Social Media

Twitface and the Curse of Social Media

Image credit: Rock1997 | Wikimedia Commons
Image credit: Rock1997 | Wikimedia Commons

If I weren’t a writer I’d probably be about the most anonymous person in the modern Western world. I wouldn’t be on Twitter and Facebook. I wouldn’t have a blog. I’d probably never even have heard of Pinterest or Instagram. In fact – oh, the irony! – if I weren’t a writer I’d probably just be … well, writing. But this is 2015, and it’s no longer enough just to write. Oh no: you have to loudly proclaim to everyone you encounter that you’re writing.

This is where social media comes in. You’re not really considered a proper writer these days unless you’ve got a Facebook page and a blog and you spend almost every spare minute tweeting. I’m ancient enough to remember a time when writers tapped out their novels on typewriters, mobile phones were cutting edge, and the internet was still a twinkle in some techie’s eye. How times change, eh? Imagine if The Shining were set in 2015. Jack Torrance would never have gone mad, because the Overlook Hotel would, naturally, have had WiFi. He’d have spent all his time chatting to his writing chums on Facebook and tweeting about life in snowbound Colorado instead. He still wouldn’t have finished his novel, but at least it wouldn’t be because he’d gone violently insane and tried to kill his family.

Oh, well. Technology seems to have turned inwards rather than outwards. Somewhat to my disappointment, we don’t all dress in silver lamé jumpsuits and have our own personal spaceships. Instead, we have blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and more passwords than any human brain can possibly be expected to memorise.

Tweeting is a useful writing exercise if nothing else, since it forces one to be concise. Twitter is the perfect place to say absolutely nothing, and the cyberparadise of those who have absolutely nothing to say. However, once you’ve waded through all the guff – “Teenage Werevamp Fantasies Part 1 available on Amazon now for just 99p!” – it can also be surprisingly interesting and entertaining. I’ve written before of my newfound appreciation for “twitterature”, and some tweets show a surprising amount of creativity and wit, given the 140-character constraint. I’ve also discovered the art of the sarcastic hashtag, though personally I’ve yet to master it.

Screenshot Sarcastic Hashtag
Straight after I posted this tweet, I was contacted by about twenty people all offering me exactly this service. #facepalm

It’s all a matter of how it’s used, I suppose. I once bought an author’s book on the strength of his clever, funny tweets (he tended to steer clear of obvious self-promotion), and I wasn’t disappointed. (Note to authors: constantly telling me that your book is available on Amazon doesn’t make me want to buy it. Quite the opposite, in fact. Tweets that tell me that you can use your brain and string an intelligible sentence together might do the trick, though.)

Facebook is something I’ve gradually come to an appreciation of, though perhaps for all the wrong reasons. For me, time spent on Facebook is “down time”. Viewing a home video of a dog playing with a balloon, and then running away in panic when said balloon finally bursts, can’t be said to be useful in any real sense, but it made me laugh. Oh, and I’m addicted to the silly online quizzes that sometimes pop up there, one of which assured me that in my past life I committed the crime of regicide.

Image credit: Valparaiso.MobileConf | Wikiedia Commons
Image credit: Valparaiso.MobileConf | Wikiedia Commons

People have advised me to set up a dedicated “Author Page” on Facebook, but I can’t be bothered. Creating an author page – at least when you are the author in question – seems ridiculously self-important to me. (Perhaps I should just get over this, as – let’s face it – all social media is just a teeny bit self-important anyway, n’est-ce pas? Does anyone really want to know which brand of washing powder you prefer, or that you got stuck in traffic this morning?) Those of my author friends who’ve tried it tell me that an author page is a complete bleeding waste of time anyway, as just about the only people who ever view or “like” it are those whom you can effectively bully into doing so.

I’ve liked Facebook a lot more since I joined Authors Electric and was invited into the AE private group. There, I’m surrounded by like-minded people, and have access to the invaluable outlooks of those with a great deal more writing and publishing expertise than me. We chat, sound out ideas, and occasionally bicker and rant. Being surrounded by a group of dedicated writers really does offer solace. I like having friends with whom to share my solitude.

Image credit: Nooralbustanji | Wikimedia Commons
Image credit: Nooralbustanji | Wikimedia Commons

I’ve found that, of all forms of social media, I like blogging best. It just seems to suit me. Writing a blog post gives me time to develop my thoughts (for what they’re worth) on a given subject, and to present them in a clear, structured way, which the “instant” nature of other social media doesn’t. I’ve set myself a goal of posting once a week, though I often fall short of this. For one thing, I’m so neurotic that I have to check and redraft my posts about twenty times before I can bring myself to publish them. For another – well, I’m just kind of busy, actually.

And herein lies one of the big problems of social media. Time spent tweeting, posting Facebook updates, and blogging is, of course, not time spent writing. And writing is what I love best. I suppose that the influence of the social media age might represent just another stepping-stone in literature’s ongoing development. Will we all end up writing our books in real time on Facebook, or in 140-character increments on Twitter? Or will the reality be even less exalted? Before social media, writers were remembered (or not) for their books. I have a haunting feeling that we’ll be remembered for sharing the mundane details of our lives on Twitter…

And yet … if it hadn’t been for social media, I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful writing friends (as well as one or two harmless – I think – dingbats). It’s been worth getting on social media, and braving the latter, for the sake of the former. Gosh, I’m feeling a little sentimental. So sentimental, in fact, that I might write a post about this in the future. You have been warned…

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10 thoughts on “Twitface and the Curse of Social Media

  1. Mari, I tweet about when I’ve cooked the worst dinner ever, which happens quite regularly – and how I hate hate hate doing research etc, but I so agree about the self promotion stuff. As you say, those advertising sites promising out so many tweets to promote your book are a waste of time, certainly…I was thinking of deleting my Facebook author page, I was told it was very important but I just don’t keep it updated…You’re one up on me as I never heard of author ecletic, but like you, I’ve met a lot of great fellow writers on the media (breaks off: who’s this ‘Lucinda in Wales’ who wants to me to buy her gothic novel? I’ll delete that at once)…

  2. Like you, I discovered the that a social media presence is co-requisite to being a modern writer. Facebook turned out to be a complete waste of time for me. My blog introduced me to many of my writer friends, and gave me a space to practice writing shorter pieces. I was overwhelmed and misused by Twitter for the first several years I was a member, but then again I was also misusing Twitter – which I guess made us even. Twitter only became fun and somewhat useful when I approached it as if I were just having conversations with other people. I also discovered the power of lists. The entire Twitter feed is a polluted river of useless and sometimes toxic garbage, but grouping the more interesting people into lists allows me to bypass the pollution and get access to tweets that are more about sharing and less about marketing. None of these avenues have helped me sell books. What did help make some sales was getting to know other people. When people know and like me, they tend to give my books a try.

    As a very private person, I sometimes struggle with social media. The best way to get people to know me, is to be myself, but that requires a level of intimacy that I am not always able to muster. I have a feeling that if I blogged more openly about my non-internet life and experiences, I would get more followers…. but that is more about bolstering my own sense of self, and not about the craft of writing. Do I want to be popular, or do I want to be a good writer? At this point in my life, I haven’t time to do both.

    Another excellent post, Mari. You are a shining star in my internet experiences!!

    -aniko

    1. This is all really interesting, Aniko, as much of what you say echoes my own experiences. I too signed up to Twitter and Facebook for all the wrong reasons, mostly because people assured me that I simply had to. I had no real idea how to make the most of them, and so for many, many months I got it horribly wrong. I think most people certainly respond rather better to someone who seems likeable, interesting and human, rather than someone who, droid-like, posts dead-eyed tweets and Facebook updates. However, like you, I’m essentially quite a private person, which puts me in something of a bind. Just how much of myself do I want to place in the public arena? If there are any benefits to doing that, wouldn’t they be outweighed by the negatives?

      Thank you for the compliment, Aniko! Social media was all worth it just to get to know someone like you. If I do write a post about my internet friends, you will figure prominently in it!

  3. Great post, Mari. It seems to be a common theme among writers. I first got a Facebook account because I was told all artists have to have one, And so it went… Part of the reason I’ve been blogging less is so that I can actually focus on my writing instead! But for all that, as you point out, it does break the inherent isolation involved in writing and lead to meetings with other writers.

    1. Hello Paul, and thanks for the comment! It seems to be something of a common theme amongst writers – we sign up to FB and Twitter because we’re told we must, and then we wonder what on earth to do with these things. I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed social media a lot more since I stopped treating it as a grim duty, and just tried to have some fun with it instead. I enjoy blogging and always have, but even I find that it becomes a bit much sometimes. I’m still trying to find a way to balance social media with writing time, and for the most part I still get it wrong. But the internet, as you say, is certainly wonderful in relieving some of the isolation that comes with the territory when you’re a writer.

  4. I think the most eye-opening thing you offered is that time spent on social media is time spent not writing. Yeah, I know, it’s common sense, right? I have learned quite well over the years, however, that common sense is not always common practice. And so, I find myself scrolling through posts and tweets – sometimes as rationale for not writing – oh, the shame!

    I found a quote online from a 1st grade teacher – yeah, I know, I should be writing instead – but, this one summed up my thoughts on social media:

    “Yes, kids love technology, but they also love Legos, scented markers, handstands, books, and mud puddles. It’s all about balance.”

    Social media, in and of itself, is not bad. Being consumed by it – maybe not so good. I am happy to have found some avenues to connect with other like-minded individuals through Facebook, Twitter, and especially the blogosphere. I just need to remember that it’s only one piece of a very complicated puzzle. It has its spot in the mix, but it can’t be forced into every available spot. There are other pieces waiting to be used too 😉

    Thanks Mari, great post – I enjoyed it and look forward to many more!

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog, Dave, and for commenting! A lot of it certainly is common sense, but I often find that I’m unable to put it into practice, and that social media sometimes seems to be threatening to take over my entire life. As you say, though, there’s much about it that really is great, and so I hope that one day I’ll manage to strike that elusive balance!

      Thanks again for visiting!

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