|Image by lusi|
For me, social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes it much easier (and cheaper) to connect with people in far flung places. I can't just head down to my local Costa with Nerine Dorman or Carrie Clevenger so until I can, I have email to keep us together. If it wasn't for social media, I wouldn't have 'met' one of my most trusted beta readers, Rob Diaz. I wouldn't be involved in all the publishing things I've done, or am doing. It also makes organising things easier as you can contact several people at once to arrange an outing or a meet up, and keep everyone in the loop as to what's going on. Social media lets us be social with anyone we want to talk to. On the other hand, it is very easy for me to sit at home, looking at all the fun and amazing things other people are doing, while I'm sat on the sofa watching yet another poor attempt at a horror film, while I wonder why no one thought to invite me. I actually miss calling people to ask how they're getting on, and to have a catch up. It's easy to feel such interactions are pointless since I can keep up with their lives online. Why would I phone someone when I can just nip onto Facebook to see what they're up to?
I think we need to have a balance. I went to the pub last night with the very talented Tony Bengtsson (I interviewed him last year and his music is here - go and have a listen) and I only felt compelled to check my phone about three times. Conversation flowed, ideas were exchanged, and it was a good night of discussion and social interaction. If it were The Sims, those social points would have been racking up in a way they just don't do if you're only talking to someone through Facebook Messenger. You can add all the emoticons you want, and pepper your text with 'lol' but no text-based dialogue can truly replace a proper conversation, with all of the unconscious body language and vocal intonations. It's especially valuable for writers - we need that social interaction for story fodder, and for character ideas. It's the little personality quirks that you only see in person that bring characters to life.
So I say use social media, get to know people on the other side of the world, but don't focus on it at the expense of social interactions in your immediate vicinity.