Is it just me or is the bloom off the rose of social media? Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but it seems to me that as the focus of Facebook and Twitter has changed from, “Look at me and all of the interesting things I’m doing!” to “Buy this!” the social aspect of connecting with friends and family has slowly been leached out of the media.
I’ve never been a big fan of Facebook. I just don’t have enough friends online or off to require a repository to keep up with them. And besides my writing, I don’t have enough interesting happenings going on in my life to require instant status updates. I have to admit, it is much easier to share photos and quick messages with family and my few far-flung friends, but if the news is big enough, we still call each other or text or send an email.
As for Twitter, for me the platform has devolved into 140 character commercials. When I first joined a little over a year ago, the art of the mini conversation–enticing people to connect with you through short bursts of witty banter–was becoming a valid art form. I liked the give and take, matching wits and quotes with like-minded people. The fun of Twitter, however, quickly faded as my posts and follows were greeted with stock replies of, “Thanks for following. Now, please check out my website/blog/author page and buy my book!” I can honestly say that throughout my Twitter adventure, not one long and involved conversation ended without a plea for a book purchase. In some cases, I bought the books; in other cases, I felt manipulated.
Now I know it’s all about the numbers. We’ve been convinced that the more likes and followers we have, the more successful we will be as authors or salespeople or entrepreneurs. (Maybe that’s really one job description: it seems impossible nowadays to be a writer without also being head of sales as well as the leader of our own one-(wo)man band/corporation/organization.) Long gone are the days of hole-ing up to write “The Great American Novel.” Now you have to be “out there” building a presence, developing a fandom with followers. And then you have to write four or five or six more books just like that while you hawk your work on Facebook and Twitter and every new platform that comes along. Forget about writing good books or building relationships or maintaining the ones you have. It’s all about the advertising. Sell, sell, sell! is the new mantra of the upwardly social.
As for me, I’m stepping off the garden path and letting the crowd pass me by. Social interaction makes me uncomfortable hence my comfort in being a cave dweller. As for the internet and life in the social matrix? There has to be a better way.
So, today I’ll leave you with this:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles today, To-morrow will be dying. Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674)
(I wonder how many will remember this from lit class and how many will think of HBO’s Newsroom?)