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How not to Conquer Internet Shyness

The genuine me (not a soul-sucker)

I’ve been reluctant to blog this week because I lost control of myself on the world wide web. No, I didn’t freak out. Not that kind of loss. A more subtle kind. 

Someone — with the best intentions of promoting me as an author — signed me up to a slew of blogs and microblogs and networking sites, and then posted strange things on my behalf and publicized strange profiles of me and connected me to a roster of strange people without my knowledge. I just saw it all last Friday. It creeped me out.

I know they meant to help but it was a case of technological savvy gone awry:

  • I did not like seeing a picture of myself above the words, “Catherine Austen writes not only for children’s minds, she writes for their souls.” (But I do like the ambiguity: is it a heavenly pursuit or a diabolical plan?)
  • I felt uncomfortable being friends with a complete stranger whose tagline is “God-fearing Christian.” (Perhaps my soul-saving/collecting hobby prompted the relationship?) 
  • I was ashamed to discover that I’d recommended books I’ve never read and followed the tweets of hundreds of people I don’t know exist.
  • And I was particularly embarrassed to see that I have difficulty spelling my own name.

I would keep it to myself but there’s a slim chance that someone encountered those profiles or posts I never made, and I really don’t feel good about that. I’m old-fashioned. I prefer my relationships to be genuine.

The only tweets I've followed so far

There are dozens of sites out there where you can list yourself and connect with others. And that’s great if you’re really listing yourself and choosing your connections. It’s not so great when someone you’ve never met is listing and connecting you without your approval. Identity is at the core of the human psyche — we go to great lengths to build and maintain it — and it’s deeply disturbing when someone tweaks your identity and plasters it in places you’ve never even heard of.

This experience has taught me the ease with which someone can reinvent a person and the damage they can do without intending any. It hasn’t cured my internet shyness (though it has sparked an intriguing hi/lo YA plot outline). But maybe it’s the kick in the pants I need to pull up my virtual socks. 

To do: Celebrate winterlude

I know I should blog more often and find some Facebook friends and read some tweets and post more recommendations on GoodReads. I know that. There’s probably a lot I’m missing by not networking online. (Then again, there’s a lot I’m missing by not walking in the woods every day and not ordering Bluesfest tickets in advance and not fostering a puppy — and they’re all a little higher on my to-do list.)

Maybe social marketing is part of being an author these days. And maybe I will get around to it sometime. But it will really be me that time.

Until then, if you’ve encountered me online recently anywhere other than this blog, my website, or my dated Facebook page and profile, then it wasn’t really me you encountered and you should disregard anything I said. Thanks.

Enough said. I’ll blog again next week – honest I will – about how my edits are going on my teen novel, All Good Children, due out this fall from Orca Book Publishers (if I ever finish those edits, that is).


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