I originally joined Facebook when a long-lost cousin sent me an invitation.
No one had heard from this cousin in ages when I got a note out of the blue. Facebook was relatively new then and I hadn’t considered joining. But I figured if I could reconnect with family I wouldn’t hear from otherwise, why not?
Since then, I’ve become a writer, which means I sit by myself staring out the window for hours at a time. There are about 200 yards of sidewalk I watch most of the day like some sort of hypervigilant Neighborhood Watch. (Don’t even think about committing a crime on my 200 yards!) It gets a little lonely and Facebook has turned into my virtual watercooler. I imagine that my Facebook friends are distant officemates I can hang out with for a few minutes whenever I need a break, when no one has recently tried to commit a crime on the sidewalk, or I have run fresh out of ideas.
So, when I finally got a signed contract for my book, I was naturally very excited and did what a lot of us do when we are excited about anything—I posted it on Facebook.
It was wonderful getting congratulations from all parts of my life—friends from all over and distant family members. Everyone wished me well and joined in my celebration over this milestone accomplishment.
Except one woman.
“Kind of a lot of self-promotion,” she wrote.
I was crestfallen. Was it? Suddenly, my celebratory party faded. I was just a big, fat show-off. I was making people feel bad. I was bragging—and didn’t my mother tell me not to do that? It was amazing, really, how dozens of kind and happy words faded in the light of that one comment. Kind of a lot of self-promotion. I felt awful.
But then I did what I try to do (and usually fail): I tried to look at it from her perspective. This comment wasn’t entirely about me, I realized. This hurtful Facebook feedback was coming from someone who was likely hurt. Maybe she was trying to sell a book and hadn’t, or trying to do something else that hadn’t worked out as she’d hoped. This person was disappointed about something that had nothing to do with me or my silly book.
And, just as I didn’t know much about her, she didn’t know much about me.
She didn’t know I’d been working on this book for 10 years. She didn’t know about the months of revising and waiting and revising some more. She didn’t know about the rejections—one after another—forwarded by my agent.
“We still have lots of people reading it!” my agent would say, until there were very few people left and hope was—if not dead, getting mighty darned sickly. Miss Kind-of-a-lot-of-promotion couldn’t know any of that.
That’s when I made a deal with myself—it’s not original and I should have made it long before, but the deal is this—I only say nice things on Facebook. There have been times when I felt it was more important to make a point than to be kind. From now on, I would read my words once and then read them again to make sure I didn’t pop someone else’s bubble. I’d remember how that one random comment felt and try not to be that person to someone else.
And you know what? She was right. It was kind of a lot of self-promotion. But maybe—under the circumstances—that wasn’t such a terrible thing.
Till next time,
Carrie

Carrie Classon is a freelance writer and author and lives in New Mexico. Her columns appear each Wednesday.