We’ve all been there.
There are times when social media can feel so infuriating, when it feels like all everyone does is look for an excuse to feel outraged, and sometimes you might even find yourself the target of that outrage.
There are times when it feels like other people are so popular, so happy, and you’re struck by your own imperfections.
There are times when you feel like you put so much work into just staying above water, doing the bare minimum, to check off a box of “Things Writers Are Supposed to Be Doing,” but like the Red Queen in Alice and Wonderland you’re just running to stay in the same place.
There are times when it feels tempting to shut it all down, to just retreat into the real world, to let the next fad come and pass and not invest so much time into something so temporal.
It’s tempting to want to shut down your social media accounts and not even bother with the difficulties that come with putting yourself out there on the Internet, especially those times when someone out there in cyberland takes time out of their day to try to cut you down to size. The Chinese government invented a chilling term for the practice of seeking out people to shame on the Internet. They call it the Human Flesh Search Engine.
I’ve felt all of those things at various times over the last seven+ years of blogging (gahh!!!! Seven years WHERE DOES THE TIME GO). But I’ve never decided to shut it all down. I still have my social accounts, and I still blog.
For one thing, to shut it down feels like a false retreat. Yes, maybe you would feel a short term gain to disappear into virtual darkness and just let the Twitterverse spin on. You may win a temporary reprieve, but as people like Satoshi Nakamoto go to show, the Internet can still find you even (or especially) when you don’t want to be found.
It seems like this is the way the world is going whether we like it or not. The future is going to be a confusing mix of public and private, with a heavy emphasis on the public. Even if you have warts out there on the Internet, at least you’re out there. At least you have a trail that people can examine and consider the whole, people who know you and can come to your defense. It gives you a voice, even if it can feel at times like there’s no escape.
As tempting as it can be to want to hunker down and let the world pass over you, it still seems like you lose still more by retreating into the wilderness. I don’t know where this is all going, but I’m excited enough about the future to stay in public on the Internet, even as I wonder sometimes what in the world we’re all doing.
Have you ever thought about shutting down your accounts and retreating? What did you decide?
Art: The Red Queen’s Race by John Tenniel
When I first joined Twitter, it was just so I could follow authors and other industry professionals. So I did a quiet hmmmmph whenever someone knocked on people like me (e.g. if you don't update your Twitter, why bother having an account?) I'm beginning to Tweet a little more, but probably not at the frequency of seasoned Twitter users. But I prefer to just go at my own pace. So with all things social media, I just try (key word: try) to remain aware that what I get from my experience might be enough for me at a given time. My experience doesn't have to mirror someone else's, even if it seems like they're having more fun (key word: seems).
I was doing "social media" before it was called that — back on listservs and internet discussion boards and so on.
To some extent the internet seems like it's full of people with Aspergers — i.e., people who don't get social cues and obsess on weird things. I think that's partly true, but it's also a consequence of the format. You lose tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, etc., and words devoid of those things often lead to misunderstandings. It's far too easy to leap to conclusions and think somebody's an idiot and a jerk.
I've learned that it takes a very long time to get the feel for someone through this text-based communication, and that means you have to give lots of grace and lots of benefits of the doubt.
"Social media" often frustrates me, but I've found the best solution is to step back, interact with some real people for a while, get some perspective, calm down, give the jerk who just rattled your chain a little forgiveness and understanding, and then try again.
Caroline Bliss Larsen says
I've definitely been tempted to take myself off social media, but every time I think that, I remember that for every negative aspect of social media, there are plenty of positive ones.
Richard Ennis says
Twitter seems so impersonal. With "writing advice" posters for example. They post a lot but give zero replies. I'm new to Twitter, but was hopeful for making some constructive use of it, and SOME edifying conversation anyway. And celebrities? No chance of a reply there, unless you're one of them.
frau wy says
I have often been tempted but the difficulty is that you need social media to stay in touch with what other people are doing- in my case this is for business as well as social. So that means I need to retain my accounts. I am however very cynical about it all and am very much aware that someone out there is using this whole social media movement to harvest all of our information. But the choice is yours; you decide how much of your life you want people to see and how often.
Jason Bougger says
The thing I hate the most about facebook is that it just seems to make people seem so petty. It's all either bitching or bragging. I keep my account because it's the only way I can keep in touch with some people, but I rarely interact with people on it.
For writing stuff, I just set up a facebook author page instead. That way I can interact with writing people about writing stuff without involving other friends, unless they care about my writing stuff.
Yes, I have thought about taking down my blog and my kindle book, and to just stop everything all together, even as I speak. But I never do because I think of all the hard work I put into it. I am not computer savvy, and had to learn everything I managed to on my own. And I just can't stop creating. It's something that called me into being. But, it's comforting to know that someone 'out there' knows how that feels. Thank you for the post, Nathan.
Blessings for success in every area,