I joined Instragram this week.
...whyilovemelbourne...(in case you’d like to join me.)
I joined because I love sharing photos of the quirky, interesting city I live in. And sharing them on my Fakebook page is pointless because FAKEBOOK will only share it with 3 my 1021 close personal friends, unless I pay for the privilege of spreading it further.
Facebook was my first adventure into social media. My step son joined me up years ago and I got excited for a bit when I found my long lost best friend from High School and was able to hook up with my 354,863 cousins on my father’s side (they are Irish Catholics, they know how to breed).
But as time went on Fakebook started to lose its shine. I discovered I SO don’t care what people are having for dinner. Or breakfast. Or what colour their snot is when they’re sick. And frankly other people’s happy holiday snaps make me want to draw black moustaches and big dicks on the images of their smiling children. But I persevered, because I liked knowing I wasn’t the only one getting speeding fines and having hormonal hissy fits at my family.
Following all the ‘good’ advice, I set up Kate Belle author profile and left the privacy settings wide open. Immediately I was inundated with friend requests. I got a few from men called Raymond who looked like a 23 year old Asian girls in bikinis, and some African guy in a LaCoste shirt (I HATE THOSE SHIRTS), and an Indian businessman, and someone mysteriously calling themselves Deja Vu. While there were a lot of people I knew, there were more I didn’t and the majority of them were other authors trying to sell me their books. Dubious, I accepted their friendly overtures and was overwhelmed with messages begging me to like them, like their book, read their book, promote their book, share their blog post, enter their competition – FFS – don’t they know I’ve got books of my own I’m trying to flog??
So I went to Twitter. Here was a social media platform I understood. Twitter is perfect for people like me who think they’ve got something to say every five minutes. It’s like being at a noisy cocktail party, where everyone is talking at once and no one is listening to anyone. I loved it.
But – I started to see some nasty stuff. On Twitter there are a lot of people who seem to think it’s okay to be really rude to strangers, I assume because they’re not standing in front of them and there’s no chance they will get a well deserved poke in the eye.
The other thing I noticed was my sense of invisibility increased on Twitter. Do you know that you can answer a question or respond wittily to someone’s comment and they can COMPLETELY IGNORE YOU? What’s worse is EVERYONE ELSE CAN SEE THAT THEY IGNORED YOU because your 140 characters just hangs there in the conversation like some awkward moment that won’t go away? (I’m looking directly at YOU Marieke Hardy!)
So - seeking some more civilised behaviour I joined LinkdIn. Only to discover it’s just LinkdIn. Yawn. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know what I mean.
Then I took to Pinterest. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t. Can someone explain what the point of it is? I mean – it’s just a bunch of photos I can see if I just search Google images. Save for the man eye candy – I can definitely see the point of that. It turns out I’m much, much better at LOOKING at other people’s boards than I am at pinning to my own.
Over the holidays I took a leave of absence from my 2543 friends and followers on social media. You wouldn’t believe how much extra time I had. I planted a vegetable garden. I walked the dogs. I finished a draft of my third book. I read books with my daughter. I even found time to argue with my partner. I actually talked to friends (I’m using the old dictionary definition here – people I know and have an ongoing bond of mutual affection with. Did you know that the Oxford definition of friend now includes social media contacts? I kid you not) on the PHONE – not via messages and email. As January drew to a close I found myself very reluctant to go back.
When I got back to Fakebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, Pinterest had anyone noticed me gone? Not really. I had a couple of people ask, but for the most part the post stream flowed on without my startling, witty and wise contributions.
When I asked more experienced authors in my network for advice about the role of social media in an authors life the resounding response was – ‘Nah – you don’t need it. It makes little to no difference to book sales. Choose one. Do it well. Write another great book and bugger the rest.’
Because in the weird, pre-fabricated world of social media, your presence only matters if you are there. It’s so cluttered, so chaotic, so narcissistic, most of us hardly notice who is there and who isn’t, save for the handful of people we have cultivated real relationships with. And frankly even if you are there, there’s a high risk of being ignored, of feeling envious, or even feeling bad about yourself because today is a tough day and everyone else seems to be doing it easy.
Conventional wisdom says writers MUST have a ‘social media presence’ and ‘engage with readers’ in that space. Pffft. Much of the time I’ve found myself being targeted as a potential customer on social media. I love when readers contact me, but it happens a lot less than people would have you believe.
Social media presence isn’t a rule, it’s an optional tool, it makes a great servant and a terrible master. It’s in no way the ‘holy grail’ some people make it out to be. The real holy grail is human contact, real relationships with people with whom you share an interest.
So why go to Instagram? Because it allows me to communicate with my eyes instead of words and that’s a new experience. It’s simple. The App has big fonts and buttons. There are no complex alogarithms or tricksy rules to limit my posts. And no one is trying to sell me anything simply because I’m there.
How do you feel about social media? Does it enhance your life? Or has it become a chore?