I’ve been on Twitter for years as a pedestrian, if you will, but it was last summer that I really married into the concept of using Twitter as a writer. And it was awesome! I discovered this whole new world of other writers, similar souls out there in the world on a myriad of parallel journeys. It was so cool. Even cooler was the discovery that as I followed more people, more people followed me. And let me tell you, having more than a thousand people following me on Twitter felt really good.
In theory Twitter is a great place to connect with people, writers and readers, celebrities and random people who share common interests. It’s a fertile ground for getting your name out there, linking to your books and blog, and reaching out the feelers that will, in theory, sell more books. Yeah, I want to sell books and Twitter seems like a good place to do that. But for me, and I’m dead honest when I say this, I love finding and making new friends through Twitter as much as anything else.
Houston, we have a problem.
My thoughts about Twitter these days have actually been very eloquently summed up by Susan Kiernan-Lewis in her post Life After Twitter. In this and an earlier post, The Great Social Media Flim-Flam Susan makes the point that all of the effort we, as writers, pour into Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets is hugely disproportionate to the results we see from it. She questions that while some of us are able to glean success out of Herculean efforts to “get ourselves out there” is it really worth it? Are we really getting through?
Well, my one answer to Susan is that it must be worth it on some level because I met her through social media and I really, genuinely like her and am eternally grateful that our paths crossed. One point for Facebook!
However, I am right there with her when it comes to questioning if it’s all worth it.
What’s the point here, oh fellow writers and friends? Why do we do this crazy, creative thing that our friends and family don’t fully understand? Do we dive into the world of our imaginations and force ourselves through the bloody hard work of getting all of that down on paper so that we can see our number of Twitter followers rise? Do we do it to watch the really cool bar graph of blog hits rise and fall and rise again on WordPress?
Or do we do it because we love to write?
Me? I love to write. Like, A LOT. Writing keeps me sane. I need to write, even when the work is frustrating and thankless. And believe me, most of the time it is. But you know what’s more frustrating? Tracking numbers, worrying about whether I’ve been supporting my fellow writers enough with retweets and replies, and fishing for new ways of navigating social media to “get myself out there”.
My brother recently recommended a Saturday Night Live skit (featuring Daniel Radcliffe – woot!) in which complete nobodies with massively inflated senses of self-worth were interviewed on a talk show, “You Can Do Anything!” These pathetic souls thought they were the shiz because they had a thousand views of their “independent film” on YouTube and silly things like that. It was bittersweet. Because really, isn’t that what so much of us do? Isn’t that the way so many of us see our presence on social media?
I thought it was totally awesome when my Twitter numbers shot up and up and up and eventually over a thousand. Then it hit me. I couldn’t find my true friends in the muddle that became of my Twitter feed. The people I really cared about were fading. One friend from before I started using Twitter as a tool, a wonderful Aussie woman who shares my love of all things cricket and Indian was harsh and kind enough to point out to me that she hadn’t been reading my blog as much because it was all about writing. Man, that hurt! Why? Because I really, really like her and her comments made me feel like I’d been untrue to a friend.
One of the consistent pieces of advice I have heard from top name writers is that it’s essential to write what you love. If you write what you feel passionate about, what you want to read, no matter what the market is doing it will stir a reader’s soul. I live by this notion. Now I am coming to see that it holds true for social media as well. My new theory is this: Only devote as much time to social media as you feel comfortable and passionate about doing.
I like to post an occasional bon mot on Twitter. I did it before I began “working” it and I will continue doing it. And yes, I’ll still post links to my blog posts three times a day. I’ll even occasionally follow new people in the future. But Twitter, the honeymoon is over. I’m not in love with you anymore. I have no desire to spend hours searching through hashtags or looking for followers with similar interests to mine. It just isn’t what moves me. So the time has come to stop forcing myself to put effort into it.
Facebook, on the other hand, I still love. Why? Is it because there are more users there? More ways to promote my work and network with like-minded seekers? Nope. It’s simply because it has pretty pictures and I can type more than 140 characters and have real, live conversations with people. I like people. That’s the point. Facebook allows me to see them and “like” them and join in with conversations. I owe a lot of the thanks for this discovery and for my Facebook author friends to the brilliance that is Novel Publicity. Yeah, you could argue that it’s the same “throw your net wide to catch a few good fish” ploy as Twitter, but in my humble opinion I think it works better. And Emlyn rocks!
Still, I don’t spend more than a few minutes every day messing around with Facebook. I do tend to check it obsessively, which is a problem, I know. But when it comes to time management, eschewing all this social media has given me back something that I was in danger of losing: time to write!
Because that’s what it’s all about. We don’t write so that we can be a part of social media. We are a part of social media because we write. It’s time to take a deep breath and remember that.