Sound the Tweets of War! The Power of Social Media.

A dense fog hugs the black waters, masking the longship as it slips through the channel. Bay water slaps the prow, churned by the two dozens oars that drive the ship toward the shore. Erik Headsplitter stands at the front of the ship, peering into the shroud. Somewhere ahead, nestled on the rocky shoreline like a surf swept pile of driftwood, sits the village he has come to take. Surprise is essential. The other half of their force will be waiting now, hidden in the thick of the woods above town, for Erik’s signal. The distant fires of the village appear. They grow larger with each succession from the oarsmen. Now, he thinks. Erik turns to the scarred faced boy beside him, his nephew, barely old enough for his winter beard.

“Send the signal,” he says. The boy stands ready, face awash in the glowing blue light of his Iphone. “Sound the Tweets of War!”

We live in an amazing era. An era of instant information and networking. The wonder of the World Wide Web has given way to the wonder of social networking, and a truly instantaneous and global community. New ways to establish a “webdentity” appear faster than we can implement them. Net identity is built atop platforms linked and stacked atop each other like digital dominoes.  Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Twitpic, Web pages, Blogs, Instant Messaging, texts, Google Buzz….these are the examples that leap to my mind initially. It is staggering to consider the complexity of networking that is happening, as we speak. As writers, this is an invaluable tool for us. This is Thor’s hammer, cast down out of Asgard…if we use it properly (more on that later).

This age of social networking offers writers incredible methods of researching that, in the past, would either be unavailable, unknown, or at the expense of time and money not necessarily available. We, as writers, are able to discover new information and establish contact with people half a world away that may provide expertise on our area of research. Contacts breed contacts and within a few days, a few hours even, an entire platform can be built with which to construct your research. As is the case with any research we do, caution is offered to discern the validity and credibility of any information gleaned.

Recently, I posted the proposal for my grad research project (Ars Velius:Exploring the Urban Shamanism of the Ink Bard). After posting, I “tweeted” a link to it, adding hash tags for tattoos, ink and art. Within a half an hour, I received a notice that Chris Garver, of the TLC reality show “Miami Ink” was following me on Twitter. Chris is an incredible professional tattoo artist. An hour later, my tweet was “retweeted” by another Twitter citizen (a Twitizen??) who had thousands of followers, all interested in the tattoo industry and craft. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to have other tattoo artists sign on to follow my tweets, to include Chris Nunez, also of Miami Ink, and other tattoo affiliated sites. The ability to connect with experts in the field of research I am currently conducting is obviously invaluable.

Chris Garver Tattoo Video in Tokyo from Billy DeCola on Vimeo.

However, the blade that we wield is able to cut us as well. Social media/networking can easily become a distraction. With the responsibility to update blogs, maintain websites, post clever status updates, and send out informative tweets, our writing time is diminished. These are all things that need to be done, but at what cost? Mobile ability makes this a little easier (i.e Iphones, Blackberrys, Androids and Ipads, etc)…but still, these little media beasts aren’t content to have some of our time. They want all of our time. As writers we need to, well..um…write. It’s all too easy to sit down to that fresh page, ready to strike the keys and then become overwhelmed with the urge to check your Facebook page. Or maybe, check your Twitter feed…and, oh yeah, there’s that link you want to put on your web page, but wait…did you read so-and-so’s blog yesterday. No? Hmm…well, we’ll just have a quick read. Then you get a text. Then a Facebook message, then a reply on your blog, then six emails…then you turn around, hours later, and you haven’t produced a damned thing on the page. This is the danger.

The easiest solution, I think, is to “turn off” the distractions when you sit down to write. Dedicate this time. Put your phone on silent and out of sight. Do not log in to Facebook, etc. Make this time solely for your writing and schedule other time for “maintenance” (like your website, blog, etc). Checking and interacting with these sites on the go (mobile devices) helps to keep you current. To borrow from Spiderman here, “With great social networking, comes great responsibility.”

Use these treasures wisely and you will be afforded opportunities normally not open to you. Be professional, be creative, and be involved. The world is literally at our fingertips.

And somewhere, The Police are writing a revision to their song: “Re-Tweet in a bottle….I’m sending an SMS to the world, I’m sending an SMS to the world…”

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2 comments on “Sound the Tweets of War! The Power of Social Media.

  1. Emily says:

    I think it’s incredible that you have Chris Garver following you on Twitter!! What an amazing source to have for your topic! It’s unbelievable the way Twitter is able to connect people who would otherwise never come in contact with one another. It’s fantastic that, just by adding the right hash tags, some of your research is, in a way, done for you. Even a few years ago, the idea of getting in touch with an expert like Garver may have been a daunting task, but now he made that contact with you!

    And all this is coming from someone who was formerly anti-Twitter…

    And, by the way, I now have a wonderful Disney song from Pocahontas stuck in my head. Thanks Joe. 🙂

  2. I couldn’t believe you when you told me Chris Garver found/followed you on Twitter when you told me the other night! Btw, thanks for the tip for using the right hashtags to entice people to follow me.

    I do agree with you that all of this wonderful technology comes at a price: our time. It can be incredibly helpful, but also incredibly distracting. I haven’t found that right balance between writing time and technology time yet, but hopefully I will soon.

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