regarding Social Media.
Maybe its time to reevaluate my relationship with this time slayer we call social media. I started seriously writing in my 40s, just about the time social media became a thing. It still seems like a new thing to me, but its been around for well over a decade now. It started with a personal account on Facebook, and then it morphed to a few business pages for my writing and my old company Underground Book Reviews. Then I branched to Instagram for photography as well as a few minor apps that have come and gone. As for Twitter, it's been on and off but we are currently seeing each other...but not seriously. I leave apps like Discord and Tiktok to the next generation. Frankly, there are so many apps that I find it exhausting.
Lately, I find myself asking "Why?" Why do I feel the need to even have one social media account, let alone three or four? Is my life richer for the experience? Was I better off before? What do I get out of all this time I've spent with my face in an app?
Well, I enjoy seeing what my friends and relatives are up to. On second thought, do I really? There is an awful lot of drama on the inter webs, and if someone close to me really needs my help they know my number.
I like being able to contact people. Well, some people. Actually, I have a phone, too. There are also a lot of people I don't want to be contacted by. I also don't enjoy people knowing too much about me. In fact, there is way too much information about be on the interwebs as it is.
I like to post photos and look at friends' photos, but why am I really posting it? Some are for business, but as for the other images, like family events, I could just as easily text those the image to those who actually care to look at them. Maybe I should think twice about posting those photos. Isn't it all really about attention and vanity if am brutally honest with myself? After seeing all these Tiktok videos bleeding over onto Facebook, its becoming apparent our society is taking the definitions of "vanity" and "narcissist" to new levels every day.
Speaking of vanity, nothing is more vain than being a political blowhard on social media (guilty, guilty, guilty). I don't think anyone really gives a damn what I think about politics, and that's okay. So why even post it?
There is also news on social media, right? Social media is good for posting news stories, and therefore can be educational and informative. True, but we've also learned in the past decade a lot of that news and educational material can be false or heavily skewed. Perhaps I should be more careful when reading and posting.
It also makes me uncomfortable to think about how much I whip out my phone just to mindlessly doom scroll, like a smoker taking another drag. I know its not healthy, I'm self-conscious of it, but I do it anyway. But if I didn't, how would I be able to look at the latest funny cat meme?
Some days I think the only redeeming element of social media is funny memes and videos. I mean, there is some really funny and insightful stuff out there. Cat memes are truly the only thing I would miss about social media if I were to ever walk away. Is it even possible to walk away?
It's everywhere. Many non-social media websites and apps have some element of social media built into their user interface. Social media seems to plug into every other aspect of our culture and lives. We're steeped in it like a teabag left too long in the water. It leeches us, and makes us physiologically pale. It has become impossible to extricate SM from the fabric of our culture. Case in point, as much as I hate to admit it, I will eventually share this blog post on social media.
Can we really escape it? Should we even escape it? While I estimate I have lost a full year of productive writing because of social media, I also got a photography book deal because of it. Social media is truly a two-edged sword, with great promise and dangers.
Personal Social Media Experience.
My social media experience has two flavors: Personal and professional. The personal journey started with Facebook just about the time I retired from the military. In the years since, Facebook has been a great way to keep in touch , both through good times and tragedy. I've reconnected with old friends from high school, college and the service. I've made new friends from all over the world. Its been fantastic to connect with those that share my same interests, such as writing and photography. In the early days, before censorship, algorithms, privacy issues, and unbridled monetization twisted our social media experiences, it was fun. Social media has even taught me some life-lessons.
Social media taught me my that my 20 years in the service, and perhaps my upbringing in rural Alabama, put me in a "bubble." In the military I thought (wrongly) most Americans viewed the world like me and shared my values. Social media's wide-open, uncensored early days showed me how naive I was.
Social media taught me there are only two unwinnable conflicts: Nuclear war and debating on social media.
I also learned through interactions on social media that the generations behind me are vastly different than those that had come before. They think differently and don't share many of the older generations' values by an order of magnitude, especially those who are college-educated. They read fewer books. Most have never read any portion of the Bible, from either a religious or secular perspective. Many are overly hostile to any religion without the least acknowledgement of faith's critical role in human civilization. Most American young college graduates are unfamiliar with the US Constitution or any of the important documents that led to its writing. They are technically far more savvy and advanced than those who came before, but lack the foundational culturally building blocks that define their western culture. In fact, many are openly hostile to their own culture and civilization. Labels and slogans have replaced objective truth and critical thought. All that is "new" is morally right. All that came before is "bad," including history, philosophy, faith, and even science. They are obsessed with race, genitalia, identity but they have no idea who they are, or what they want, or where they are going. They are easily outraged and offended and feel like mob in search of a riot. Once again, this is a general observation and does NOT apply to everyone younger than me, especially any young people currently reading this - you are special and definitely the exception.
As a result, I found myself interacting less and less with some younger people on social media because, frankly, they aren't much fun and they scare me just a little. I also found many people my age also interact less often on social media, too. Maybe we're been turned off by the rise of censorship and fact checking. I think a lot of older people really don't want to support many of these platforms. Social media companies have proven untrustworthy and don't have their customer's best interest in mind , and they've proven too cozy with big government.
Taken as a whole, my personal social media is locked down tight and I generally restrict it to Facebook. If one is not an immediate family or a close personal/non-work friend, you're on the "acquaintance /restricted" list. Sorry, it's nothing personal, it's simply privacy and protection. The older I get, the less I'm interested in the world seeing my personal business. Also, I see many people getting hacked, especially older people, and I want no part of that.
I still post family events, personal achievements, the occasional funny meme and even political opinions, but not very often. My posting is becoming less and less as the years go by. I see a day when I'll walk away entirely. The only reason I'm still there is because of my writing and photography, but that is hanging by a thread.
Writing and Photography Social Media
When I started writing my fellow writers said I needed a platform. So I got a platform. Its also how I got into blogging. At first, the platform-thing worked pretty good. Prior to 2016 I used to sell books using Facebook as an advertising tool. I used to get hundreds of clicks when advertising on that platform. In fall of 2016 everything dried up. It was like someone threw a switch. Now, an advertising dollar doesn't stretch near as far on Facebook. I abandoned Twitter in 2016 when the trolls and garbage became overwhelming. I recently returned hoping under Musk the platform had gotten better. It didn't and it's clear I'm not going to find a readership out there. In the early days of Instagram, one of my images could get 20 or more likes easily. Today, I'm lucky to get 6.
In all these SM cases, it became clear there was an algorithm behind the scenes that needed appeasing, and obviously I wasn't appeasing it. I began to feel like I'd been put in a digital cage, and the price for breaking out was too high. It was also obvious that algorithm could change without notice. It also became clear in the revelation of the Twitter Files, that shadow banning and "social-media scores" were actually real. And I don't want to appease Algorithm. I'm sick of the Algorithm.
I keep hearing to get a social media following you need content - lots of content. I have content, its called my books. I can either write and take photos, or I can spend hours upon hours honing an online presence in hope of appeasing some hidden and mysterious daemon to reach readership. I don't have the time, energy or inclination to spend the precious moments of my life trying to get a few more clicks. Sure, I'd like to sell more books and prints, but it's not worth it. In fact, it destroys my creative process.
I'm good with that. I'm at peace with that.
So what's my advertising and marketing plan on social media going forward? You're looking at it. I'll continue to blog here, and occasionally post those blogs to Facebook, Instagram and maybe Twitter. I'm also on Vero, but that place is a ghost town. Mostly what I plan to do is write and take photos and create. That's where I want to apply my efforts. I also plan to use in-person appearances to get the word out.
The Way Forward
I think social media, and the internet in general, held so much promise in the beginning. In the early days, before the corporate giants took it over, it was algorithm-free. No one and nothing stood between you and everyone else. There were no filters, no shadow banning, no fact-checkers, no social credit scores, - just you and the rest of humanity connected instantly. The people were different back then, too. I don't fully understand the people on the other side of the screen anymore. What I see out there doesn't bode well for our species. I really don't want to interact with those people for fear I may become one of them. I'd rather interact with those people I see out here in the real world, those that smile and shake your hand and have manners.
You are welcome to disagree with me, but I've reached a point in life I've come to trust my own observations and instincts. Social media and the internet was once wonderful. And now it's gone. I'll hang around the social media interwebs for professional reasons for another year or two, and see if anything changes. After that, I see no reason to stay.
I am a member of Gen X, the last generation who will remember the world before the internet and social media. Last I checked, the real world was still there. I think I'm grab my camera, hop on my motorcycle, and go explore it. I'll crawl back into my bubble and shadow ban the world, thank you very much. Maybe I'll drop a post on Facebook about it. Maybe I won't.
(picks up phone and begins to doom scroll)
#socialmedia #essay #culture #facebook #twitter #instagram #vero #theillusionexotic
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