Let’s just go ahead and get this out there.
I hate social media.
There. I said it.
I hate it with a deep and abiding passion.
It‘s a lot more complicated.
I mean, a LOT.
As of right this moment, I would consider myself extremely active on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Business, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest…the list goes on. I’m active on each and every one, and I’m on them almost every single day. Yes, I know what you’re thinking — I literally just said I hate social media.
So why then, all the sites? Why do it if it’s so antithetical to happiness?
It turns out I’m an author. And an artist. Virtually all my wares appear online in one form or another. And to be honest, I’m not famous enough for these things to sell themselves. Without daily, active, highly-engaged social media marketing, I’d most likely have to give up the dream and go back to working a 9–5 office job. Which, to be fair, is just as terrifying as toiling away on social media. I figure at least when I’m clicking, posting, and responding online, I’m doing so in a tank top and shorts, in my bed, far from the horrors of corporate office life.
So what’s the trouble with social media, aside from the vast time-suck?
For starters, let’s list a few:
- You don’t know most of the people to whom you’re talking. They could be anyone, and they could be anywhere. What’s in a profile pic these days? Not much. Unless you’ve actually met the flesh and blood human on the other end of your latest tweet, you don’t know them. At all. More importantly, you don’t know what they want. And in many cases, you don’t even know whether or not they’re real. The person who just followed you might not be a person at all. Think about it…
- The endless cycle of reciprocation. While not as much of a problem on Facebook, when one uses Twitter and Instagram to pitch art and books, one must be prepared to give far more than one receives. These days, I spend as much time retweeting and liking fellow artists’ posts as I do creating my own, whether or not I like approve of what these people are saying. If I didn’t do this, the reciprocation cycle would end and my audience would shrink. This is how it works. It’s a shark tank out there, and if you don’t feed the sharks, they’ll turn right around and eat you
- Creepers, stalkers, and people who think every social media site is for dating. Yes, I’m a guy. And yes, I’m fully aware I don’t suffer nearly the amount of harassment as the ladies. Even so…every day, every week, every month, I deal with followers who aren’t at all interested in my paintings or my books. These ladies are after validation, compliments, idle flirting, and romance. An innocuous like on one of my posts becomes a “Hey, nice painting” in my inbox. And then the “Hey, nice painting” becomes something entirely unsettling. And then it becomes a dance between me not wanting to be rude to a fellow human and me having to say “Please go away and look for love from someone else.”
- The personal toll. This one is the hardest. In building a social media empire, one must be very, very careful to keep internet life and real life separate. So far, I’ve done well, but likely not well enough. Even though in my heart I know my goals on social media are highly specific and definitely have an endgame, it’s not always an easy sell to the people I care about in real life. “Why are you online so often?” “Who was that woman you were friendly with on Twitter?” “Are you suuuure you’re only there to market?” — these are some pretty typical questions I’ve been asked. And no matter my answers, I have many times seen the doubt in the eyes of those close to me. It’s at times like these I wonder, “Is this really worth it? Am I selling out? Am I really shrugging off compliments, flirty women, and questionable content…and staying humble?”
Well? Am I?
At the end of each day, is being on social media purely as an artist, author, and purveyor of the occasional off-color meme worthwhile? Yes. Mostly. For every weirdo, creeper, latch-on lady, or inappropriate person, there are hundreds of legitimately cool people out there. Fantastic artists lie around every corner of Instagram. On Twitter exists a thriving culture of authors, philosophers, poets, and curators of excellent content. And on Facebook, well…there’s always cat videos.
But the dark side is real.
It’s expensive, not in terms of money, but in terms of personal welfare and the welfare of those closest to me.
And every day I wage a small war in my heart against it.
In a six-year career on social media, I’ve experienced some truly great things. Great personalities. Hilarious jokes. Wonderful ideas to expand and open the mind.
And of course, epic-level books sales (the whole point of it all.)
But I’ve also dealt with…
- Writers who claim to be best-selling authors, but who become furious when it’s pointed out they’ve published one brief book with no sales (and which contains giant grammatical chasms.) In other words, liars
- Social justice warriors invading my benevolent feed to loudly state the half-boob in one of my paintings makes me nothing more than a ‘sexist, chauvinist pig.) Does it? Asking for a friend…
- Woman posing as art collectors who buy no art, but who gradually increase the flirt level until I’m forced to block or ignore them
- Exes posing as other people
- People who think everything is a platform for their politics
- And the one author who tried to get me to support his book (which spoke of the ‘many virtues of pedophilia.’) Gross, dude. Get help
And so the battle inside me rages on. It’s sometimes small, sometimes massive, and yet I take some heart knowing I’m not the only one. I’m betting there are silent legions of fellow humans out there who feel the same, who struggle with wanting to look their friends in the eyes (as opposed to through a monitor) and who feel the pressure and desire to escape social media and never, ever come back.
I know you’re out there.
We’re not meant to be these distant creatures who create mere avatars for our real lives, and who so often toil alone behind our screens.
The image we present online — it’s false. We must never forget this. Even if we’re utterly honest while posting, we are not collections of memes, profile pictures, and likes. We’re still human behind it all.
At least, I hope we are.
More importantly, I hope you’re human, too…and not another latch-on creeper.
As I close out this collection of thoughts, one last bit of irony hits me. As soon as this is published, I’ll share it across every single one of my social media accounts.
…or maybe not.
J Edward Neill
Come see me here.