How Social Media Can Change Your Life

Grunge Social Media Art

Sometimes I find myself defending social media to the experienced user and beginner alike. It can be easily accused—and rightly so—of being full of shameless self-promoters, shrill marketing, and naked people.

That’s only one side, though, and it doesn’t have to be the side you engage in or tolerate. Just because you have to throw away junk mail, turn the channel during a commercial, or ignore a telemarketer doesn’t mean you’ll decide to stop receiving mail, ditch the TV, or lose the phone. You get smarter about how to avoid (or stop) the behavior you don’t like.

I’d like to share with you 6 brief stories of how social media has enriched my life in ways that couldn’t have been possible before—and why I continue to be an advocate for it and teach it as a way of building platform.

1. Darrelyn Saloom

Darrelyn Saloom

I first met Darrelyn at a Writer’s Digest event in December 2008. (Here’s a story she wrote about that.) When she attended the event, she was not involved in social media. Within six months, she started participating on Twitter (@ficwriter), and writing guest posts for my blog at Writer’s Digest. Without this online glue to keep us in frequent contact, I would have likely forgotten about her, and the relationship would’ve faded away. Instead, her social media participation grew, we stayed in touch as she attempted to get her book published (she now has a deal!), and I now write this post on her farm (in her writer’s studio!) in Louisiana, my first trip to the state.

2. National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts

In summer 2010, I was contacted out of the blue by the NEA. I had never before been in touch with the organization, nor had I ever met anyone there. The director of literature at the time had read a Publishers Weekly article that mentioned my Twitter presence, then read more about me here, at my own website. Because of my expertise in social media, he e-mailed me to see if I would be interested in participating on a grant funding panel focused on audience development in literature. And that’s how I came to serve with the NEA.

3. Dan Blank

Dan Blank

Several years ago, I compiled and blogged about a list of people who I thought provided the best insight (via blog) on the publishing industry. One of those blogs was by Dan Blank. Being the wise blogger that he is, he e-mailed me a thank-you when he saw the mention, and we started exchanging messages and looking for each other at industry events. Currently, we use each other to bounce ideas off of, and we support each others’ efforts in service to the writing community, since we have similar philosophies and practices. I suspect that we’ll hatch a very cool partnership project before it’s all over!

4. Jeanne V. Bowerman

Jeanne V Bowerman

One day (well, perhaps on many days), Jeanne saw me tweeting about bourbon, and decided to say something, even though we’d never had any previous contact. We bonded over drinking on Twitter, then later, she decided to trek from New York to Cincinnati to attend the 90th Writer’s Digest anniversary party that I was organizing (plus meet with a business partner in town). We hit it off marvelously, I asked her to write an article for Writer’s Digest magazine, and we’ve been supporting each others’ efforts ever since, both in person and online. Here’s a post I wrote about Jeanne last year.

5. Brad King

Ball State professor Brad King

I first became aware of Brad King through his talk at TedxCincy. After his talk, he asked via Twitter who wanted to get together for lunch. I responded via Twitter, although ultimately we didn’t go out for lunch together. However, we stayed in each others’ memories, and when he saw me on the speakers’ roster for SXSW 2011, he dropped an e-mail asking if I’d like a pick-up at the airport in Austin. (Yes, Brad is that nice, adventurous, and awesome!) I went to dinner with him and two others headed to SXSW, and got a wonderful introduction to the spirit of that event. Brad is now writing a series of guests posts on this site.

6. Porter Anderson

Porter Anderson in Copenhagen

As many of you know, Porter is responsible for weekly round-ups here on this site, Writing on the Ether. So how did this partnership start? The beginnings go back to Twitter. He e-mailed me in December 2010, to point me to an article suitable for my old blog series, Best Tweets for Writers. Over time, we communicated more and more on Twitter (especially via DM!), and met up at a few conferences. Then, a few months ago, I invited him to contribute, and he graciously accepted. (What I’ve done for him is up for debate—except add more work to his daily load!)

While you’re smart enough to catch onto the pattern in these stories, here are a few of my own observations:

  • Relationships that start online are often solidified offline.
  • Relationships that start offline can continue and grow through online media.
  • There’s a trust-building process. It takes time for the relationship to take off, because as we all know, when it comes to strangers on social media, we have to be wary of people who may be out solely to take advantage of our goodwill.
  • Even the smallest moment of reaching out to someone else on social media can turn into something big and meaningful for your career.

Many other relationships and opportunities have come to me due to social media and changed my life—not least of all, my current job—but this post has to end somewhere.

Let’s hear stories of hiw social media has changed your life. Please share in the comments!

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Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She speaks around the world at events such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World, and has keynoted writing conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace. She currently teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia. Find out more.
Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Digital Media, Life Philosophy, Social Media.


  1. This is going way back before Twitter and FB, but I first met my editor through a message board for a vintage kids mystery series we both collected. We met in late 1999, she started editing my work in 2000, and without her, I wouldn’t have an editor I trust enough to make the indie path viable. She’s also grown to be one of my best friends. 

    • Wow! Love that. Message boards are one medium I’ve never really used, but I know many who form really tight communities through them. (Thinking of WOXY board that was recently taken down.)

  2. My writing partner and I met at a conference, but typically only see each other at that conference – but we chat every day. We cowrite a blog, are cowriting a fiction mss, have flown across the continent to writer’s conferences together – but we only ‘see’ each other once or twice a year.

  3. No doubt about it. Social media has been life-changing (for the best) in my life. I’ve learned so much from reading and writing for your blog. And even found my first reader, editor, and now friend (@dzmalone) in the comment section. Oh, and I love having you here on the farm. 

  4. Social media turned my life around. In two and a half years, I’ve gone from an out-of-print author and increasingly-unpaid freelance writer to the author of five novels and contributor to four anthologies. My blog got me offers of publication on both sides of the pond, a job teaching social media for authors. And best of all–an international community of writer friends. 

    • I left out story #7, where social media is responsible for me meeting my ex-husband (we stayed together nearly 10 years), and also meeting my first serious boyfriend after the marriage … !

  5. Stories like these are why I don’t feel guilty about the time I spend on social media. I joined Facebook a few years ago because of a story assignment. That led to re-connections with old friends and quite a few new friendships that have become my daily water cooler conversation.

    Then, I joined Twitter 7 months ago while researching agents for my novel. I wasn’t expecting to make friends but I discovered two communities of people (with some overlap) – writers and runners. I’m motivated & encouraged every day by the warm-hearted people I’ve met through Twitter. In fact, I’ve logged a lot more miles on both my keyboard and my running shoes because of them. 

  6. Wait a minute, @JaneFriedman:twitter. You mean you and @Jeannevb:twitter  have the bourbon? I’ve been looking for it. Why do you think I’m on the Ether?–pretty gassy substitute for the good stuff, too. And it looks to me like @DanBlank:twitter  and @TheBradKing:twitter  need a drink as badly as I do. A pleasure making your cyber-acquaintance. And let’s see, of our merry band here, I still have Jeanne, @fictwriter:twitter (Darrelyn) and Brad to meet in person. Brad, I’ll let you know my flight plans. Jeanne, #amdrinking. Darrelyn, which animal is your best editor? The NEA folks are here with me now and send love to you all, drinks at 4p on the time zone of your choice. Don’t tell Congress (funding confusions all over again, even after I sprang for the mixers, sigh).

  7. Indeed, Anne Allen’s story says it all. Using social media (oh how I love Twitter) in some ways here as others testify to–has also provided an added benefit: it helped focus me (an artist in love with so many of the arts–not just writing–and in love with so many of my random projects!).

    After some failed attempts at web designs and some other things, it became clear what I wanted to deliver and who my niche audience was. And quickly, the social media fell into place for me–I used my website, e-newsletter, Twitter, and a little sprinkle of FB. Jane, you and Darrelyn, have been played major roles. Thank you….And then there’s been that added bonus of finding clients for my manuscript evaluation services, which means I’ll be taking my second retirement from university teaching at midnight tonight!

  8. On-line groups and connecting to other blogs has given me a great support group of other writers. Joining Writer’s Digest introduced me to more, to you and Chuck Sambuchino and the wealth of information you both share so generously. I love the blog and have recently uped-the-volume on FB, but I am still a reluctant hold out with twitter. I’m glad you were not, because then I would not have met Porter Anderson :)  Maybe one these days I won’t see twitter as someone trying to stuff a knitting needle into my ear. Thanks for another great post! 

  9. Jane, I’m honored to be mentioned here! Meeting you on Twitter has been one of the most satisfying experiences in my career – though the best bonus being the foundation for our wonderful friendship. That one article I wrote for Writer’s Digest ended up launching other writing gigs for me as well as podcast interviews and speaking engagements at conferences. Regarding Twitter in general, it’s how I met the then editor of Script Magazine and got my weekly column, Balls of Steel. Not only have I gotten assignments, I’ve also made incredible people who share my interests, like best selling author JT Ellison, who is now a trusted and dear friend. We’ve even collaborated on a TV series idea I pitched in L.A.  I could go on and on about the wonderful people I’ve met, including a new writing partner, and other pros who have become mentors. The possibilities of Twitter are endless… if you put in the time and are genuine. I can’t imagine my life without it. Thanks again, Jane. I’ll be meeting you at the bar soon :) 

  10. What a great post. I love how it’s less about changing a life and more about real connections between people who share common interests. (Which of course changes lives, but I like to focus on the connecting part.)

    I met you in person at AWP in Denver when I was making my Writers in Love video. From there I began following you. 

    You tweeted something about Dan Blank’s Build Your Author Platform class and after checking it out, I signed up immediately. I’m still working with Dan who is helping me strategize my novel launch for next year. 

    Okay, I’ll admit it. A tweet has changed my life. Thank you, Jane!

    • :-) I’ll always remember the video at AWP (later posted on YouTube, which I have favorited!), which illustrates the power of social media as a way of making a huge impression. Hope you’re still finding ways to use the medium of video.

  11. Great post!  I started my blog when I took Kristen Lamb’s blogging workshop.  Not only did I get top-notch instruction on how to get started, I ended up with a group of women and one man who are pretty damn close to each other as we turned to each other for help and support (#WANA711).  Many live close to where I live and I have every intention of meeting them.  We’re even talking about meeting in Las Vegas this next summer.  From there, my family has grown to include some of Kristen’s next group (#WANA1011) and many, many others.  My online friends keep me immersed in the writing mindset and pushes me to always do better.  It’s been the best six months I have ever put my energy into. Though I’ve had to back off a bit due to near completion of my novel, I know they’ll be there when I surface again.  Yeah, they’re that cool. 

    • Although I’m just getting to know Diana (#WANA711) through Kristen’s class, I (#WANA1011) would like to support Diana’s comment about the top notch instruction you receive from Kristen Lamb. Not only are you taught how to blog, but you are given the tools on how to survive and succeed through this mass social media craze. But what you don’t expect is the tremendous support that you inherit from Kristen’s twibe. You develope long lasting relationships not out of selfishness, but because of the pay it forward atmosphere that stems from Kristen Lamb herself. It’s been an amazing experience, one that will be embedded in my heart for a long time to come.

  12. I see @Porter_Anderson and you @JaneFiedman as trouble makers … but only with regard to drawing attention to Bourbon.  I’m trying to stay free of that turpentine so I can concentrate  :) 

  13. Jane, wonderful post! I don’t know if you remember me, but I think we were shoved together at one of those very loud cocktail parties at Thriller Fest in 2009. Needless to say, I’m a great fan of yours, your work is always, clear, concise and spot on. Here’s a shout out to Diana Murdock, as I am one of Kristen Lamb’s (#WANA1011) bunch and they are a fantastic network. You are exactly right about ignoring the bots and routine self-promoters, my life is a lot richer now that I have a great on-line community to go to for help, for insights, and just for having fun. Keep up the great work. Hope to see you on the writers conference circuit.

  14. I love it. I think I probably found you on Twitter too Jane, as well as @DanBlank:disqus. I’m going to refer friends and family to this post next time they tell me Twitter is a waste of time. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I saw tenor David Lomeli in New York City Opera’s Elixir of Love in spring of 2011, and was blown away. After writing my review for Bachtrack, whom I met on Twitter, I then found David on Twitter, and just mentioned how much I loved his performance. I found a friend for life. He is an Operalia winner and an international rising opera star. I wrote a novel about opera, and David read my novel and gave me a vidoe review for my book launch. (He also called my boss on his birthday and sang “La donna e mobile” to him.) My point is, I have made some incredible connections through social media that have enriched my life and may help me nab a wider audience for my novel with an opera backdrop.

  16. Dear Jane, I agree with you. I enjoyed your snapshots of all these relationships that have mutually benefited from your contact. If you had asked me even one year ago, if I would ever enthusiastically embrace Social Media, I would have laughed. Today, I see how it supports my work in sharing my voice on my topics. I have met and been enlightened by so many great people and witness daily, even here with my friend and guest blogger on this site, Joanne Tombrakos, how these online connections, solidified offline, and nurtured with mutual support, create an environment that benefits so many others. Thank you for your round-up today. I am thinking about the thank you notes I could send to my own Social Media inspirations like Joanne, Melissa Rosati, Stephanie Gunning, Eli Davidson, Michael Margolis, Lori Stradtman Randall, and Lindsey Reed Maines. Hope your day is sweet Jane. xo Suzi

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  20. I completely agree with your last points. I have been able to create some really meaningful and lasting relationships with other bloggers online. I met just one of those people last time I was in Philadelphia for coffee. It was fantastic. This is also a terrific idea for a post.

  21. I have been a writer for 20 years now and still love it! When I began practicing the craft, I only had a Word Processor and the willingness to make it happen. There was no Internet presence (that I knew of) and we developed our film via wet work chemicals. Now I’ve become digital savvy and still no where near where I’d like to be. Social Media is the wave (rave) of the future… “It’ here to stay!” I too find myself defending it, to people on all levels. All because I know that tit is not going anywhere. Whether of not we choose to learn it, utilize it or practice it in our daily affairs, it’s the hit. There is not enough time or brain power in my day, to learn or to take in, as much of Social Media that I’d like to. I am looking forward to a class where I can learn how to tie it all together and to use it to further my writing career. -DAC-

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