Social Media as Magic Mirror

mirrormirrorI’ve been thinking so much about the whole social media universe lately. My thoughts are not all sweetness and light. In fact, I’m feeling pretty dark about social media these days. I think it is due for a shakeup!

Here is an example. Have you visited Wattpad.com? I just heard about it a couple weeks ago and decided to check it out. Wattpad is a platform that allows you to post your book or short story or other pieces of writing (read: fan fiction) from your profile. You can follow other writers. You can collect a library. You can create a reading list. It’s pretty cool. It’s also pretty young. In fact, Wattpad.com seems to be a huge collective of many, many young (ages 14-22 I’m guessing) writers, kids who are used to a dynamic of “following” and “following back” that is akin to a smile–something polite and nice to do to make the other person and yourself feel good, but not an actual indication that he or she is actually going to read your work.

Because, how many writers(bloggers/Tweeters/Instagramers/Pinners, etc.) can one person actually read/follow/interact with? Certainly not 700…or even 350 or 200!

I think it is the same with all social media, including Facebook and Instagram and the like. People may “like” you or “follow” you, but it MAY be only a feel-good,reciprocal thing with no real intention of visiting again, or a politeness thing, or maybe even a way of trying to entice you to visit their account in hopes they get one more tick on the counter. Or, less cynically, maybe they stumbled onto your account and liked what they saw enough to give you a “like” or a “follow,” but your posts then become so lost in the avalanche of notifications piling onto the erstwhile follower’s in-box or notification tab that he/she never stumbles back onto your page again.

In this way, your follower number on your social media account(s) becomes nothing more than a meaningless numeral, or at best a tally of notches on your belt. Certainly it is not an indicator of real readership.

I’m told (by young people) that this doesn’t bother them at all. This meaningless number is fine in a world of people who are interested only in self-expression. For them, social media is a magic mirror. The larger the number, the bigger the mirror, but it is still reflecting back only one image. The Self.

I post, therefore I am?

But what about actual communication/community? What about the real spread of ideas?

I’m wondering if the only way this will be sustainable will be people coming together (the way planets formed after the big bang) to create their own worlds within worlds, so to speak. Social circles. We’ve seen the big bang, the social media explosion. It has happened.

Perhaps now people will combine naturally into their smaller social media circles–communicating with each other, reading each other’s posts, commenting, adding to collective knowledge so that an individual piece becomes more of a springboard or topic sentence for the larger “work.” A collective piece of art. If this is how things end up, a blogger with 10,000 followers could not be considered more successful than one with 1000. In fact the one with 100 might be considered MORE successful, especially if those 100 actually read and comment on the work and vice versa. In fact, 100 might be too many.

How many blog posts do YOU read in one day? How many do you comment on? And do you read the comments of other followers?

I predict there will be a weeding out frenzy soon as we come to realize we are all just hanging our posts/work on a wall and gazing into the mirror 99% of the time. Or maybe I’m just getting too cynical.

And to that end, I’m going to do some housekeeping. It is time to officially pare down my “following” and “friends” and “likes” lists. If I’m not really and truly interested in investing my time in a social media site, I’m going to delete it. Please do the same here. I won’t take it personally. In fact, I’ll applaud you.

And to my real, constant readers out there…thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond in the little time you have in your day for such activities.

7 responses to “Social Media as Magic Mirror

  1. Nice points! I try not to put anything on my like list that I don’t truly have an interest in. Most of my “Like” sites are authors that I read on a regular basis or book sites that keep me updated on the newest releases. I pare down my friend’s list now and then but think of it more as a contact list. People I don’t necessarily interact with all the time but who I might want to touch base with in the future. I also only have one social media account. Maybe we should go back to a good old fashioned letter in the mail but we’ve become an instant gratification society.

    • I am trying to weed out my Facebook friend list right now and you are right! I don’t necessarily want to lose contact with these people. (I’m at just under 200, so I think that is actually a manageable contact list.) Something you said here really resonates with me, as a writer. You “like” or “follow” writers you are already reading. You probably do not find authors by discovering their Facebook or blog randomly. It’s time for me to rethink what role blogging/social media will play in my writerly pursuits.

  2. Read your post Shelley AND am posting here for the first time. I enjoy reading your blog. Keep meaning to ‘pear down’ my lists and reorganize a bit myself, so thanks for the incentive Shelley. Nz

  3. I have many of the same misgivings. I avoided social media for a long time, but I wanted to blog (I’ve always kept a journal, but hitting that “publish” button seemed a better way to maintain the discipline, and also to think about content and quality before I put it out there) and joined facebook to put the blog where my family and friends could easily access it if they wanted to – or not. I’m careful what, beyond blog entries, I post. Sometimes it seems like a useful tool for keeping in touch – or aware – of family and friends. Sometimes it is overwhelming and ridiculous. The last election almost caused me to abandon it all. I see others succeed at it, but the way that I manage all of it, it isn’t a good way for me to promote my art or my writing. So my participation level has to be just what I want for personal satisfaction. Thoughtful post!

    • And Cindy, you are one of the people I consider part of my “blogging circle.” I like to read your posts, and it has been intriguing to see how you have developed your style here on WordPress. Many of your posts speak to me on a personal level. I will continue to “follow” you as long as you are posting.

  4. Ironically, I picked up a few more followers after this post.

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