I am "doing BEA" this year for the first time in a while. Generally I prefer to lurk, maybe hit a party at the expo's margins, as I am a big fan of lukewarm white wine.
You have to take care not to get sucked into the darkness. Since I give off an affable "Oh, he'll pontificate about anything" type of vibe, I might, for example, get asked to offer my two cents on a panel about "From $tatus Update to Oprah Pick: Four Random People Discuss a Non-Phenomenon." Perhaps you are reading this in the Javits Center at this very moment, waiting for such a panel to begin. I always demur. I can't comment on how others use social media. I can only speak on my own use of Twitter, which is: I had a cat, the cat died, and now the stuff I used to say to the cat all day, I tweet.
That's my Twitter origin tale: it's nice to have a little company during the long workday. I'm probably more versed in why writers aren't on Twitter, as they constantly share their reasons without prompting. Like, they're reluctant to waste material they might use in their work. Seems reasonable. Every Chia pet non sequitur I tweet, every anecdote about my time on the international Segway racing circuit and quote from Cookie Puss's memoir, the more my novel about a Chia-American Segway racer who moonlights as an affordable ice cream cake suffers.
The doubters ask, how do you get any work done if you're RTing and LOLing all day, which is also fair, introducing the topic of Internet distraction in general. We've all read interviews where the author moans, "I'd never have finished my opus if I hadn't rented out serial killer Joel Rifkin's old hostage pit." Not only did this cinderblock retreat lack Wi-Fi, we learn it was also soundproof and windowless, a Lecterian Yaddo.
I say, yes, you can rent out a hostage pit. You can also close your browser. It's called willpower. If you can't muster the will to lay off Gawker, how are you going to write a book? I can't blame modern technology for my predilection for distraction, not after all the hours I've spent watching lost balloons disappear into the clouds. I did it before the Internet, and I'll do it after the apocalypse, assuming we still have helium and weak-gripped children.
There are those who moan, oh, Shakespeare wouldn't have written all those wonderful plays for us to "modern update" if he'd had Angry Birds and Darklady.com. Is it so terrible, here in the 21st century? A sonnet is perfect Tumblr-length, and given the persistent debates over the authorship of his work, the bard would have benefited from modern, cutting-edge identity theft protection. The old masters didn't even have freaking penicillin. I think Nietzsche would have endured non-BCC'd e-mail dispatches in exchange for pills to de-spongify his syphilitic brain, and we can all agree Virginia Woolf could've used a scrip for serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I digress. The Internet is not to blame for your unfinished novel: you are. People write novels in prison, for chrissakes.
A little company during the workday. I used to think that I was the only one hunched over a keyboard in soiled pajamas, rummaging through the catalogue of my failures and intermittently weeping. Now, I open Twitter and see that I am not alone. I am part of a vast and wretched assembly of freaks who are not fit for decent work and thus must write, or wither. I am fortified by their failures, and I hope they take succor from mine. Some of those out there are established, some are just starting out. I don't give a whit about your accomplishments—all I care about is your facility for describing the fine grain of your work-related suffering, in less than 140 characters, preferably 100, so I have room to add a footnote. I debrief them on my repulsive day; they inform me of their ongoing tortures. The miles disappear, the borders of nations evaporate as we log on, disburden, commiserate, and then, most important, log off. Log off, because even though it's nice to have someone to talk to during the day, it's also nice to shut 'em up.
I'll see you at the convention. Denizens of the tweet undergloom: if you happen to find yourself walking the carpet and notice me loitering in the celebrity bio area, as I am wont to do, please say hello. We've been through much together even though we've never met. We'll hunt down some lukewarm white wine and stare into the abyss of Aisle B.