At the beginning of my class this semester, I did something new: I announced a social media policy. Perhaps odd for a Chaucer class, though maybe not odd where one of our texts is Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. The reason behind this was at the end of last semester, a number of my students told me that they had found this blog, or my twitter account, and weren't sure if they were allowed to read or follow, since I hadn't said anything about them in class. My response was along the lines of, "of course - the posts aren't locked," and I was surprised anyone felt the need to ask permission.
So this semester I began by telling everyone where they could find me if they wanted to, and that I didn't use this space or my twitter stream to give out great literary secrets, that I usually talked about writing.
Of course, that resulted in the "I want to be a writer. Do I need to blog?" question.
The answer is, of course not. If you want to be a writer, you need to write. But the student who asked this looked so disappointed, as if I had failed to pass along the magic key that would unlock Writers' World, so I went in to greater detail.
I've kept this blog for almost two years now, and only once have I gotten a professional, writing-related, communication because of it. It's not designed to be media-bait, or flashy. It's a place where I can talk about things that I'm interested in thinking about, share books I've loved or songs I like or rant about things that really piss me off. This blog - and my twitter account - are professional spaces only in the sense that I try very hard to keep in mind that the internet is forever, and so I try not to post things I might later regret. (I'm sure this will happen, as it seems to be a rule of the internet that everyone does something stupid on it at one time or another.)
My way of doing things is, obviously, not the only way. It's simply the way that works best for me - it lets me feel I'm connected, but on my terms, not ones dictated by some idea of when I should post or what I should write about to maximize hits. I tend to be more active on twitter because it feels more conversational to me (and the thing I like best about social media is its social aspect) but again, I certainly don't think that someone who wants to build a writing career should immediately open a twitter account and post in order to attract a maximum amount of followers.
Blog, or tweet, or whatever because you enjoy it. Because it allows you to meet new people, and learn interesting things, and connect in a way you otherwise wouldn't. It took Geoffrey Chaucer 600 years after he wrote the Canterbury Tales to start blogging, and his career seems to have done just fine.