Social Media, Full Circle

I‘m tired of social media. Nine years of it have taken a toll. I joined Facebook and Twitter in 2008, and for a long time, social media was a big part of my day. It was new, I could stay connected with friends and family. That was great. Over the years, however, social media became a kind of localized reality show. If I went to a science fiction convention, I’d bring my audience along with me via Twitter. It didn’t matter that most of that audience was attending the same convention I was. If I went on vacation: come on along for the ride!

Popularity had an influence, too. During my social media peak– 2013-2014–my Going Paperless posts were popular. I was selling stories and articles at a pretty high (for me) rate. I had a big writing streak going that garnered attention, and I’d written some tools like the Google Docs Writing Tracker that proved popular. Being popular feels good, and that fueled some of the social media frenzy for me. I knew it couldn’t last, it was just a question of when.

I think I started tiring of social media long before I started backing away from it. It is hard to let go of popularity. But it wasn’t all that hard to break free of the grip that social media had on me. All I had to do was ask the question: What is the point?

Writers these days are often told that writing chops aren’t enough. You need a platform, a brand, and as part of that, a social media presence. I don’t buy it, but I somehow ended up with all three, at least if we define “platform” and “brand” loosely. It seems to me that a writer who has to develop a platform, a brand, and maintain a social media presence is one busy writer who never has time to write. Social media is the new writers block.

I spent far too much time on social media when I could have been writing. I would tell my audience how many words I’d written, where my latest story was appearing, how frustrated I was that I couldn’t get this scene right. At the time it felt like I was peeling back the curtain to give a peek behind the scenes. Now, looking back on it, I’m reminding of that embarrassing freshman year in college, when I spent long nights in deep philosophical conversations with friends, taking a hard position and giving no ground. I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

Who cares how many words I manage to write? So what if I am stuck on a scene? Why does the world need to know about it? I’d get virtual high-fives from friends and followers, but really, who cares?

I’ve almost completely stopped posting on Twitter. About all that makes it to my Twitter feed is the automated notifications of new blog posts. On Facebook, I’ve cut way back, too. There, I’ve taken to mostly posting to a select group of people, friends and family. I post pictures of my kids. Even on Facebook, I’ve stopped talking about my writing. I no longer post how many words I’ve written, or if I’ve finished a story. Maybe all writers do a need a social media platform, but there’s better, older advice to writers that I’ve taken to heart: show, don’t tell.

I have a hard time looking at social media these days. My feeds become one big gripe session about one thing or another. There are always interesting things my friends and family are doing, but they are the rare flowers among weeds. It used to be fun to engage in the discussion threads in Facebook, but even there, I’m cautious. It seems like everyone is trying to out-clever everyone else with their comments and memes. I’m no longer clever enough to participate.

I haven’t quit social media. A knee-jerk reaction like that is something I might have done in my freshman year in college (had social media existed then), but I like to think I’m a little wiser. Quitting would mean giving up the friends that I enjoy keeping up with, and I’m not willing to do that. But I have cut way back, and my focus is far less topical and far more on what my friends and family are up to.

I removed the social media apps from my mobile phone. When we went to Florida for Spring Break, I put Facebook back on, and then forgot to take it off. I have just done that. That is my call-to-action (social media campaigns are supposed to have a call-to-action). I feel better already.

One thought on “Social Media, Full Circle

  1. So good, Jamie. This line especially struck me: “Social media is the new writers block.” I’ve definitely felt the pressure to “have a presence” and share behind-the-scenes info so I can build an audience. And yet, it feels like a rat race and is more frustrating than anything. Thanks for the encouragement to reset.

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