The furor over the Cambridge Analytica scandal has died down, and most people who were going to flee Facebook have fled (say that five times fast), although there is no way to take the data with them that's already been scraped.
We hear it often as writers -- you need social media to promote your work. Publishers don't want to look at you unless you already have a platform. And yes, social media is a powerful way to engage with people. Two years ago, Pamela Fagan Hutchins wrote on "The Optimal Use of Social Media" on our blog. Her take:
Love it or hate it, social media is a critical part of marketing.But is it what you need? It may depend on your goals and on the stage of your writing. About a year or two ago (my memory's going) I did a presentation on social media at the Wyoming Writers Inc. conference (you should go this year.) One of the first things I said was that you need to evaluate whether you need to be there. Don't jump on the bandwagon just because someone told you that you and the trumpet player would hit it off. He might not be your type.
I only joined Facebook because of my job, which requires it. I would delete my account if I could, but it's simply not feasible.
What I was not required to do, though, was get sucked down the rabbit hole of cheap dopamine hits from new friends, likes, comment, and all the rest of it. I did, and that was my naivete and lack of discipline.
This morning, oddly enough, a trending story on Facebook was a piece from NPR saying that Americans are too lonely, and Millenials and Generation Z -- the ones allegedly so "connected" by all these new technologies -- are the loneliest. The article cites another study:
In fact, some research published in 2017 by psychologist Jean Twenge at San Diego State University suggests that more screen time and social media may have caused a rise in depression and suicide among American adolescents. The study also found that people who spend less time looking at screens and more time having face-to-face social interactions are less likely to be depressive or suicidal.I don't know how lonely I was, but a friend of mine pegged how I was feeling. She said that when you spend much time on Facebook, you come off of it feeling like you have Attention Deficit Disorder. I always said that it made me feel like I was being hit in the face by a swarm of bees. Since I've pared it down, my focus is returning. I'm able to read deeply again.
I do not have a book to publicize. I don't really need a platform yet. I'm at the stage where I need to focus more on craft and creation and less on promotion. And I realized that the constant pull of Facebook was interfering with that process. Instead of getting my pats on the back from more significant achievements -- crafting an essay, getting a poem published -- I was getting cheap dopamine hits from Facebook.
Since I can't get rid of my account, I did what I could. I unfriended everyone, and I mean EVERYONE. I unliked all the pages that weren't directly work-related or writing-related. I created an author page for the few things I would still want to share, and I am being sparing on that front. Now, there is little in my feed to distract me -- no politics, no jokes. What comes in on my feed is all business.
I deleted my entire nine years of history one tedious post at a time. Facebook doesn't make it easy to eliminate your posts. It was a good motivation, though, not to start liking and commenting again to create a whole new history.
I have to say I shuddered at a few of the things I shared, but I can't unring that bell.
When I opened my presentation that time by saying that you need to decide if you really need to be on social media, I meant it. If you do need to be, you need to decide how much you need, how many outlets, how much time. You need to assess the effects on you.
Do you need Facebook? Or are you just there because someone told you to be? And does it do you more good than harm?