Addiction’s Suffocating Embrace: Reflections on Social Media

I’m not conventional. More often than not I find myself going against the grain. The grain right now is social media, using it personally and as a marketing tool. Yeah, I’m going against that. Some authors will tell you such-and-such sold 4 million copies when a link was retweeted by a celebrity or so-and-so used Facebook to make $10,000 a month in royalties. I’m sure those stories are true but it’s not been that way for me. The only thing I have is my experience. Advice is telling someone what they should do while sharing experience is being honest about what worked and what didn’t. I don’t give advice. I share experience. This has been my experience. Use it or ignore it. It’s nothing but the truth. My truth.

I’ve been conditioned my entire life to be a “people pleaser.” You have too. But there is no one “people” and therefore it’s impossible to “please” them/him/her. No matter what I say or do, some people will dislike, refute or ridicule me. I can’t control that. I can control my response to it. Everything I write/post/say is coming from an altruistic place. I share my experience with the hope it will benefit someone else. I don’t lie or say things to hurt people. Ever. Making you believe that is not my concern. I don’t need to prove myself because I’m already me. I always have been. Your reaction to me is your business and I promise to stay out of it.

This started as a podcast, turned into a blog post and now it’s both. I’m still experimenting with the podcast. I’m not sure how it will evolve so if this is a little different than what you’re used to, let me know if you like it. Or hate it. I’d like to hear from you either way. What follows is a transcription of episode 6 of The Horror Writers Podcast.

I have an addictive personality. I know this about myself and so I have to be vigilant. The substances, while alluring, are easier to avoid these days. They’re not in my house and I’m too lazy to go to a bar. But there’s another more insidious substance that is always in my pocket. It’s probably in yours too. I feel like I must reclaim part of myself, step back from the edge and take a breath.

How many times an hour do you tap that little blue globe or the speech bubble? How many times do you use your finger to pull the screen down and refresh it? There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media and its now part of our collective lifestyle. You’re part of it whether you want to be or not. But this is even more complicated for me because I’ve operated under an assumption I no longer believe to be valid. I create content that entertains and hopefully enriches the lives of others. I’ve been told since I began my journey in 2010, that if you’re a writer, an artist or a musician, you have to build your platform. You must be constantly promoting your art on social media otherwise your message will be lost in the mass of messages broadcast every second of every day. And so I began with my band’s page on MySpace. I interacted, promoted and managed the content, and at one point, we had over 20,000 views. Did that help sell any music? I don’t know. Did that help us connect with fans? Maybe. Did it warrant the sixty to ninety minutes a day I spent on MySpace? Probably not. And then came Facebook. Whatever reputation, cred or brand loyalty we had on MySpace died there. So we started over on Facebook. You see the pattern here and if you’re an addict you recognize it all too well. When I began writing I invested hours each day into Facebook. Not constantly spamming my book links (although I did that early on), but interacting with people. Did it sell books? Probably not. And then came Twitter.

I have twenty four hours in my day. I eat. I sleep. I’m bound by the same mortal constraints as everyone else. I never say, “I don’t have time for that.” Instead, I say, “I choose not to do that with my time.” It’s more accurate because we all have the same amount of time and we always find it for the things we love to do. The question becomes what I choose to do with my time. If I choose to write novels I can be compensated for my creativity while providing an escape for people, a bubble of entertainment to help block out the shit life hands us. People seem to like my stories. They tell me so and my sales confirm this. I can also choose to spend my time posting to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/Google+/NextBigThing. My posts will bring a momentary smile or chuckle to people and then get swallowed by the steady stream of content.

Algorithms are not sexy but they are on the verge of global, digital domination. Even assuming you see all of my posts is wrong. Facebook, and now Twitter, is becoming more of a closed system. If you’re not my friend you won’t see my content. But even if you are my friend you might not see my content. Sure, you can pay to have that post “boosted” but it feels like throwing money down a well. Your circle of interaction is closing because the people you friend and the people who friend you back are usually in direct alignment with your principles. So long, diversity of thought. Hello echo chamber of ideas and morals.

There are better, more interesting Facebookers and Tweeters than me. There are people who write great jokes and post fantastic pictures. People don’t write me to tell me how interesting my Tweets are. Nobody is sharing them at the same rate my novels sell. And therein lies my choice. As my addictive personality rears up and begins to steal time from my fiction, I’m getting less of it created. The universe has told me it values my fiction over my Tweets and you should always honor what the universe shares with you. If I continue to spend my time on social media I have less of it remaining to write. It’s simple math.

I don’t think social media is evil. In fact, I love it. Too much. If it was not getting in the way of my creativity or not negatively affecting my quality of life I would not consider it an addiction. I would not feel compelled to change my behavior. Social media may not be cutting into your life. In that case there is nothing wrong with it. For me, however, I need to make a change.

By examining my addictive nature and questioning a false assumption propagated by my industry, I’ve discovered truth. The assumption is that independent artists need social media to sell their craft. I no longer accept that assumption. In the five years or so I’ve spent building my platform and being part of several social media networks, I have no evidence this has helped me to meaningfully connect to others, let alone provide any measurable return on investment. The sales of book two in a series is direct evidence of a measureable ROI from book one. Indisputable. Can I track a Facebook post directly to a sale? No. Others have and my hat’s off to them. They have cracked a code I cannot. But I’ve talked with enough authors to know that most get a miserable ROI from social media. Using a tweet, one author with over 100,000 Twitter followers asked them to buy her book. She used a tracking link to verify less than ten purchases. There is no doubt social media has a solid ROI for some, but it doesn’t for me. It’s forcing me to choose between momentary flashes of witty banter or a lasting legacy of making a difference in people’s lives.

This is not a rant, abandonment or a manifesto. I’m not declaring myself free of addiction’s suffocating embrace. I’m not deleting my Facebook page. I’m not suggesting anyone else should agree with me, support me or refute me. This is a declaration of sorts. This is me valuing my creativity enough to protect it. You’re probably reading this blog because you like my fiction. It’s made an impression on you or made your life better for a few hours. Nothing I post on Facebook or pin to a board on Pinterest will ever have that impact.

I can’t cut the cord completely and I don’t want to, but I’m shifting, prioritizing, reevaluating. What does that mean for you? Now, more than ever, we need a more personal connection. That isn’t going to happen in a constant stream of 140 characters buried within the tweets of thousands of follows. And if something kills Facebook the way it killed MySpace then all of the content created on the platform will die too. If you sign up for my list we will always have a direct connection regardless of what happens in the world of social media. I’m a person, not a corporation. I respect you and if you ever decide to severe our relationship it will be completely in your power to do so, to opt out.

Logging out of Facebook on my phone might be harder than walking out of the bar for the last time. I’ll let you know how it goes. In an email.

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2 thoughts on “Addiction’s Suffocating Embrace: Reflections on Social Media”

  1. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this article
    reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this.
    I will send this information to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a great
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