I’ve not been on social media for quite a while now, but I recently re-joined facebook so that I could set up a page for The Story School in an attempt to reach more potential students. If you found this site through facebook – thank you! You are the ONE AND ONLY PERSON who made it through the algorithms. Which is to say, as grateful as I am to have YOU here, the results of advertising on social media are not proportionate to the time, expense and emotional toll of actually having to go on there.
I’ve deleted my account. It feels like freedom.
Do writers need social media? Most writers will say yes. Personally I think it does more harm than good. I know several brilliant writers whose minds seem to have turned to Swiss cheese after a few years on twitter. And even for the most disciplined people, the distractions are just too much. With a purely practical attitude to facebook and a general reluctance to be there at all, I still found myself logging in thrice times a day when I should have been doing other things.
I don’t blame myself for this. I am human (honest!) and I have a human brain, which is to say, a puny and weak blob of electrified butter. Social media, by contrast, is a giant superbrain made of infinite amounts of information and it is one hundred percent certain to outwit mine every time I engage. It’s carefully fine-tuned to keep me clicking and reading, even though my conscious mind finds zero value there.
The very existence of social media is distracting. The more you’re on it, the more it distracts you. You want those lovely dopamine hits. Dopamine is the chemical of addiction, and it drives you to seek out more and more of whatever makes it go ping. But it’s a system of diminishing returns. When you get a hit, great. When you get two hits, not so great. You want three. But three is not enough. You want more. It’s NEVER going to be enough.
Now, you can totally hack your brain chemicals to get dopamine rewards from actual productivity. You can set up a system where you get super nice hits just from your writing routine, for example. (Sign up for my workshops on ‘Writer’s Block’ and ‘The Fear’ for some easy ways to get started with this.) But if you’re on social media, this is going to be tough for you, because your brain naturally prefers the easy reward set-up you’ve already established. And its tolerance is HIGH. You’ve primed your brain to crave a LOT of dopamine.
Just like any other addiction, all you are doing on social media is feeding and perpetuating your cravings for social media. I bet if you’ve been on social media for a while, you barely notice the high.
Okay I’m totally generalising here. Maybe your butter-brain is smarter than mine and can handle itself just fine in the face of the giant artificial Super-Brain. If so, that’s great, and I wish you luck with it. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your life. (I’ll leave that to people on twitter. )
Many writers will tell you that you need to be on social media in order to promote yourself and sell books. Maybe they’re right. If so, you’re going to need to find a way to navigate social media that doesn’t stop you from writing in your authentic style, thinking for yourself, or being a decent human being. To that end, you could sign up for one of my workshops on how to navigate cancel culture, or how to deal with self-sabotage and imposter syndrome.
You could also think about what kinds of community we can create outside these giant machines. I think joining The Story School is a good start. It’s a chance to make a different social network. One that’s based on creativity, originality, authenticity, and deep learning. I really hope to see you here.
Agree fervently? Violently disagree? Got a question? Feel free to leave a comment, or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.