Pet Peeve of the Week: Hysterical Networking

Though I wrote in isolation for a lot of years, about a dozen years back, I came out about my secret passion for fiction and began attending a writer's group, then conferences. I've gained from it immeasurably, not only in terms of shared knowledge and opportunity, but in the friendships made along the way. I'm no extrovert, but chatting with others with similar interests -- even at dreaded cocktail parties -- turned out to be easy and pleasant enough... except when I've met people I'll call Hysterical Networkers.

We've all met Hysterical Networkers. They feign real interest, but all the while you can hear the gears spinning in their heads as they try to calculate the potential advantage gained by making your acquaintance. Even as they speak to you, they're keeping an eye trained to the door in case someone "better" appears, which immediately causes them to mutter some excuse and disappear. These are the folks who mow down others to clamber all over attending editors and agents at conferences, who monopolize conversations with lengthy, invariably-boring descriptions of their own manuscripts and who trumpet every perceived success as if it's the second coming. They hang all over those they perceive as winners and ignore or gossip over any who have fallen on hard times.

I've posted a well-known print of Anne Boleyn, an infamous social climber, to illustrate, but I imagine each person reading this is picturing someone whose interest, upon meeting them, seems purely self-serving, whose every conversation leads toward some requested favor. It's too bad this type of person never seems to learn that genuine friendships are the ones that prompt others to willingly offer assistance, that no one on the planet enjoys feeling played or used.


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