Inevitability and the One-Way Mirror of Social Media
I honestly don’t know how some writers are able to post as much as they do on social media, not to mention get good at it. I work a full-time job and have a family—not to mention other interests—yet I make sure I write every day (yes, of course I miss a day here and there to sickness or despair, but mostly it’s every day). That means every lunch break, every weekend, and as many weeknights as possible are spent toiling away at my craft. This has made me good at what I do, and it’s allowed me to produce two (so far unpublished) novels and a veritable slew of short stories and poems (many published, many not).
What my dedication and sacrifice have not done is leave me with the wherewithal to engage in a lot of online monkeyshines at the end of the day. My best writing goes into the work that pays (be it ever so little). My second best writing go into this blog. What I post elsewhere is largely an effort to keep my name in front of people, because recognition can fade fast in the world of letters—especially now that anyone with a smidge of computer literacy can make yet another shitty book appear in the world and distract eyeballs from work of merit (whether self-published or not).
Part of the problem is that you have to enjoy social media to use it well, as with anything. Well, sometimes I can love social media a little bit, but only a little bit … and not very often, or for very long. That’s a problem, because its value to writers is obvious. You can use it to peddle your wares, of course. It also connects you with books and writers you want to be made aware of. It brings to your attention potential markets for submitting your work. It even allows you to interact with the occasional bigwig. And of course there truly is a sense of community lurking beneath the surface of snide puffery and popularity-contest congeniality that dominates.
But is social media good for us as human beings? I’m not sure this question matters very much when it comes to technology. Launch first and ask questions later. That’s the 21st-century mindset. Whatever comes as a consequence can be written off as inevitable. Change comes too quickly for much to be done about it. How can this not be leading us to a precipice? It reminds me of a line that Robin Williams once delivered in an interview with David Letterman (maybe one of his stock lines at the time): “I was violating my standards faster than I could lower them.” Is that inevitability or simply the shunning of responsibility (even if only for comic effect)?
Maybe, in the end, social media truly is an inevitable by-product of the Internet, though. Remember when everyone in the late ’90s was hollering about what a game-changer the Internet was? Well, it turns out they were right. Social media is part of the changed game, just like one-click purchasing from our phones, 24/7 streaming of music and movies, and open access to most of the world’s greatest literature. You know, content. (That’s become inevitable, too.)
Anyway, you don’t like the glitz and glaze of the technological era? Go ahead and carry on without social media. But can you? Can you really, as a writer, make it without Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, at a minimum? Who would spread the word of your accomplishments? Your mom? Your cat? Some days I think I’m on the brink of finding out for myself. Part of me wants to leave it all behind and continue scribbling away in obscurity until I stumble upon the agent/editor/publisher who places as little value on my “social media platform” as I do.
Hell, maybe I’m just getting old. I guess it was inevitable.