|My village in Malawi|
There are a few odd aspects to having social media be a major part of your job. For example, normally at work one is expected to stay off Facebook. I am expected to log on. It’s like the first thing I do. And even though this is what I’m supposed to do, as I’m sitting there, at my desk, Facebook open, and one of my bosses walks by, I can’t suppress the tiny voice in my head that says, “Oh no! Boss walking by! Close Facebook! Close!”
|Entrance to the main building, BBC London|
The most intimidating aspect of social media though, of the internet in general I think, is how public it is. Now, I know as a writer I’m supposed to want people to read my work. This is, I realize, the goal. And I recognize that as a person I am not particularly humble. Or shy. Or withdrawn, or retiring, or anything like that. But the weird thing is, as a writer, I have no desire to publicize my work.
I love the feeling I get when I think I have written a good story. I love publishing this story and knowing that someone else thinks that it is good as well. I love the idea that some people, somewhere, can access it and read it. But I like for that to be very disconnected from me, as a person. I don’t want to know what people think of my writing (good or bad) and I don’t want to know whether people read my writing. I just don’t.
Back when I worked for a newspaper I would wake up in a dead sweat in the middle of the night, scared stiff I had spelled someone’s name wrong, or messed up a fact. Keep in mind that my main beat was high school sports. Really, I liked nothing more than to pretend that the papers were all delivered somewhere distant - Mars, say - and that my stories were off in the ether, read by strangers I would never know, and who would never know me.
But with the internet, this just isn’t possible anymore. Any piece of writing can circle the globe in about 10 seconds flat. Not that I think this would ever happen to any of my writing, but the idea - that much mobility, that much exposure, that short a time - is breathtakingly intimidating. And now I’m putting things up on social media sites. Deliberately. And that fear - what if I made a mistake, what if there was a typo, what if there was a factual error - is all the more magnified, however irrational.
It’s hard to think of all this – Facebook and Tweets and this gigantic office in the middle of London I now work in - and connect it with the experience I had in my house in the village, listening to people update me on what was happening in the rest of the world.
|The entrance to old broadcasting house, |
(old bh) where I work
When he said that I remembered how two years ago turning on the radio meant I could re-orient myself in a way. Now that feeling of orientation is ever-present, but two years ago to hear about other parts of the world like that was almost magic. And I’m happy to be a part of that, even if only a very small part, and even if it means I run the risk of being the creator of a viral tweet about socks.
(An explanation for why this is a risk should be available here: [http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/forum60sec])