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Twitter is a time killer.

Facebook too.

Total productivity suck.

Yeah. Only losers spend time on social media.

Several hundred million losers, to be a bit more precise. Though, with numbers that large, it’s kind of hard to be.

Anyone who has a social media account – or two or seven – has heard all those from their Luddite-ish friends. (If you have any kind of current technology – tablet, computer, cell phone, whatever – it’s hard to call yourself a full-on Luddite.) But here’s the thing.

It’s not a waste at all.

Yes, you can kill time waiting for the train scrolling through cat videos and posting witty comments about the dorky barista at the coffee shop. But there are benefits to be had if you follow the right people, “right” being a relative term. The right people for you to follow may or may not be the right people for me. But whoever those people are, they are the ones who give you the entertaining, inspirational, or professional support you need. Social media conect you with old friends and acquitances you want in your life, but for reasons of geography or circumstance have drifted away. They can expose you to news of the world, to other believe systems and to information you need to do your job better.

For example, writers. Writers love Twitter. For one thing, we’re stuck alone in our rooms a lot of the time making up stuff so the chance to even vicariously leave the house and interact with another living person, even indirectly via 140 characters posted on a screen, is magical.

There are also professional writing benefits. Links to articles with helpful writing tips. Information about agents and editors. Opinions and news from the publishing industry. A chance to mingle with other writers, in a sense; to learn from them, laugh with them, make them laugh and share whatever it is you know.

I’ve gained from this as a writer, but I’ve also gained as a reader. There are two authors I read now that, frankly, I’d never heard of until their names came up in someone else’s Twitter feed – John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig. And a third author, Neil Gaiman, I’d heard of, but never read until after I saw what a kind, funny, inventive person he was even on Twitter. Scalzi, of course, recently wrote the hilarious Redshirts, which somehow both pushes the boundaries of traditional sci-fi and hilariously skewers Star Trek. Wendig wrote, among others, Blackbirds, about hard-living Miriam Black who knows how you’re going to die. Gaiman is the legendary author of many things including The Graveyard Book, about a small boy raised by a family (of sorts) of ghosts in a graveyard.

And I never would have read any of these guys if it wasn’t for Twitter. I started following them. They were funny, smart and even willing occasionally to trade witty banter with me, a dude they had never and probably will never hear of. Gaiman even took time – a few minutes at most, but still… – to find an answer for me, a complete stranger, to a question I had about one of my characters in a book I’ve been writing.

Those who care about book marketing debate heavily the value of promoting your book or your brand on social media. I probably wouldn’t have bought Blackbirds or the others just from a Tweet that was nothing more than an ad, but I can tell you that it was the impression these guys made on me of who they are, their brand is it were, that made me a loyal customer, at least for that first book. And in reading those first books, I’m now hooked and will buy more.

Everybody wins. Thanks, Twitter.

Now find me some porn.


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