It’s no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with social media. While I love the connections it allows me to make, I hate the demands it places on my time, and its manipulation of my attention. I’ve been trying, though, to enjoy it more. Part of that has been learning how to quit playing the social media game.
When I started building my platform, I heard so many “rules” about how authors should use social media. Post X-number of times per day. Post at certain times of the day. You posts should contain only certain types of content. Be sure to like X-number of posts per day. Follow eight people a day. Interact only with other authors. Don’t interact with other authors, only your fans. Post only your author-related activities; keep your personal life and hobbies out of it. Use tools and bots to automate as much as you can, and keep track of who’s unfollowing you so you can return the favor. And on and on. Blerg.
Many of these rules, of course, contradict each other. And others simply make no practical sense. But… These rules are written by people who treat social media as a game with winners and losers. There’s a high score to chase in the form of number of followers. For these people, it’s not about genuine interaction, it’s about “winning.”
The thing is, this isn’t “winning” in any meaningful sense. Yes, you may rack up thousands of followers, but if those followers aren’t engaging with you, then it’s pretty pointless. If your “followers” never read the things you post, what’s the point? If they never talk to you about your books or your life, or if you aren’t sharing interests and ideas, are these people likely to ever buy your books, offer you a job, or join your Patreon?
The social media world is full of people spouting off to thousands of followers. But it’s one way traffic. They talk and no one listens because they’re too busy playing the game and racing to gain their own followers. I know people who never even scroll through their feed, seeking posts with which to interact. They just jump on, post something or mass follow a few people, then jump off until next time. Really? What is the point in that? Life’s too short for that crap.
I played the game for a while. I tried to follow the rules, although that was difficult because there were so many contradictory rules. But I tried. I managed to gather up a decent portfolio of followers, too. Until I realized most of them were playing the game. We were all talking past each other and wasting a lot of time on… nothing.
So I quit playing the game. For a while, I dropped off many platforms entirely. When I returned, I ditched the rules and tried just being myself. I interacted when I wanted to. (Which, as an introvert, isn’t often.) When I posted, it was something I really wanted to share, not just something to meet a quota. I didn’t follow people for the hell of it; I made sure we shared something in common, or that I enjoyed their content. In other words, I acted like a human being, not some crazed bot-person chasing followers for no reason.
Now I’m simply myself on social media. I post things unrelated to writing. Sure, I interact with other authors because we share commonalities. But I also interact with people who share my hobbies, or who just post fun stuff. I respond if someone mentions me in a post or asks a question. I’m both less involved and more involved in my social media. Less because it takes less time and I’m on less often, but more because I get more out of it now. Connections, entertainment, and fun.
I’m slowly learning how to like social media more. I’m never going to love it because it’s just not in my nature. It still feels artificial and forced in a lot of ways. I’d rather interact in person. But for now it will do to hate it a little less. And that’s only possible when I step away and stop playing the social media game. Acting like a human being goes a long way toward making the whole thing more fun and worthwhile.
(Photo courtesy of LoboStudioHamburg)