Social Media: The 140 Character Assassination?

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I’m an addict. The thrill is tangible, almost palpable; each day the numbers grow and it takes me higher. My drug is social media and discussing untapped talent is my vice.

Guest Column, Homepage Sub  •  Feb 26, 2013

by Daniella Latham

I’m an addict. There, I said it and now own it. The thrill is tangible, almost palpable; each day the numbers grow and it takes me higher. My drug is social media and discussing untapped talent is my vice.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have replaced the once-common book club of the old days. The medium has revolutionized a weekly ritual that was relegated to a Wednesday night in Joan’s living room—and changed it to an all-day affair with billions of your closest “friends”.

Indie publishing has embraced social media and it makes complete sense, as there aren’t many autonomous brick-and-mortar bookstores left to discuss the latest novel. But there are legitimate, supportive online communities where readers can connect with one another to vet their latest literary find, as well as communicate with up-and-coming authors. It’s the perfect channel to connect with like-minded souls, but “connect” is the operative word. The new ‘virtual book club’ is just as it sounds.

But what is the value and impact of social media upon independent publishing?

As a comparison, at the height of the ‘70s and early ‘80s punk rock scene, the only way to fully indulge your underground music fix was to attend a CBGB’s-type of venue to see a band, or find a hole-in-the-wall record store to buy vinyl; but these places only exist in memory now. It’s all about downloading the Ramones from iTunes.

Has social media become too much of a good thing?

It’s taken a strange turn as of late with an unnerving trend: ask a question or try to have a thoughtful two-way conversation via social media, and the common response is, “Thanks for the comment/follow! Would you like to download a FREE copy of a book?” There’s no doubt that it’s critical to get the word out when it comes to undiscovered authors, but have we reached the tipping point?

My grandmother had a favorite adage, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” The underlying meaning was basic: constantly give something of value away and it becomes worthless and common. It’s the law of supply and demand (and she would be proud; I was a cow with morals).

We crave an actual dialogue that reaches beyond promotion (self or otherwise), that moves past ‘Liking’, ‘Sharing’, or ‘Retweeting’. Return to the heart of the experience and the pure love of the work; the banter and the opinions; the discussion of why a chapter or verse kept you awake last night—and why it resonated.

The explosion of social media has all been for the greater good. Technology has infinitely expanded the reach of indie publishing, but there’s still a hunger for the meaning behind and beyond the 140 character limit.

So please Like, RT or Share this…but just be sure to add your own commentary along with it.

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Daniella Latham is a senior writer for a global corporation and has spent her career in the advertising industry. She holds a B.S. in Journalism and English Literature from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and is currently working on her first novel.