I’m going to start this with two true facts:
Fact #1 – I’m a ball of confidence, wrapped in a layer of protective Kevlar, whose self-belief has been tested over and over and has always passed with flying colours.
Fact #2 – I am a quivering mess of self-doubt who has spent her life trying to prove she’s worthy but ultimately believes she’s a giant loser.
Now that you know the truth(s) about me, I’m going to talk about Twitter.
Just over a year ago, the extent of my social media interaction was the occasional blurb on Facebook to keep in touch with my young and much-cooler-than-me nephews. I had always either been too busy playing outside, working, writing, and/or living in some remote outpost with expensive dial-up internet to waste time tweeting or pinning or whatever verb is used for Facebook. Facing?
Two events changed my social e-life. First, I became the chair of the Kootenay Literary Competition and was determined to spread the word of our event far and wide. Well, far and wide across the Kootenays. Second, Josh and I published our first novel. I jumped into Twitter—that previously uncharted No Mans Land—with both feet.
One year and over 4000 tweets later I love Twitter (see Fact #1), and I hate Twitter (see Fact #2).
At first, I made all the Twitter newbie mistakes but thankfully I had the very talented Deryn Collier to show me the error of my ways. She pointed me to Molly Greene’s How To Twitter: Tips For Newbies (thanks, Molly!) and gave me some pointers of her own (thanks, Deryn!).
It didn’t take me long to figure out that Twitter was not the Marketing Disneyland I’d been led to believe. But that was okay because along the way I discovered some quirky characters, a few new (to me) authors with highly-digestible books, lots of links to relevant articles and blogs, a means to chat with e-friends, and a convenient spot for my five minute brain breaks whilst scribbling. Win, win, and winny-win!
I’m still very much an in-person kind of gal. I can hold my own on an Internet forum and usually do an adequate job of conveying my thoughts clearly, but I like body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice when I converse. When it comes to discussion, I’m at my best when I can see and hear, in real time, how my words are working, or not working. I’ve seen how easily text can be misinterpreted, even with the use of 🙂 😦 😛 —it’s happened to me. Sometimes, the misinterpretations can be disastrous and feelings can be inadvertently trampled.
Now, pare your text down to 140 characters. The chances for being misunderstood rise exponentially.
Now, toss in a good dose of vagueness. What are the rules of social interaction here? When can I comment in a conversation and when can I not? If I tweet to someone who is not following me and they don’t reply or acknowledge me, does that mean “piss off” or “you’re too much of a peon for me to waste words on” or “I’m glad you replied and now I’m not going to answer you because it makes me look popular”? I don’t know.
In real life, I will talk to anyone. ANYONE. I’ve hung out with hundreds of fascinating and talented people, some of whom I count among my close friends, so you have to be pretty damned amazing to intimidate me socially. Not to mention that I’ve seen a decent sized chunk of the world and know that there are far, far more important things to worry about in life than whether or not my social strata level is acceptable enough for you to allow me to speak words at you.
But on Twitter?
The moment that screen opens and I see my feed, I’m back in highschool, and I am NOT sitting at the cool kids table. Suddenly I question whether I can tweet to someone who is one of the cool kids and, if I do, I immediately imagine the beautiful, popular people snickering behind my back.
The two sides of me go to war. Confident Kevlar Kristene throws me into the lockers and shouts at me to quit being such a wuss. “BE YOUR FEARLESS SELF!” Quivering Self-Doubt Kristene tugs on my sleeve and begs me not to humiliate her. The result? Tweets are written, tweets are deleted, tweets are written, tweets are deleted, and so on, and so on, and so on. I could probably cut my time on Twitter in half if I just knew what I could and could not say to certain people without looking like a twonk.
I want to explain myself to these strangers. I want to tell them that I just want to talk, I’m not trying to suck up or ride on their coat tails. I don’t want them to read my books or promote me. I’m not some weirdo stalker, I just like talking to people and if I think you’re interesting or funny I’ll want to talk to you. I’m married and happily so—meaning I’m not looking for a hook up and I am not flirting. I like to promote people who I think are cool, so when I retweet something about your book, or website, or podcast, or whatever, it’s genuine and not a lame attempt to get you to thank me or like me. If I tweet something about myself—some of the stunts I’ve done or places I’ve traveled—I’m not bragging, just trying to spark conversation.
I’m a nice person. Really.
See all that above? Just typing that makes me feel dirty and awkward because those are things I never, ever have to explain when I meet people face to face. In real life, people “get” all that from non-verbal cues. Not on Twitter.
Twitter is giving me Social Twanxiety, and I do not like it one bit.
I tried being a “persona”. I suck at being a persona. I hate being a persona. I’m smart enough to know not every part of me or my life is suitable for public consumption but I’m also very much a WYSIWYG type of person, and I don’t see the need to change that just to fit in with the cool kids.
If I were giving advice on this to a friend, I’d tell them not to worry; it’s probably not as bad as they think. But I suck at taking my own advice and I’ve offered too many awkward and/or unrequited Twitter high fives to believe it’s all in my head.
So, in the words of the Clash: Should I stay or should I go?
I don’t know. Perhaps I simply need to back off a bit or maybe my upcoming three month trek to Baja—where I will not have daily access to the interwebz—will be my Zoloft.
I suspect I am not alone with my Twanxiety. If Confident Kevlar Kristene can be shaken by Twitter, my guess is that lots of other Tweeps with less Kevlar-ness find it a daunting place to share and interact. If you are one of the Twanxious, you’re not alone. For you, I’m going to throw caution to the rabid voles outside my house and list some Twitter-relevant information about me and what you can expect if you choose to follow me or interact with me there:
1. I will follow just about anyone who follows me. I really don’t care all that much about the numbers.
2. If I don’t follow you back, it’s probably because I’ve visited your profile page and it is full of self-promotion, mass retweets, hate-speak, or a never-ending list of quotes. (Do read Molly Greene’s tips, they are gold).
3. I try to acknowledge everyone who interacts with me (in a non-spammy way), on Twitter.
4. If you mention me in a tweet, and I don’t reply or favourite (yes, I spell it with a U, deal with it!) your tweet, please be assured it’s not you, it’s me. I’m either crazy busy or feel bad that I can’t come up with a sufficiently clever response.
5. I DON’T CARE WHO YOU ARE. Your social status means nothing to me, so go ahead and tweet away. I’m here to talk, not to rank you. Promise.
6. I swear occasionally. Sorry.
7. I am open about my politics and beliefs. I strive not to be pushy but I will sometimes share my thoughts about subjects closest to my heart. Be warned, topics may include: atheism (I am one), left-leaning politics (born and raised on the west coast of Canada, need I say more?), eco stuff but especially sustainable fishing (FOR!) and captive marine mammals (AGAINST!), feminism (yep, I fly the female flag), and animal welfare (I foster kittens for the SPCA – spay and neuter your pets!)
8. I go walkabout sometimes, in places without internet. So if I don’t reply to a non-spammy DM or a question, I may be off avoiding rattlesnake attacks somewhere.
9. I am an author and sometimes I tweet to promote my work or my blog posts. These tweets are infrequent, I try to make them entertaining, and I will never DM you with a sales pitch.
10. I tweet many photos of cats. No one else on the internet shares photos of cats, so I thought I’d be unique.
11. I was a professional stunt performer for film and television for ten years, just as my profile states. But if you go looking for me on IMDB to see if I’m a big fat liar please search under Kristene Kenward. About one quarter of my credits are listed there and my first name is frequently misspelled.
12. I live in Nelson, BC, Canada, which is one of the coolest places in the world. If you visit Nelson, BC, Canada, and you are not a serial killer, I’ll meet you at Oso Negro for a coffee.
13. This is a VERY SMALL sample of some people who are awesome at Twitter. If you’re new and looking for people to follow this list is a good start. (Again, this is a very small sample. Sorry to the awesome tweeps I’ve missed): Megan McLeod, Deryn Collier, Angie Abdou, Cory Doctorow, Jenny Splitter, Sam Sykes, Sandra Wickham, Joanna Penn, Ellen Datlow, Chuck Wendig, Jennifer Ellis, Molly Greene, Robert Bennett, Andy Rogers, Robin Spano, Liana Brooks, Griffin Barber, Dr Chris Kellog, Nicole Feldringer, Howard Tayler, Alistair Kimble.
Also, also, you need to follow SF Canada Writers. Because I said so and because Canadian SF/F! Yay!
14. I am no longer the chair of the Kootenay Literary Competition but if you live in the Kootenays and you love to write you should totally enter!
15. I say sorry a lot. I’m Canadian that way. Sorry.
There, guts spilled. My Twanxiety feels better already. Also, here is a photo of a cat. You’re welcome!
Until next time, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!