Since my novel One Amazing Thing was published a couple of months ago, I've been doing a lot of interviews. At some point, interviewers usually ask me about my use of social media--my blog, my twitter account, my Facebook author page. I cringe, because I know what's coming next. "You haven't been too regular about writing on your blog recently, have you?" I try to make excuses--travel, family emergencies, a new writing project, Ph.D. dissertations to read at the university. But I know they won't do. And indeed, canny interviewers see through them all. "I notice you've been pretty active on your Facebook page," they'll say. "You write there every day, sometimes even two or three times daily."
So I've decided to own up. Yes. I've been seduced by Facebook.
In trying to figure out why this is so (the blog, is after all, a creative, thoughtful medium where one can convey more meaningful meditations), I've come up with the following reasons.
- I have a better sense of who's on my Facebook page. I admit that it's limited to a (perhaps photoshopped) image, a few questions or comments, or the answer to my discussion topic, "Who Are You, Dear Reader?" Still, it's better than the fake-name spammers that deluge my blog in the hope that I will post their website. ("Wow cool I didn't knew this thanks." "My mate referred me here. Thank God he did. I will make a point to read your blog daily." "Intimately, the post is in reality the greatest on that notable topic." And my favorite, which I almost posted: "I can only cringe as I read this stuff. All I do is smile in disagreement.")
- Since mine is a public author page, members are all there for some reason related to my books. They are readers. (Granted, some are forced to become readers by their teachers. But still). And so we have discussions about my books, which often broaden into discussions on literature. People list their favorite authors. People put up poems that have touched them. We discuss the philosophy behind the work. We discuss literacy nonprofits like Pratham, or Arts organizations like Writers in the Schools and Inprint Houston. Sometimes I quote lines and challenge people to tell me who the author is. (Alright, so people cheat and use google search. It's all part of the fun).
- The responses are immediate. I confess, I'm part of our instant gratification culture, and it makes a difference that 5 seconds after I put up an entry, there may be 4 likes on my page. In a few hours, there are comments and responses. It creates a sense of community, and in some cases, has given me deep comfort. When my mother was gravely ill in India, I asked for prayers on my facebook page before I boarded my flight. By the time I reached India, there were several scores of comments, offering prayers and wishing me luck and strength. When she passed away and I put that in an update, within a day, fifty or so Facebook friends had consoled me by sharing their stories of loss and their coping mechanisms. It was very helpful, and a lot easier to deal with than phone calls from friends and family, whose sympathy only made me break down each time. It was also very touching that all these people--who really, after all, had no reason to care for my sorrow--took time out of their busy lives to express that caring.
There are other great things about Facebook. Maybe I'll write about them in Seduced II. But I have to end now. I need to check on the responses to that writing tip I put up on my page (in between writing this article) 12 seconds ago.
Chitra's Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/chitradivakaruni