Stepping Back From Socials
(This one's mostly for the creatives and small business owners, but social media has its grip on all of us.)
The first thing you hear when you want to be an author is that you have to have a social media presence. That you likely won't get picked up by an agent if you don't, and if you're indie, you might as well not even bother if you don't have a certain number of followers.
I published my first book without any social media presence, and it didn't do well. I also didn't market it, or look into any other form of marketing at all. For my second book, I had a small following on Instagram, and it did a bit better. After more than a year and about two thousand followers, I published The Forest Witch and she's been the most successful so far.
But, I've still never used any other form of marketing. I'm not good at it, honestly, and I don't even know where to start. That's not entirely true. Amazon ads, sites like Reedsy or NetGalley, applying to book boxes, etc. I know they're out there, but the thought of trying to figure it all out is petrifying. And it gets expensive fast. I'm not exactly rolling in dough at the moment. Most indie authors don't so much as break even on their books for a long time, let alone make a profit.
All that being said, I've always had a complicated relationship with social media. As someone with a highly addictive personality, I try to avoid things like gambling and alcohol because I know myself. I don't put myself in a position to get out of control. When it comes to social media, I blow it off. It's for connection, I say. For marketing. I have to put myself out there, or nobody will know I'm a writer!
I ignore the detrimental effects of social media, the addictive qualities, and the deep seated competition and negativity. And I've been fortunate on socials, for the most part. For the handful of truly horrible experiences I've had, most interactions have been positive or at least neutral.
The thing is, social media in itself is a competition. My partner, otherwise known as The Man, calls it a beauty contest. And it's not always about the poster as much as the content they create. You have to stay up on trends, create gorgeous graphics and do brilliant photo edits to get attention - you know, engagement. Your reach is only as good as your skill. And now, IG in particular is going to focus on promoting video instead of photos.
Perhaps I have a boomer mentality. Maybe I just don't want to change. But, the fact remains - I'm done. I've known it was time to step away for a long time, and this is just perfect timing.
When I took a break from socials in March, I wrote an entire novel. Three full drafts. Total of about 180,000 words between them. Plus the collection of shorts I call Bondmates. All of that, in a month. More than 200,000 words! Because I'm capable of massive amounts of work, if I'm focused.
As much as I love my writing community and seeing what everyone is doing, socials take up too many of my spoons.
You've heard of the spoon theory, right? As someone with chronic illness, it really resonates with me. I only have so much energy in a day, and I have to be careful of how and where I use it. The same goes for my social battery and creativity. My social battery is very small. I talk to 20-30 people in DMs on average each day on IG. If I talked to that many people in person, I'd be curled up in the fetal position completely drained. (I'm not kidding.) It's easier on socials, because I'm multitasking. I'm folding laundry and voice messaging. Answering messages while I write or cook dinner. Scroll while I'm getting ready for bed.
A lot of that comes down to self control. Something I'm working on in all areas of life. I've tried setting better boundaries with socials several times, but always fail. It's just too convenient to grab for my phone.
When it comes to creativity, socials take a lot of that as well. Creating posts, editing photos, planning the grid, posting stories... I could just post randomly and not plan, but I am nothing if not intense. It's all or nothing, baby. If I'm going to take the time to post, it's going to be good, or it's not going to be seen, and why even bother?! (That's the exact mental process I go through every time.)
I spend my social battery to the point I withdraw from my family and friends, and I spend my creativity on posts, and then I feel...empty. And I'm not alone. Many of people have echoed that sense of hollowness surrounding social media. Even if you're having great conversations, they don't replace in person interaction.
This past year (going on two) has reshaped how we function as a society. Messaging and video calls have taken over, and it was necessary to keep us all safe. But as social media grows, so does depression. Anxiety. Impostor syndrome.
I watch my insta-friends talk about their lack of inspiration, their struggles with feeling like they're not enough, and yet we just keep coming back for more.
A couple weeks ago, I ordered a Light Phone II. It's specifically designed to be used less, and will never have social media or internet capabilities. In all honesty, it's just what the doctor (therapist) ordered. Taking a step back, refocusing on my work and family, and learning how to use my time (and spoons) more effectively.
I knew that meant I'd have to rethink my plan for socials, and then our good friend Adam Mosseri posted his video about the direction IG is going. That was the push I needed to finally feel at peace with my decision to step back.
My current plan is to focus on this site and blog. This is my personal space that I can shape to reflect who I am and what my work represents. I'm also going to tidy up my Amazon author page and do some Pinterest boards for the books (and Spotify playlists). My IG will remain active and I'm posting a static grid so to speak, with information on the Tales of Unara series. That way, I can touch base with my friends there and stay up to date on authors who don't have an Amazon author page or a website.
Something that helps is knowing that not all authors have social media. Zadie Smith or Tana French, for example. Other authors have it, but rarely use it. They're out there living life and writing books, not worrying about social media.
Life existed before socials, and it will exist long after they're gone. Today it's TikTok, tomorrow it will be something else, and instead of trying to keep up, I'm just going to be me. A hermit writer in the woods, who blogs sometimes and pumps out a couple hundred thousand words each month, only to tear them apart.
And life will be grand.