Farewell, Facebook. Ta-Ta, Twitter. I’ve Got Writing to Do.
I’ve been tired of social media for a long time.
However, like a drug addict, I’ve continued to take hits off it, hoping to get a similar high as in the past, only to discover that no matter how much time and energy I invest in it, I’m never going to get anything substantial back from it.
Why is this? Because the very system isn’t about substance; it’s about ephemera and what’s “trending,” not what’s important and lasting.
So I’ve become fed up with social media, and I’m not investing any more of my precious time—time that I could and should be spending writing—on something incapable of giving back to me in measures equal to what I might put into it.
Originally I envisaged writing a long, eloquent goodbye letter to social media, but I’ve already invested too much time in this pernicious time-sink, so I’m simply going to give the reasons why I’m backing away from it, and be done with it.
By my best estimate, I have spent an average of 4 hours per week on social media over the past decade. This translates to about 2,000 hours total, or 50 work weeks. So, out of the past 10 years, I’ve spent one entire year on social media.
Because I’ve paid a high price already—I’ve invested A YEAR OF MY LIFE in social media, with very little to show for my efforts (i.e., seriously, 1200 Twitter followers in 6 years?)—I am not going to do what some modern Luddites and privacy fanatics are doing, and that’s to delete my accounts. No way. I’ve put too much into social media now to do that. But what I am going to do is drastically cut any further investment in the social media world.
From now on, I am treating Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social media universe as a giant office break room bulletin board. When I have actual news to share—say a new book or a major interview—I am simply going to tack up my flyer and walk away. Here’s why:
1. I’ve learned that I can’t move the needle.
For a long time, I bought into a universally unquestioned writing–social media axiom: “You have to be active on social media so you can build your audience.”
Well, I’ve learned that the return on investment in social media for writers is scanty at best. It has been for me anyway.
Social media “experts” would say that I haven’t put enough time into it, and that if I put more time in, I’d see “bestselling” results. But frankly, I’ve glanced at the books of a lot of authors who promote their books on social media with impunity—and with a relentlessness rivaled only by termites—and almost every time I am disgusted by the quality of the writing.
(By the way, I’m not worried about insulting these people because they won’t read this anyway. They’re too busy cranking out their next “book” in two months and then assaulting the social media airwaves with it.)
No thanks—I’d prefer to remain relatively obscure and write well than to sell 100,000 copies of a piece of trash.
Of course, I realize there might be a handful of writers out there who are doing all three—1) participating heavily in social media, 2) writing well, and 3) selling a lot of books—but their existence only begs this question:
How much better might these writers be if they were investing more of their time in their writing and not social media?
Ultimately, there’s so much noise and jerky movement in the social media world that the only way to stand out is to be the quiet, still one.
2. Social media makes me crazy.
So much of what constitutes the social media world is trite, ephemeral and/or depressing.
This is why I haven’t had television (in the form of channels, with news and commercials) for 7-8 years: I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (e.g., I routinely put bugs into jars to release them outside, instead of killing them), and with TV I got tired of hearing about things that I couldn’t change—murders, political corruption, drought, famine, war, etc.
The same has proven true of social media for me, most recently regarding that dentist who killed Cecil the Lion.
Please, I don’t need or want to hear about this stuff. Was I outraged? Yes. But my genuine outrage about the event was drowned out by the largely false outrage on social media—the people who just enjoy gang-tackling, the people who lie in wait for the next politically correct cause célèbre du jour.
Every time I’ve gone onto social media lately, it’s been an unpleasant experience for one reason or another. This doesn’t happen to me when I’m sharpening my pencils or changing a typewriter ribbon.
3. I’m a writer, not an internet marketing guru or former-something-or-other who wants to be seen as an “author.”
Writing the best possible novels I can write is hard work. Sure, it’s not cutting granite—something my grandfather and great-grandfather did—but it is mentally and physically draining, and it requires complete dedication. Any time I spend on social media is just that much less time I have to write.
I think about one of my writing idols, Anton Chekhov, whose life was cut short by tuberculosis at 44. I’ve already gotten a year more than he got. If he were alive today and still ill with a chronic disease, would he be investing any of his time in social media? I doubt it. More likely he’d be writing as much as his health allowed and spending what time he could with his actress lover/wife, Olga Knipper.
Also, I’ve discovered that, for me, using social media to write “posts” is too cathartic; having the instant outlet reduces my creative tension to put my words into something more permanent—a book.
I want to become the best writer I can be, and to do this, certain things have to go, and social media is one of them. I’m just going to have to re-accept the loneliness that accompanies being a writer, and get my interaction and social sustenance from more substantial sources: phone calls and lunches with friends, golf, chess club, French lessons, travel, and, hopefully, emails and letters from readers and fans.
If you made it this far, you’re one of the people I’d like to stay in touch with. Send me an email sometime. I’d love to hear from you.