Being a Writer in the Age of Social Media

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Say it Ain’t So by Weezer, Trying My Luck by the Strokes)

Here’s a quick paradox for you.

The traditional writer, the Shakespeare or Poe or Hemingway, is an introvert. Not always (I’m actually a counter-example – ENFP by a small margin), but I think most people would agree that, in order to be a writer, you have to like your alone time. After all, why else would you hide away from people for hours on end, writing your little projects with few hopes of being published?

Wow, dark. I like me today.

Anyway, if you’ve ever shared your writing with someone – and I mean baring your heart and soul through your work – you know how uniquely terrifying that is. If you haven’t shared yet, I can’t blame you, although I will tell you that your writing will not get better if you don’t seek feedback.

It’s a difficult step, to take something that’s been so emotionally and spiritually close to you and push it out into the world for others to shit all over. You might start with just a close friend or a significant other, and then gradually move to people whose opinions tend a little more towards the critical side. If you do it too quickly, you suffer a meltdown (case in point). If you do it too slowly, you won’t learn anything.

But none of this is the point. The point is, in the twenty-first century when everyone’s lives are just vomited out online for everyone else to see, and comment on, and approve or disapprove, and rate, it is expected for us timid writers to “be bold” and strike up a following on social media. I’ve seen dozens of literary agencies who, as part of the application and query for a manuscript, ask for my Twitter account.

Oops. Don’t have one.

Or my Facebook account – which I do have, but is pretty much just a forwarding address for all the things I post here and little else. The truth is, I really dislike social media. It’s hard for me to understand, it feels artificial, and it makes oversharing, lack of intimacy and privacy, and online stalking into serious issues.

My friends don’t get my gripe; they think I’m just being a stick in the mud. Honestly, it’s the same reason I don’t like to take posed pictures. When we as humans are aware we’re being watched, we do weird things that are out of our normal personalities. I guess it’s fear of abnormalcy or being seen as ‘weird’ or something.

If you’ve been reading, you know I have no aversion to being weird. I don’t understand most social conventions, and it seems like social media is a place where those social conventions are even more present and prevalent. For someone like me, who prides himself on being genuine and real in all scenarios (including this blog), it just makes me uncomfortable to see people being… well, not who I’ve grown to love them as.

(In case you were wondering about posed pictures, that’s a little bit different. I love the real little pieces of life, those silly inane memories that always bring a smile to your face. Like, my favorite video of my girlfriend is one where she’s eating a cracker in a really weird way. I don’t see that happening in these plastic fake-smiles posed pictures we find ourselves obligated to take at every social outing. BUT HOLY SHIT DO I LOVE CANDID PHOTOS.)

I just found it ironic that now, when social media is at its height, we writers are being forced into doing stuff that makes us extremely uncomfortable – not just having a presence online, but having an engaging one that makes readers want to check out our stuff. Hell, what if you’re a boring person who writes incredible novels? You shouldn’t be punished for that because you can’t build a social media presence.

And don’t even get me started on “selling yourself”. As if it wasn’t bad enough I go into every interview terrified of the idea of trying to explain why I, a mere speck of dust in the entirety of cosmic existence, deserve to have this job, I now have to go online and try to sell my writings, the pieces of my soul. It’s instantaneous devaluation if people don’t buy into it.

Actually, if I had just one wish for non-writers (or even non-artists) who come into contact with people struggling with works of self-expression, it’s this – know how important this project is to this person. I’m not saying it’s fair, but when you’re creating something so close to you, it can’t help but be tied up in your self-esteem, and when people are dismissive or cruel or hypercritical of that, it can really hurt you somewhere deep.

But hey, I gave in, didn’t I? I made a blog, and I have all of about 18 people (I think?) following me. I promised myself when I started that I would be brutally honest with myself and my public, and never to sacrifice a genuine tone in favor of popularity, or to hide any of my numerous flaws. It’s the most respect I can give to you all, my readers, to be everything I am – and nothing I’m not.

Holy shit, what a hipster post.

Yours, antisocialmedialy,

-R.R. Buck

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