Over the last few months, I’ve felt stuck. Putting pen to paper has been difficult in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable world. Like many of you, I’ve had thoughts about politics, COVID-19, race relations, and the like. Like many of you, I’ve found myself hashing out those thoughts on social media. But all this fit-and-spurt opinionating on Twinstabook has left me pretty damned empty.
Today, I’m starting a new series on my website. I’m reposting the content here for your ease, but if you haven’t already signed up for my daily reflections, I hope you will. (Follow the link and signup at the bottom of the post.) In this new series, I’m diving deeper into our social media, content-churning age. I’m asking whether it’s healthy, or whether it might be the very thing that ruins us. I’m taking a hard look at why and how writers, musicians, creators, and politicians use social media platforms.
I think this might be my most significant series yet. I hope you’ll join me and read along.
Resisting the Media
Down With the Influencers
I cut my last series short for a variety of reasons. Chief among them were these: I’d made my point; the sermonizing tone of the series was tiring me; the series was beginning to feel tedious and emotionally unappealing. There was another reason, though, an inkling of sorts. Something was gnawing at the edges of my brain, but I couldn’t seem to slow down long enough to scratch it out on paper. Two nights ago, it came to me.
In a dream, I found myself at a seventeenth-century mansion owned by a social media influencer. Voice quivering, she shared the results of a government study that found social media to be a threat to cultural stability. It was a public health crisis, they declared, and they’d dispatched the armed forces to burn the networks to the ground. Her house, cars, Greek vacations, and personal assistants were all funded by her influencer-status, and her voice cracked when she said, “All I want is to make money playing video games on YouTube, and now, they’ve taken that away.” (Odd how I imagined a forty-year-old fashionista as a video gamer, but dreamscapes create the best ironies.) I smiled, nodded, and said, “I am genuinely not sorry.”
That was it, the end of the dream, and as I considered it the following morning, I wondered whether my brain was trying to tell me something.
I’ve sorted it out, at least the first parts of it, but I want to take it slowly. I want to walk a line and invite you to walk it with me.
There are fundamental issues with modern media (social and otherwise), particularly as an author, creator, or (heaven forbid) an influencer. Over the next few weeks, I’d like to give a sort of insider’s view into why many creators need (read: require) social media platforms. I’ll ask whether this need is healthy and whether there are unintended consequences that come along with it. I’ll examine some of those unintended consequences. I’ll also give an account of how to resist, and I’ll invite you to follow me on a one-month experiment.
I’ll write more about this in the days to come, but as a writer, I know this much: Publishers all but require their authors to curate a robust social medial presence. Why? Social media is where people are. It’s how writers get the message out, how they market. But if there are unintended consequences to using Twitter and Facebook, could there be another way to spread thoughtful work? I believe there is. What is that way? Create good content and rely on your readers to spread the word organically.
This is, of course, a tad idealistic. Still, color me an idealist.
Over the next month, I’m abstaining from Twitter and Facebook. (I’ll still use Instagram, for reasons I’ll write about in the future.) I will not share my thoughts on either of those platforms. I will not post links to my writing. I’ll not crosspost my Instagram photos either. Instead, I’ll rely on this website and my Substack newsletters to share my writing and photography. I’ll also track and measure subscriber growth over that month to see whether it’s possible to grow organic reach without the big two social media players. What’s more, at the end of August, I’ll share the results with you.
If you believe in my working hypothesis—that it’s possible to spread good ideas without playing into the fear, anger, pride, and greed that runs rampant on Twitter and Facebook—help me prove it. How?
First, shoot me an email and let me know how you feel about the current state of social media. I might not respond to every email, but I promise I’ll read them all. These emails will help me chart a course for writing about this topic over the next month.
Second, share this piece with those you think might want to come along for the ride (change the email address in the form). Ask them to subscribe. Start a discussion with them about the social media ride America finds itself on, and together, suss out whether it’s healthy.
Finally, ask yourself these questions:
What does social media add to my life?
Am I funding fear, anger, pride, and greed through it?
Do I need to change how I use the online platforms?