And other discoveries from a social media break
Of all the things I gave up for Lent this year, abstaining from online socializing was the most interesting. For five solid weeks, I stayed completely away from Twitter, Instagram, and my personal Facebook page (my author page stayed live, and lively). I lifted the embargo for Twitter and Instagram while at the Blissdom Conference during the sixth week, but Easter Sunday was my very first look at my Facebook news feed since Mardi Gras.
In effect, my online consumption was restricted to “long-form” updates (a.k.a. reading other people’s blogs) while my online production was consolidated between my own blog and my public Facebook broadcast. Some insights:
Facebook is for friends and family.
Being cut off from other people’s updates on Facebook was a powerful way of sorting out friends from people I am friendly with. I missed the friends. I felt cut off from what was happening in their daily lives. Keeping in touch was more difficult for us both. I missed birthday reminders and invitations to social events. It was like being without a telephone, if I used the telephone. The people I am friendly with crossed my mind from time to time, but I didn’t feel their absence. As much as Facebook can annoy me sometimes, I have come to value it much more for how it supports my offline relationships. Opting out isn’t an option anymore.
Twitter is for the birds.
I used to love twitter, back when I followed about 100 people. I ruined that for myself when I started worrying that my tiny follow-back count made me look like a jerk. As a result, I now follow a bunch more people without actually following anyone. My experience of Twitter is now akin to standing next to a highway, while people yell things from moving cars. They might be yelling interesting things, but I can hardly catch any of it. I really didn’t miss Twitter at all, except once, when we had severe weather and the power went out, because twitter is great for storm tracking. It’s also good for communicating with people at a conference. And for procrastinating if I’m really desperate. I guess if Facebook is my telephone, Twitter is my CB radio–sometimes fun, rarely useful.
This blog is for amateurs.
Without the diversions of other platforms, I’ve been more eager than usual to express myself through my blog. The way it was in the beginning, when I was driven by that same urge to reach out, and little else. I’ve gotten more knowledgeable and intentional about the publishing and promotional end of blogging since then, but at the end of the day, it’s good to know that this is still simply a place for me to practice writing without pressure or expectations.
You know, I’ve been doing this for over seven years now. It’s lead me to incredible opportunities and achievements as a writer, but I don’t see “making it” as a blogger, in the sense of it being a profitable business venture. I would be delighted to be proved wrong, but the fact is, I’m not willing and/or able to do all that it would take to develop it as such. I have enough good friends who are “making it” (or nearly so) to know what kind of an investment that entails, in time, effort and money.
Amateur has become a term of derision, but it originally meant doing something for the sheer love of it. It’s an apt description for why I write here. Making peace with my amateur standing as a blogger means I can–and must–prioritize as a writer. I’m still figuring out what that will look like, but if my social media break has taught me anything, it’s that redistributing one’s creative weight shifts everything.