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My Social Media Paradox
When keeping up with the virtual world feels like a burden
Remember the good old days when it was all about Myspace? All you had to do was post some family photos and say, “Hey, look at this picture my kid drew at school today.” Or “Hey, look at this giant hot dog I’m eating at the ballpark today.” Then you’d follow a few family members and friends. They’d follow you back. You’d check on your account maybe once a week or so…done and done. It was simple. It was fun.
I’ve never been someone who’s enjoyed putting myself out there. I’m shy. I’m a homebody. I like my privacy and my quiet time. Also, as I’ve struggled with social anxiety most of my life, being around large groups of people is a push for me. I’ll do it, but there are days when it’s very difficult.
Yet now, with the writing of my first novel, and desiring to be traditionally published, I find myself in a very precarious and uncomfortable place. That place is the wide open, multi-platformed, sometimes unfriendly realm of social media. Long gone are the days of being snatched up by a publisher who did it all for you—all your advertising, all your connecting. It’s a new world, and it's been a new world for much longer than I’ve been willing to admit.
When I made the decision back in 2018 to follow my dream and write a novel, I basically went back to school. That would be the school of YouTube. I began following writers and published authors. I wanted to learn technique and craft, as well as all the aspects of getting published and what that would look like. I was willing to make the commitment to see the process through, whatever that process would entail. The writers/influencers I followed began to feel like dear friends to me. Their advice was golden, and I ate it up. And yet, I also knew I would need to make my own way, and learn my own lessons through the long, arduous journey of writing and publishing.
In the early days of crafting my novel, I remember some of these YouTube authors answering viewer questions, such as, ‘When should I develop an author website? When is the best time to promote myself on social media?’ Inevitably, the answer was always the same. “If you haven’t been doing it, what on earth are you waiting for?”
What am I waiting for? I’ll tell you what I’m waiting for. I don’t want to do it, that’s what I’m waiting for. I don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable for me. The very idea of promoting myself to my friends, let alone people I don’t know, plucks at every single social anxiety nerve in my body. If I were to think about it long and hard, the main reason I don’t want to promote myself on social media is because I don’t want people to think I’m trying to promote myself on social media. After all, writing isn’t a real job, right?. You don’t make any money doing it, so why would I push it on the internet?
And so, I fought. For the first year of writing my novel, I barely told anyone I was doing it. I kept it to myself, writing in silence. In the second year I opened up a little bit more, telling more and more friends that I was following my dream to write a novel, even so much as referring to myself as an actual writer from time to time. It was getting a little easier for me to be real with people, and to let them in on my personal author journey.
Still, I put off the website, and I put off developing my social media platform. In fact, I waited until my novel was complete and ready for submission to have my website developed. And let me tell you, it’s a beautiful website. I love it. It’s perfect for me, and represents all that I would want it to as relates to promoting myself. But, apparently, in this new world that we live in, just having a website is not enough. Why? Because pretty much everything; whether it's business, art, music, sports, books, cooking, gardening, church…anything that involves human beings for that matter, it all lives and breathes and moves through the internet—more specifically, through social media. It’s the truth, the new normal. It’s where our world is at right now, and probably fixed to stay there from here on out.
I’ve also been told, by more than one source, that if I’m looking to be traditionally published, the top publishers won’t even consider an author that doesn’t have a strong social media platform. They want to see that there’s already an interest and a following in what the author is creating before they’ll take the risk. It’s a business, and money is the end game. Self publishing doesn’t change this. In fact, all aspects of promotion are upon the self published author. Thus, the word “self”.
Back to me and my reasons for delaying self promotion, since I do have a few more than just my social anxiety.
First off, it’s time consuming. With so many different platforms out there, each one with its own etiquette and quirks, it takes an exorbitant amount of time to keep it all moving. It’s brain work on a level that I feel ill equipped for. The time it takes to learn how to produce content, such as pictures, memes, reels, videos, and quippy quotes—the actual fodder that is the lifeblood of each of these social platforms—for me it’s like a full time job. In other words, I’m slow.
Speaking of content…there is huge pressure to be constantly creating it. Whether you’re someone trying to brand yourself and get your name out there, or a business trying to increase sales and connect with customers, content is the way to do it. The more frequently the content is posted, the better. It’s expected, and the only way to grow a following.
Then there’s FOMO. Fear of missing out. Don’t I always need to be checking my social media? What if I miss an opportunity to connect with someone really important? What if someone posts something before I do and then their page grows faster than mine? Ugh, just typing that makes me uncomfortable.
It’s all a bit overwhelming for me. The crazy thing is, I’m not the only one. Sure, it may come easier to some. I’m sure anyone born in the 2000’s thinks it’s a breeze, and can work the expanse of the social media universe with their eyes closed. But for a Gen-Xer, like me, it’s like swimming in deep, uncharted waters. I’m still learning to swim, folks.
All that to say this. I'm in it now. I have a gorgeous author website. And now, I have the proverbial author Facebook and Instagram. And get this. I’m on Twitter. I tweet…pretty regularly too. My content may not be the quippiest, but for me, every step of it takes bravery.
So as they say on the inter-web…Hit that like button, follow and subscribe.