Part III: In The New Year

A long bridge between hills

Photo above: This is a walking bridge in Mission Trails Park where my husband and I have been hiking over the past year. We’ve ALMOST completed our goal of covering every single trail in the park. 65 MILES of trails covering 7,000 acres. I have one more of the five peaks to climb, while hubby has already done the “Five Peak Challenge” in one day! 

Dear Friends, here is part III of the four-part series, IN THE NEW YEAR, about my ideas about how I will approach work, writing, and life in 2022. If you haven’t read parts I and II, I encourage you to check them out. As always, please feel free to drop a comment or question. 

IN THE NEW YEAR [Part III of IV]

What to Do in 2022

Thinking about all the online issues with social media, data collection, and increasing dependence on smart phones and the internet in almost every aspect of life, I feel coerced; hemmed in; forced to participate in a system I’m increasingly skeptical of. How can I flow with this river rather than fight against it? What can I do to be a peaceful current in the torrent? How can I be an encouragement and ally for others who want to do the same?

We now understand that Facebook has long known how psychologically dangerous their product is to individuals and society. It and other tech companies made social media as addictive as possible through systems of reward and punishment to which we humans are psychologically susceptible. Zuckerberg and friends tricked us into thinking it was all good fun, a great way to connect, and an even better way to stand out in the world while all the time knowing how corrosive their platforms really were and continue to be. 

As artists and creatives and entrepreneurs, we were sold social media as a must-have product. Even now, we are led to believe that you cannot have a writing or art career or business without engaging with consumers on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram.  

However, the data isn’t clear, at least for writers, that number of followers correlates positively with actual book sales, especially if you are just looking to break in. (Read the New York Times article below to see the big-name, big-follower sales fails). 

It may be true that once you have published a book and marketed it, readers will search for you on socials. There might be a place on social media for engagement with people who have already bought your book and want to connect with you on a more “personal” level. But until then? 

I’m not convinced.  

In spending our writing time on social media, I believe we  “put the cart before the horse” and expect to get somewhere. Meanwhile, what we are definitely accomplishing is creating content and data for AI to mine and use in ways that might actually hurt the people and society we care about. 

I think the time’s come for me to reconsider my relationship to social media in 2022. To at least think about it before I continue on my merry old way.

Experts out there also advocate a reset. Check out what Jaron Lanier has to say. Lanier’s a computer scientist, public intellectual, and futurist who first developed Virtual Reality. No joke! He’s very vocal about the dangers of social media and why we should get off it if we are privileged enough to do so. [See the link below to watch a video interview on BBC. Yes, ironically, on YouTube.]

Spending less time on socials takes power away from those platforms. Does anyone really believe unvetted Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Tik Tok profiles and channels are the best places to find factual information about important social issues of the day? I am amused when I see online magazines “reporting” on social media posts…and then see social media posts “reporting” on the online magazine piece. It’s circular. It’s insidious. It’s a silo. 

Visit me next week to read Part IV: The Wrap Up 

_____

How are YOU feeling about social media these days? Do you “buy” the New York Times’s take on the lack of correlation between socials and sales? What do you think about Lanier’s ideas? Check out the links and let me know. I’d love to discuss. XOXO Shelley

Read More At: 

The New York Times to learn about social media and book sales

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/07/books/social-media-following-book-publishing.html

Bloomberg to find out what Facebook knew

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-25/inside-the-facebook-files-5-things-the-leaked-documents-reveal 

The BBC to discover Virtual Reality creator Jaron Lanier 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc_Jq42Og7Q&t=352s

3 comments

  1. Good thoughts to ponder, Shelley. Stepping back and evaluating social media is a great thing to do, and I don’t think enough of us do it. Awareness is key.

    I also don’t buy the idea that having a presence and followers on social media can impact and improve sales of author’s work – it seems to me that the agents and promotions people are trying to get the writers to do the work that they should be doing!

    I remember watching Jaron Lanier before – I really like his point that social media is not inherently bad, but that it’s the behavior manipulation and advertising part of the business model that needs revision.

    -Debbie.

    1. Yes, Debbie. I liked that about Lanier, too. He’s a tech guy. He doesn’t “hate” tech. He does, however, see a problem with social media that I find compelling from someone who “knows” so much more about it than most of us. I don’t know what the cure would be except finding another income-generation model for social media other than advertising. Maybe, just maybe, it would be worth PAYING for if it meant the platforms were safe and helpful? I mean, we pay for other entertainments, so why not socials? I remember when Facebook was a stream of all the posts of all the people in your friends list. No curation by the company. I liked that so much better, but of course, maybe it works better with 30 or 50 friends instead of 500. I like the groups part of the platform, where there are admins and rules of etiquette that people must follow. Maybe we aren’t MEANT to have 500, 700, 2000 “friends?”

      1. Growing up I was quite content and happy having one close (intimate) friend, and a few other meaningful ones. It was good. Social platforms certainly seem more like a strange popularity contest than true friends.

        And of course, yes, paying for services would remove the need for all that harassment that advertising introduces.

        Gee, I’d actually forgotten how pleasant the early days of Facebook were! It was actually nice once …

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