Friended, Fanned and Porned (How To Make Facebook and Other Social Media Un-Fun)

iStock_000017966432XSmallSometimes I hate social media! The problem didn’t start when I listened to a respected friend tell me that I needed to build my Facebook and Twitter accounts, so that when I have a book published, I will have social media in place. Up until her suggestion, my social media list had plateaued about 100. Those are actual people who I know. So I followed my friend’s advice and began making friends with lots of other writers on Facebook. Not hard to do when everyone and their mother is a writer these days. There is an initial high when you see your FB friends list go from 100 to 550. And the seduction in that is that I started to believe for a hot minute that I really had 550 friends. But we all know that’s not really true. If I died today, 450 of those people would not give a rat’s ass.

And the problem didn’t start when I got porned on Facebook. A sexually violent picture appeared on my timeline. I was able to report it and get a response from FB. But then I started getting porn sites in my friend requests, so that if I went to check out someone’s profile to see if we had friends in common or writers in common, I’d land on a porn profile. No way to report those to Facebook. Facebook started to become really un-fun for me.

Here is where I think the problem really started: I bought the line of bull about branding yourself. Oh my God, what a better world we would be if we didn’t worry about branding ourselves. Remember when being a decent person, one who cares about being good at what they do was enough? Is that so old-fashioned that it isn’t even relevant anymore?

Donald Trump is branding himself as the guy who is going to make America great again, but we all know that he is really just an asshole. Kim Kardashian is branding herself as a role model for young women, when we all know, oh well, never mind. . .  We live in a world of branding where we think we need a platform, where business as usual is not about what you can make well or about the good services you can offer, it’s about your brand. Brands sell. Unfortunately branding has taught us that whether or not you’re a company or an individual, creating a brand trumps (no pun intended) honesty as the best policy. Takes me back to the original question: remember when being a decent person who is good at what they do was enough?

In spite of being porned and feeling foolish for thinking that building a platform for my writing is essential, I am going to keep on writing. It’s what I do. It’s what I love. I hate it though, that writing now means you need to market yourself, promote yourself and friend and fan yourself. And more, I hate it that I let those things get in the way of the fun part of Facebook–watching cat videos from my friends and finding out what my nieces ate for Christmas dinner. So today, I unfriended 450 people and made my FB pages visible only to my friends, not the public. Unless I’ve met you, I won’t be accepting any new friend requests.

None of this, of course, has affected my writing. In the early morning hours I will still sit and write. There will be no selfies of that daily ritual. What I learned from this is that I can be satisfied with letting my work speak for itself. And if I don’t attract enough attention to it, I will be satisfied that I set out to do my chosen craft well.

As for the Twitter account, here’s my summation: It’s like being in a room where everyone is talking at the same time, and you can’t hear what anyone is saying. It feels like thousands of people you don’t know are pressing in, trying to get you to read something, buy something, like something or otherwise validate their platform, their branding or their status. It’s exhausting. Truth is, I don’t believe that all those writers on Twitter actually follow links or reads content, they’ve just learned to play the game well. It’s all about numbers, and if you are a writer it gives you some sort of perverse cred that you have lots of “followers.” What you have is your feet stuck in a landscape of goo with a bunch of other sheep that hope to tell their agents that they have several thousand Twitter followers. It’s like Donald Trump (because he is such a great example.) He keeps telling everyone how wonderfully well he is doing in the polls–which says nothing about policy. It’s just another version of being “friended.”

I’m not sure which is the worst of the pornography–inappropriate sexual content or the strangling culture of self-promotion. Okay, here’s the review: I unfriended 450 people today. My friend Mary assures me she will keep posting cat videos. I already feel lighter. And the next time someone tells me I have to build a platform and start creating my brand, I am going to smile politely and tell them that I am done being me, mainlining me. I just want to write.

Author:

Novelist, essayist, blogger, wife, dog-mommy, dancer, dreamer, grateful.

10 thoughts on “Friended, Fanned and Porned (How To Make Facebook and Other Social Media Un-Fun)

  1. I feel your pain. I have made some people acquaintances (versus a “friend”) on FB just to close my circle a little tighter so it allows me to still post silly stuff or promotional stuff for me or my writer friends to all “friends”, while still allowing me some privacy for other posts. Granted my circle of friends is still rather large – the acquaintance list is more for annoying people that I dont wish to defriend for various reasons. I have learned to ignore a lot of crap – but at least I havent received any porn requests!

    As far as branding – I am brand awesome. That’s it. I post what I like, write what I like, Branding for me is being true to myself. People are drawn to writers as real people. Im not out there with a platform. Im me, sometime serious, sometimes silly, sometimes crazy, but it’s always me and it seems to have worked. Now I just need to get that book published!

    1. Great response, Krista. Thank you for your positive and uplifting overview. To say I was feeling slightly negative from my experience of the past few days is an understatement. Nice to know that someone like you, remains–as real writers do–true to herself. You ARE awesome.

  2. I feel your pain. I’m not a fan of Facebook. I have very few ‘friends’, mostly just family. I do most of my interaction on my public page, but even that I’m not very good about updating. Twitter I like, but only because I make lists, and that allows me to interact with those who actually interact instead of just tweeting a lot of promotional things or endless links.

    The branding issue is difficult. We can spend all our writing time trying to improve it and may have little to show for our efforts. Finding that balance between building our ‘brand’ and getting our writing done is always difficult. After three years, I still don’t think I’ve found it. :/

  3. So well put Stephanie. I started writing for me, the stats, the followers, the views, were heady at first and fun, then it occurred to me it is not about making my circle wider, but making it stronger. Recognition comes in many ways. Self-promotion and branding are the catch-phrases of this mess we created with “social” media.

  4. Hi Stephanie
    I have been reading through your archives, I came across this little beauty. I have just started blogging ( I am far from a writer, just a blogger at this stage), but I did exactly what you have written about here. I friended hundreds of people I have no idea who they are, it actually overwhelmed me so now I have unfriended them. I am happy just plodding and blogging to myself and a few real friends and family that tell it to me honestly but gently. Maybe over time and with more blogging under my belt I will begin to find some more pen pals to share stories with. I am not a Brand person at all, and certainly not a fan of the Trump and Kardashian Brands.
    I am a fan of yours though and I thoroughly enjoy reading your stories, I am happy I still have so many to read.
    Have a grateful day
    From Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

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