments on our blogs; setting up Google alerts for every mention of our names and books; worrying that our web sites aren't getting enough traffic; obsessing about our presence in the blogosphere.
Some authors, begging for attention, even go overboard and live too much of their lives in social media, recording every twitch of consciousness as if the fate of publishing depended on it. Their neediness -- however disguised -- is epic and sometimes pathetic.
What we do as authors is so very different from politicians, and we typically spend so much more time alone. But that's exactly what makes the Internet as seductive for us as it is for them. It's a drug we should all worry about relying too heavily on, at the expense of our work. Increasing how many followers we have on Twitter or friends on Facebook shouldn't be more important than making ourselves better writers.