Sometimes a Social Media Break is Necessary…


Lately, I’ve been paying attention to what my favorite authors do on social media.

Some aren’t very good at it, in the sense that you never see them at all. Some aren’t very good at it because they manage to enrage a good portion of their fanbase without meaning to do so.

But others bear watching. I’ve been impressed at how J.K. Rowling has dealt with everything from international crises, to Brexit, to people commenting on decisions she made regarding her characters. She’s a class act, let me tell you.

I’ve been a published author for about six years now, and there are things I wish I had done differently from the beginning if I was allowed that famous ‘do-over.’ I’d be less forthcoming with stuff about my personal life, I’d pay less attention to reviews, and I’d have planned my releases better. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have let real-life get in the way of my production to the degree that it did.

There are lots of reasons for that. An unforgiving day job, a health crisis,  and so on. These are things most people have to deal with, and yet others still manage to be productive in the face of tougher challenges than mine. So why did I go from producing the equivalent of a novella a month to barely managing a novel a year?

One of the big reasons was a shift from Live Journal as the place I hung out and chatted with friends to Facebook. I’ll be the first to admit, I miss LJ. I still go to my journal, but the community is gone. People have moved on to other, more active platforms. One of the things I see that bothers me is that many of these platforms seem to need you to be there all the time in order to be a part of the community.

How does anyone get anything done?

I’ve posted before on what I see as the problems with Facebook; especially the way it causes you to compare your life with others (and come up short). But there’s another problem with Facebook and Tumblr and their ilk that I think is an even bigger issue: they are addictive time sinks.

When I am stressed and tired, I tell myself I need to unwind a little before attempting to to write. What happens is I spend some of my best writing time wandering in circles from one social media platform to another. Sometimes I start conversations, only to have to go back and respond to the comments I generated with my post. Sometimes,  I just scroll along, liking or RTing posts as I come to them, drugging my brain with a constant barrage of images.

Over the last five years, I would say there has been a big increase in my base level of anxiety. The sidebar on Facebook is typically filled with horrible news or events that are trending at the time. Friends will post heartbreaking images I’d rather not see, or post support of political and social ideologies I find unbearable. Lately, with all the heartache in the world, I find myself needing to take more and more breaks from social media. As we come into the Presidential elections here in the U.S., I can’t imagine I will be able to bear the fever pitch of hostility and polarization that the political rhetoric has created.

And yet I worry: surely if I abandon my social media platforms, I run the risk of dropping the ball on my marketing, right? After all, I’ve worked so hard to make sure my voice is heard among the sea of many who are out there plugging their craft, same as me.

Well, I’m beginning to think that’s not the case. Last month, I wrote a post on this website about my frustrations with readers who justify pirating and illegally uploading books to torrents. It automatically crossposted to Facebook and Twitter, and I went on with my day. To my utter surprise, it went viral. I had over 60 K hits on the website in a 24 hour window, and at last count, the post has been shared over 10K times.

And I did nothing to ‘promote’ it. I wrote it in a fit of frustration and clicked ‘publish’. Apparently some of the things I said struck a chord with a LOT of people, and it was shared accordingly. I strongly suspect nothing I ever write again will trigger that kind of reaction. I can’t say as I saw a big bump in sales, either. But my point is this: I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that self-promotion is a big waste of time. And while I think it’s perfectly fine to hang out with your BFFs on your favorite social media platform, keep in mind it is taking time from your best promotion effort ever: your next story.

So this is what I see successful authors do with social media:

  1. They do what my friend Shira Anthony refers to as ‘ninja posting’. They pop in, make a quick post, and close the browser before they’ve lost the best hours of the day to endless scrolling.
  2. They avoid the controversial and the political–something I have a tough time doing. Sometimes things are so egregious, something must be said. But shouting to the choir on your side probably isn’t the best way to go about changing minds.
  3. They post upbeat or interesting things–such as photos of their latest trips, or their reaction to the wildly popular television show everyone is watching right now.
  4. They are themselves–but with makeup on. You know what I mean. It’s the person you are when you go out on that first date, as opposed to the one who’s been in a relationship for 20 years. Yes, it’s you, but the best you. The polished you.
  5. They spend more time writing than promoting or socializing.

So perhaps now is as good a time as any to spend less time on social media for a while. Not just because I need a break from all the bad news in the world (seriously 2016, go home–you’re a mean drunk!), but because I’ve got things to do. Places to go. Stories to write. Life to live.

10 thoughts on “Sometimes a Social Media Break is Necessary…

  1. Sing it, sister. I waste FAR too much time on FB and other platforms. In an ideal world, I’d take internet off this PC and just use it for writing. I’d get a helluva lot more done.

    • Sometimes I write in my detached garage. It has a wood stove for winter and an AC for summer and NO INTERNET ACCESS. If it weren’t for work needing to get a hold of me 24/7, I’d turn the phone off too.

      I need more time outside among growing things. I need some time at a seashore or sitting by a mountain lake. Me, nature, and a notebook. (And some sunscreen and bug repellent… 🙂 )
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Sometimes a Social Media Break is Necessary…My Profile

  2. Oh yeah. You nailed it. I can’t seem to shut the hell up on Facebook. Everything I think pops right out, no matter who I might offend, and I often regret being so honest about my opinions and emotions.

    I do exactly what you said: move from one social media to another, mindlessly devouring posts in an effort to distract myself from 1) writing or 2) the horror in the world. I’m exhausted. I’m stressed. I’m not getting enough done.

    BUT–and it’s a big “but”–I live alone. I have no family left, none I talk to anyway. I rarely connect with the friends I left behind up north, and I only see the one in Florida occasionally. I dislike most of my neighbors for good reasons, and Suki, my pup, is wonderful company but doesn’t talk. Online media is where I get needed social contact. I interact with friends, and I don’t feel so apart from things. My job requires I spend a lot of time alone, and social media keeps me from going squirrely.

    I need to take breaks often, though, especially this year, but I’ve acknowledged I’m not going to stop opining, nor will I go offline altogether, even though I’d probably be healthier if I did. There are days I feel I’ve made a bargain with the devil, but so be it. Hell can be a lot of fun. 😉

    • I hear you, Theo. I got involved with online communities and developed friendships when I was working 60+ hours a week and serving as my dad’s caretaker from 6 pm to midnight every night. I couldn’t meet with my real life friends, and I discovered a whole world of fanfiction and like-minded souls online.

      Fast-forward a decade and I still seem to have more, closer, online friends than I do in real life (for want of a better term). My online friends know more about what’s going on in my life than my ‘real’ friends do, and I suspect the need to vent and the habit of spewing my woes developed then–especially in the supposedly anonymous communities such as LJ, where you only went by a user name and could lock your journal so only friends could read it.

      It’s a habit I should have left behind when I became a published author, but yeah, live and learn. Perhaps in my next incarnation, I’ll get it right. 🙂 But I *do* understand what it is like to need contact with ‘your tribe.’ It’s crucial to getting through the day sometimes.

      Right now, however, I’m dreading the next four months and beyond. As much as I feel we *should* be outraged by the outrageous and unacceptable, my own personal meters are on overload. I’m not sleeping. I’m terrified for my future and that of our nation (and the world) and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I alternate my WTF posts with kittens and bunnies because, please. I feel I must dilute the toxic environment and the noxious images we’re bombarding each other with all the time.

      For me personally, I think the answer is less social media time, more writing. At least, until something outrages me again… 😉
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Sometimes a Social Media Break is Necessary…My Profile

  3. Absolutely. I do Facebook because I feel bad if I apparently ignore people’s posts by not being there to see them. Also it’s easier to do Facebook when half awake than it is to creep out of bed and go to write. It’s daft. I used to write hundreds of thousands of words a year. Now I’m lucky if it’s tens.

    • I hear you. I frequently check FB at work because I only have a few minutes to kill between clients–not enough time to open a WIP and delve into it. But I end up starting conversations that require followups, and then I find I’m spending several hours responding.

      I’ve been following some social media marketing gurus and most of them say FB is useless for marketing–it’s only for making friends. Friends read and promote each other though, so it feels like FB is necessary. But honestly, I find I’m becoming more anxious about the world staying so ‘connected’ and I’m writing less and less. There has to be a balance somewhere, and I think that’s hard if time on social media is addictive…

      And yet social media–the thing that is making me more anxious–is also the thing I do to de-stress me. It’s insane.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Sometimes a Social Media Break is Necessary…My Profile

  4. I miss LJ too! We had a good fan fiction group, and I am still friends with several people on FB and in RL. There are some that have moved on, though, anonymous… and they are gone. I miss them. I tried to check my LJ the other day and it’s all different now, and half of the posts are in Russian, which is one of my weaker languages. I, too, need to wean myself off FB and act more polished. No more photos of me in my undies in a snow bank! 🙂

    • I love LJ. There was a community and a platform there that will never be reproduced. LJ is like holding a tea party and inviting your friends to drop by for a chat. Big meta discussions, sharing things that make you squee, venting about your day or your job… No other platform is quite like it. Tumblr is like wading in a stream, trying to make sense of the things that go floating past you. It’s like writing a message in a bottle and tossing it into the sea. You might run across the bottle again some day, and read the messages, but you can’t really *chat* with the people who wrote them. If you add to the thread, it’s like spray-painting graffiti on a wall. The community on LJ was what gave me the courage to submit my first story to a publisher. I don’t know where people find that kind of support these days. 🙁

  5. *HUGS* those “breaks” are necessary, both for the reader (me) and the writer (you)—for sanity, productivity, etc. I still post on LJ, most x-posting than anything because I actually can keep my WP and LJ blogs side by side there, and some friends are on there that are NOT on FB that I can be myself with. I sometimes feel like I have to perform constantly on FB in order to even get likes on posts, which bothers me…

    • I know what you mean. I love my FB contacts, but I do feel sometimes I’m only my real self with my fandom LJ. I’m currently doing a “100 Days of Gratitude” thing and I’m posting to LJ instead of FB. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that I’m supposed to be a bit more of an adult these days. 😉

      And yes, after I get this new book launched, I think some ‘ninja-style’ posting with lots of breaks are in order.

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