I got another message from a reader who was hurt that I hadn’t accepted her Facebook friend request, so I thought it was time to make another post about why I generally don’t accept friend requests from readers. I answered her privately, but here I want to address the question more broadly.
The first part of my answer is that I write under my real name. My social media accounts are in my real name, and I’ve had most of them since before I ever tried to write fiction. I’ve had Facebook and Twitter going on 10 years now. Since I’ve opened those accounts, Twitter has been where I keep up with the world, and Facebook is where I keep up with my family and friends. I’m careful about who I friend on FB. I keep it to people I know in person, and people I’ve interacted with substantively and positively online.
The second part of the answer is that I’m very politically engaged and opinionated. On my personal Facebook, in addition to talking about my kids, my cats, and my students, and sharing videos of baby goats in sweaters, otters holding hands, and baby bats eating fruit, I talk about politics and culture a lot. I rant and worry. I donate and fundraise and exhort. I do it only with people who think like I do, because Facebook is my online house, and I keep it as safe as I can.
Which brings me to the third part of my answer: I struggle a great deal with anxiety and depression. While I don’t write for the money and don’t need to worry how I’ll feed my family if I piss readers off (that might be apparent just from the stories I write, lol), I do take it hard when I get hate mail. I know I should have a tougher skin, but I just don’t. It sends me to the dark place and messes with my writing mojo—and that absolutely terrifies me. I don’t write to get paid, but I do write to stay sane.
On Twitter, as I have since 2008, I follow a lot of political people. While I don’t actively tweet very much, and rarely about anything other than books and writing, I do like a lot of tweets from the people I follow. I’ve gotten angry messages from readers because those likes showed up in their feeds, and they were upset about learning where I stand on an issue. From that evidence, I can be sure that opening my Facebook friends list, where I actually am very active and political, would invite strife into my online house.
I don’t fault someone for deciding not to read me anymore because they don’t like my politics. And I obviously understand that hearing from readers, those who hate me as well as those who love me, is part of the gig. But those angry messages mess with my head and get in the way of my writing, which messes with my head even more. To guard against it, I compartmentalize and do what I can to at least limit where and when and how those messages come.
Twitter is the place where I keep up with the world, and that account is my original account in my actual name, so I keep it and use it the way I want. I deal with the occasional angry message there and don’t worry about follower count. My personal Facebook is home, so I limit my friends list mainly to people I know, and who know me.
For readers of all stripes, I have my FB author page, and there you will not see political posts. There I am only about books and writing and reading. Perhaps occasionally some mom brags (my kids are awesome!) and cute animal videos. It’s a safe space, too—for you as well as for me.
If you’ve sent me a friend request and you were hurt when it languished unanswered, I sincerely apologize. I leave them sitting open because the options are to confirm or delete, and deleting feels too harsh. There are too many to send a personal message of explanation for each one, so I leave them unanswered. But it’s not a personal judgment. It’s simply that we don’t know each other personally.
That’s my essay about why I don’t accept most reader friend requests. Let’s just come together on my author page and love books.