I have written many times over the years about eschewing social media, most notably, Twitter and Facebook. But it’s becoming a problem, because everybody and their grandmothers are on it, including businesses and writing groups and offline groups that I’m involved in. It’s become more of a pain in the ass to avoid it, than to throw up some accounts and give in to a zeitgeist I missed by about ten years and still find just a little repulsive.
Maybe it will be like the year my family took an Amtrak vacation shortly after a fatal train crash. We rationalized that we should still go, since the company would be upping their safety checks – perhaps it was even the safest time to go. Now that social media platforms are being raked over the coals and forced to come to terms with the idea that their platforms are shitty human free-for-alls and treasonous manure spreaders, maybe some things will change. Except people don’t. And companies tend to subvert their shittiness, rather than improve their products. I’m pretty sure it’s all going to still be a time-wasting swamp of excrement.
That being said, I’m going to open accounts, connect with the people I need to connect with, and then hope like hell I can navigate it all without tossing my phone, computer, and self from the nearest bridge. Things are getting intense with writing and I’ve got to learn to connect with people and organizations that support my intentions. It sounds just dreadful.
In the past, it seemed important to have a clear delineation between professional and personal selves. These days, every day is casual day, the profane blends with the political, and metaphorically everyone is in sweatpants. I’m not sure how I feel about that. There is the judgmental voice in my head from my prudish, proper, spit-shine-your shoes, stiff-upper-lip background – impacted by my British mother and grandmother and a stint in the military. And then there is the hippie liberal, comfortable means confidence, pay-attention-to-substance-not-surface, throw-no-stones person that I often long to be.
Of course, nothing is binary these days, which loads us down with the paradox of choice and forces those of us from different generations to really examine what standards we’re holding onto and why. Communication is no different. We are in an age where very prominent, powerful people are running our lives from their toilet seats – where people don’t vet anything before they spew it out. Much like self-published literature could use more editors, social media could use a little self-censorship. But I have to decide what that looks like for myself. Where are my lines in the sand?
I sometimes naively mention my blog to people and am horrified when they want to know what the URL is. Then I’ll quickly denigrate it – oh, it’s nothing, just a little something I threw together, you don’t want to waste your time… I’ve written a lot of personal stories here, used some blue language, rattled off a political opinion or twenty. The thought of people I see regularly, reading it, makes me want to throw up just a bit. When someone says they’ve read my blog, I feel a bit like I’ve just woken up in front of a panel of judges. In my underwear. Yet I have no intention of changing the tone of the blog.
One of my writing kicks lately has been to really think about narrative distance and how that impacts what kind of information we relay – both in fiction and on social media. I feel distance from my writing when I type it – as if I’m writing about someone else. I can say the most vulnerable, revealing things and it feels like I’m just telling a story. If I feel that way about my own writing, I have to pay attention about how I interact with others who write online. Do I make the connection between what they write and their humanity?
The problem with this approach are the insincere, attention hogs who view social media as some sort of stage upon which they can play act any role. Provocateurs and narcissists and sociopaths populate these venues, savoring the idea that they are the puppet masters of others’ emotions, while taking no responsibility for the division and spitefulness they sow. Then there are the maternal, smiley emoticon people who tsk, tsk any negative emotions, trying to have everyone make nice, no matter what the issue. And then there are people like me – a little narcissistic in writing publicly, constantly irritated by bad grammar, and so easily baited into anger by blatant ignorance. I am not well-suited to these venues.
But it’s 2018 and staying true to my interest in anything pop culture, I’m a decade behind the curve. I look forward to the next decade when I get into Instagramma and Crapchat.