Of course, when I first hung out my web shingle, I was a private person. It was some years before my first sale as a writer. The number of people who cared about what I had to say online or in public was limited to close friends and immediate family. And not even many of them.
That meant I could have essentially a one-to-one relationship with everyone I knew online.
Today, this post will potentially reach about 10,000 people through four media channels I address directly, and even more indirectly. Some reasonable percentage of those will actually click through and read it. Between WordPress, LiveJournal, Twitter and Facebook, I would have to keep up with those roughly 10,000 people in order to maintain the same reciprocity I routinely managed back in 1995 or so.
To be a bit more specific about this, someone was grumpy at me in Facebook recently for not paying attention to the posts of my Facebook friends, implying that this was unfair of me. Given that as of this draft I have 2,567 Facebook friends, I would never do anything else if I paid that kind of attention. Likewise my 6,156 Twitter followers. If I auto-followed, I would never do anything else. Same for my 1,000+ LiveJournal friends and all the people who pick up the RSS feed off my WordPress blog. It's sort of like how I used to try to read the stories and novels all my friends got published. Now that's just about a mathematical impossibility for me, assuming I wish to eat, sleep or ever leave my chair for any other purpose.
The entire calculus of how I relate through my online presence and social media has changed radically over the years. Largely without me even noticing it. I simply rode along with the shifting tide. Now I am in a situation that creates a sense of interchange, or even social intimacy, with me for thousands of people, a great many of whom I do not know and likely never will.
I answer direct questions in any of my online spaces, respond to otherwise interesting comments, dip into the pool of 'friends' in each of those areas. But lacking the time, how do I respect the personal connection that so many people feel? In my case, by paying what attention I can, responding when appropriate, and being respectful. I got no other answer.
What do you think the obligations of a public person should be in the social media?