The Ultimate Frenemy: 8 Ways Social Media Makes Me Hate Myself
Social Media is An Insurmountable Tidal Wave of Computer Coding
If the past year has taught me anything, it's that, at some point between college graduation and quitting my job as a teacher, I completely and utterly lost touch with the world. You would think that spending my days with hundreds of teenagers would keep me well in the loop. For example, I learned about Snapchat a mere year after it arrived on the scene ... because with it, kids were sending images of their privates.
Oh, extremely-overworked-Emily-of-2012, you are like an American tourist in Internet Paris. And the teenagers have been living and breathing Internet Paris since before they could properly use "literally" ... which might be never.
But what good is proper grammar these days? I'll tell you: goose egg. As anyone knows, the only path to success is either through an expert handling of social media, or the running of a creative food truck (and even then, as seen in the movie "Chef", social media is a must).
The stranglehold that is the Social Media Tidal Wave has me feeling like this:
[A meme of Mulan making a fool of herself in the army camp]
See? I don't know how to search for or create a meme. THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!
Before I fall asleep at night, when I should be saying my prayers, I give myself a headache imagining all the ways I am internet inept. I am a slave to the likes, the comments, the follows, the shares, the retweets, and the favorites -- all of which are hypothetical. The desperation with which I want to be noticed on the internet is painfully mingled with an innate repulsion of those who are popular on the internet. It is the only thing I want. It is the last thing I want.
Allow me to elaborate using the numbered-list-system, adopted from trending internet articles, because simple paragraphs would make you feel like you're reading. Plus, I don't have to use any pesky transitional sentences, or bother to order these ideas logically. On the other hand, I will have to make every sixth sentence bold so that you can simply piece together what you think this article is about and move on with your day.
1. The Elusive "Platform"
According to the internet, I need to assemble a mass of subscribers, collect their email addresses, and think of fun contests and giveaways with which to entertain them. All this must happen before I have anything published. This unattainable goal has me salivating so frantically for followers, that I catch myself secretly wishing I had the glamorous problem of "internet trolls" to deal with. At the same time, of course, I detest these slimy creatures of the technology ether. They make me feel so sorry for the well-intentioned bloggers out there -- but they should come over to my website -- but they should be put in jail! -- but maybe before they go to jail, they could help with my blog traffic ...
2. Internet Friends
According to the internet, I must seek out like-minded bloggers, comment on their blogs, invite them to read my blog, offer to "guest blog," read their bios, send them chocolates, complement their hair, give them gift certificates to the Container Store ...
Eh? What? Why? Even for the internet, that seems a pretty self-interested relationship. But so many people are doing it! Every so often, I will find a Twitter account that is apparently really successful. "11.9K followers!" I say as I delve into the profile. "Oh wait, 11.5K following ..." This is a person who has rendered his Twitter feed utterly useless for the sake of the ridiculously high volume of followers, over half of whom are doing the exact same thing. So, in effect, no one is following anyone.
If you reach out to me and we have nothing in common except that we write blogs, I'm going to think you are a creep. Is that unfair? It didn't used to be. In the days of AIM, it was a widely accepted practice to reject all unknown persons communicating via the internet. They were guaranteed sex offenders. Now it's ok? But, I don't want internet friends! I very, very carefully selected my real life friends.
And yet, I do want internet friends. I am desperate for internet friends!
3. The People I Aspire to Don't Have to Do Any of This
As a hopeful writer, I am beholden to literary agents, the gatekeepers of the publishing world. Want to know how many of said agents have hoppin' blogs and cutting edge Instagram accounts? That would be zero. How about my favorite authors? Yeah, they tweet like, every full moon.
Riddle me this: I am required to impress agents and publishers with my internet prowess, when the authors I am chasing are virtual ghosts and don't have to spend any time on the internet because, you know, they have real jobs they need to get to. Their websites get plenty of traffic, not because they are wizards with favicons and RSS feeds, but because they wrote wonderful books. Am I crazy, here?
4. I Post So Much, I Annoy Myself
All the experts say, you must post regularly. At all costs, keep the www.tumbleweeds out of your website. I like blogging, because at least it is a form of writing. But I have ten Pinterest boards; how can I possibly keep these topped off at all times? Not to mention Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Google Plus.
Will you enter into the #tbhzone with me? I only subscribe to blogs that are updated every week or less. I unfollow anyone on Facebook that posts articles or pictures of themselves more than once a day. Ok, fine, even some who post once a day.
At the same time, I must spend between 6 and 10 hours a week posting and linking and cropping and editing and publishing to the interwebs. Why would I expect people to start following me? I am irritating even to myself.
5. Children Are Wiping the Floor with Me
The target audience of my novel consists of people who are far better equipped to navigate social media than I. If I were ever to try and reach out to the age group that would be reading my book, my toughest competition would be their friends from school. Literally. I just had lunch with a former student of mine, who informed me that her 14 year old sister has 1,000 Instagram followers. Are you comprehending this? This is a girl who has no professional agenda whatsoever, is only taking pictures of her friends and maybe her backyard, and she already is a more appealing candidate to write a book than I am.
How ... what ... is this reality?
6. How Do Tweets Help Develop My Craft?
Somehow, I seem more legitimate as a writer if I have a strong internet presence. I can't help but think how much better a writer I would be if I could devote all these hours of studying hashtags to actually writing.
7. I Write Stories Because I Want to Counter the Screen-Addicted Culture
And yet, I have never spent so much time on the internet.
8. Since When Did Creative People Have to be Likable?
What really gets me is that the internet people are not my people, and yet I need them to like me before I can get anyone to read what is actually interesting about me, which is that I write good stories, so that I can get the people I wanted to like me in the first place ... to like me.
Name a single successful American author before the internet that was a poster-child for affability. I dare you.
Sitcom actors are supposed to be likable. Politicians are supposed to be likable. Car salesmen are supposed to be likable. I am supposed to write well.
Be Grateful Anyway
Well, it sure felt good to rant. But, let's face it. Thirty years ago, the gatekeepers were much more imposing. It really is a great gift to now be able to reach out to readers directly, start one's own blog or website without anyone's permission, and even publish one's own work with ebooks, etc. There is much more responsibility handed over to me in this age, but that means that more of my future is in my hands. It won't get me anywhere to give up and do this writing thing Emily Dickinson style. If I want to live to see my own success, I've got to do my best to adapt, maintain my integrity, and always be open to learning (even if I am learning while cranky).
In the end, social media is a great advantage, but, oh boy, does it come at a price!