Virtual Friendships

4,605 Facebook, 'friends,' as of today. Over 1,000 Twitter 'followers,' and another 1,000 'connections' on other networks. Out of my 6,000+ 'friends,' I know less than 10 personally—who I've actually met in person, and only a handful of them are family, or the classic definition of 'friends.'

I'm a die-hard recluse. Holed up in my home office, I communicate with clients and vendors mostly online. I started social networking to market my novels. My publisher insisted I open a Twitter account to grow my fan base and extend my reach. I did, but made a magnificent, half-hearted attempt. I didn't follow-back, or engage in dialog, or join groups on LinkedIn or FB except to post my blogspots and reviews of my books. And while my FB page swelled with connections, it really was just a numbers game to me, collecting 'friends' to extend my reach.

Thing about social networking is, if you want it to work—help writer's get read [find a job, or just be heard...] you actually have to BE social. Hmm...not easy for a hermit like me, so I avoided partaking in SNing beyond the periphery for the last decade.

Over these years I met a few reviewers, even readers who've messaged me directly, and for some unknown reason we connected on a deeper than virtual level. These people have crossed the line from surreal acquaintance, to an intimate view into each other's lives. They have helped me face my fear, rejection, bad reviews. They've been my therapist through hard times in my personal life, my guidance counselor, my teacher, my preacher to whom I confess my sins. You know who are, and I'm so humbly grateful for your continual support.

10 years into SNing, few reviewers and readers is an accurate depiction of my reach. So, last summer I contacted an author SNing her novel, titled the same as one of mine, through FB. Her sales...were where I wanted to mine to be, so I messaged her asking how she'd managed to achieve this. I'd contacted other authors before, but none had ever gotten back to me, so I was happily surprised when she messaged me back with an offer to share her publishing path. In fact, she called me from England, spent over an hour on the phone describing her journey, and then sent me emails with people to contact, groups to join, private hashtags to use to get retweeted. Beyond that, she helped me set up giveaways to increase my Amazon ranking, twice, and was my social media advocate on the days my promotions ran by tweeting and updating and getting her 'friends' to do the same. Again, you know who you are, and if we were face to face, I'd be bowing, then give you a heart-felt hug. Thank you (a thousand times [isn't enough]).

Upon her recommendation, I recently joined a private group of authors, who have extended their knowledge and encouragement again and again. This is the first social network I've ever interacted with consistently, and it is beyond rewarding. It's fun to be a part of, instead of on the outside looking in. They bolster me when I go black—assure me that I'm a talented writer, and with exposure I'll get known. Whether that's true or not, having people who believe in me, especially in times when I don't, has saved me from myself. Thank you, ladies!!

Another surprising discovery— there is a ramp up in readership the more I interact online. But as it turns out, this is not the greatest benefit of SNing to me anymore. The more I invite these virtual people into my life, the more real they become—with similar fears, hopes, and dreams as mine. Around the block or the other side of the world, in cyberspace distance is meaningless, and I now realize there are actual people on the other side of the wire.

Until recently, I never considered, or even imagined the folks I hookup with through social media were my 'friends.' I've taught my kids that real friendship is a bond between people who truly care about each other. Not just in words, but actionsTo those I've met social networking who have impacted my life with their acts of kindness, this blog is a shout out of thanks! Though we've never met, probably will never meet, I'm glad to know you, and consider you among my real friends.

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