Is social media hurting your craft?

How much time do you spend on social media sites and apps in an effort to promote your work? Is it hurting your craft?

Consider that many people who contact you (via follows, likes, adding to circles, video responses, &c.) are not actually interested in your work. It’s a sad truth of social media. There are those that are genuinely interested, and those are the people that make connecting via social media sites worth it. Some you connect with seem to immediately start spamming you (with robo-posts, incessant re-tweets, re-blogs, or shares) to the point where your feeds become just noise. And others seem to like your posts or follow you merely to draw you in to their content, never commenting on your posts. (And let’s be honest, after a while, the excuse of “just didn’t have anything relevant to add” just doesn’t add up.) I’ve even had people lie to me about buying my books. And let’s not forget that some apps and sites allow the ability to mute posts so who knows if some of your followers and contacts are ever seeing what you post?

It’s taken me a while to learn some hard lessons about social media. On other blogs which I’ve contributed to, there’s been a lot of traffic and that traffic built up over time. It grew ‘organically’ through a growing readership which came from commenting on blogs and forums that we’d taken a genuine interest in. It never sought traffic, it was just a hobby, and it grew and grew almost despite itself. Now traffic comes whether it’s actively involved with social media or not. In some ways, I have to wonder as others have (linkage below) whether or not social media has, in general, jumped the shark.

So what happens when we have something we wish to share and sell? Can we connect with people and have similar ‘organic’ relationships? I think yes and no. Yes, in that there can be the same kind of naturally occurring and developing relationships which start small and grow more intimate over time. And no, in that many will not want to interact with us from the start on the sole grounds that we have something for sale in the first place. My social psychology background reminds me of these quirks of human behavior.I won’t get into it all in this post, but suffice it to say, by and large many of our actions are motivated by self-interest, even one’s we think aren’t. It’s a slippery slope. I’ve had some extremely positive interactions with people via social media, and some quite negative ones as well. Anyone ever post their content to Reddit?

Recently I realized that I’d become micro-focused on social media for promotion. In terms of results, it’s been a mixed bag. On the whole, it hasn’t achieved what I was aiming for. The main problem I’ve faced is that I’ve become entangled in social media sites in a way that has started to bother me. I’ve found myself rather compulsively checking numbers; compulsively checking up on sites that I’m following; compulsively coming up with new content for the blog and YouTube channel. Are you compulsive with social media?

And then one day it hit me. It should have been more obvious earlier on, but I’m not always as self-aware as I’d like to be. I’d been spending too much time online and not enough time writing.

This was an unsettling realization. I’d eclipsed that narrow field between being a writer and social media promoter of things I’d already written. Obviously, I’m drawing an extreme line in the sand; there is some room for both, but I’d drifted away from my main focus. Has this happened to you?

After coming to this realization and reading a couple of recent posts (Nicholas Carr[1], and timethief[2]), I decided that the best thing for me to do is limit my time on social media to a certain time window each day. I completely removed myself from facebook last year, and I may take those steps on other sites, but for now I’m going to limit my time. Why?

Because it seems to me that I can either spend my time, mental effort, concentration, and energy writing, or I can spend that time in the refresh-button, stat-checking, distracted, and anxious frame of mind that bean counting can lead to. I didn’t want to end up behaving like that, but like all humans who resemble rats in an operant conditioning box, I too had succumb.

The next day, I shut everything off. I spent more time writing on that day than on any social media. It was liberating. Of course it was. I was more focused, better able to settle into the ‘open mode’ as John Cleese calls it, and not give any thoughts to what is going on ‘out there’. I don’t think spending the lion’s share of my time on social media is going to make a huge difference in my readership or book sales. I think spending some time in a positive way, engaging with people and work I’m truly interested in may have some effect, but I think that there are diminishing returns the more time you spend on it. I also don’t think setting up robo-posting is a good idea. I’ve done it, and it just seems to annoy people. I’d rather manually re-post something now and again, as part of my allotted time.

However, I DO think that spending the lion’s share of my time on social media, for whatever reason, will hurt my craft, in more ways than one. The lost time, energy, focus, all add up to less output on things that are truly meaningful. Ultimately, the rewards one gets from writing and making progress at one’s craft are immeasurable and not worth sacrificing for anything one can get from social media exposure.

Is social media hurting your craft?


[1] http://www.roughtype.com/?p=3077
[2] http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2013/03/21/blogging-bean-counting-and-social-networking/

Image above linked from this site.

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