We truly live in an age of distraction.

I’m young enough to dive headlong into the Internet and social media, yet old enough to pine for a simpler time.

As a teenager, it was all about the telephone and how long the cord could be stretched so my parents couldn’t hear my nonsense.

For my daughters, it was MSN Messenger. They breathed it like oxygen. It made for easy coercion and punishment. Ah, leverage to get a room clean. Good times.

For my grandkids, it’s the iPad. Swipe and tap.

Yeah. I’m old. Now, get off my lawn.shakes fist

We all love social media, don’t we? Even when we say we don’t, it has become the great equalizer. It’s how we communicate, arrange gatherings and share photos. We discover. We learn. We engage. We sell. We buy. So much good. So much opportunity.

But, like everything else, there is a dark side.

Consider: These services are free, right? Or are they? Follow the money.

  • Microsoft sells software. Office 365, anyone? Anyone? Everyone.
  • Apple sells computers. Wowzers, that iPhone X sure looks snazzy!
  • Google is an advertising company. They sell ads and data. Your data.
  • So does Facebook. And Instagram. And Pinterest. And Twitter.

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

Andrew Lewis

FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out

Everything these companies do to ‘improve’ the tool, is aimed at keeping you using it. Pull to refresh. Endless scrolling pages with no finish line.

Just keep scrolling. Just keep scrolling.

The addiction is bad. Rage-quit Facebook and everyone laughs. “You’ll be back,” they say. And you are.

I’m not saying anything new here. We all know this.

Yet, we’re told that as writers, we need to take care of the business-side of things. Be entrepreneurial. Cultivate your brand. And that means embracing social media. Let that monkey ride your back into the rich promises of published authordom.

The roar of the Social Media Experts bleat, “You have to be on all the social networks! Engage! Engage! Engage!”

Then a little voice squeaks, “When will you have the time to write?”

Good question.

But here’s the thing. There is a better way.

Youdon’thave to be on every single damnable social media network. Really. You don’t.

You’re going to be on Facebook. That’s a given. Say hi to your mom and your Auntie Louise. And that creepy guy from highschool you never liked but is always liking your pics. Weird.

But ask yourself: are your readers there? If so: great. If not… Well, maybe your reason to be on Facebook–as a writer–is to cultivate your support network. Build your tribe of like-minded individuals. Other writers and artists. Probably not where you’re going to sell books.

Do a little research. If your readers are on Tumblr, be there. If they’re on WattPad, be there. If you’re making something visual, get your butt on Pinterest.

Maybe. It depends.

Signal Versus Noise.

The thing to keep in mind is that you should be purposeful about why you’re on a given social network. If it’s truly useful or adding to your life, then stay. If not, then leave.

Don’t try to do all the things and be all the places. You’ll burn out.

Here’s an exercise for you:

  • List out all your social media networks that you’re connected to.
  • Beside each one, give it a label: PERSONAL, TRIBE, FANS, INFO & GHOST. If more than one applies, so be it.
  • If it’s PERSONAL, then it’s about friends and family you know in real life. Stop trying to hit them over the head to buy your stuff. Enjoy these networks as a way to stay connected.
  • If it’s a TRIBE, then use it to share your work and learn. Help others. Grow. It’s a community. Play nice. Don’t peddle your wares to them either.
  • If the network is where your FANS are, then this is where you shouldJust Be Awesome. The more awesome and authentic you are, the more likely they’ll visit your blog and click that ‘Buy Me’ link. At a time of their choosing. Don’t yell at them. Jeepers. Engage, not enrage.
  • If the network lands in the INFO bucket, ask yourself if it’s useful. Is it LEARNING? Great. If it’s just FOMO news, then maybe you should drop it.
  • If you’re not actively on a social media network, you’re a GHOST. Maybe you should delete it. Slough off the psychic weight and invest in a network with higher value.
  • In case my hint is too subtle, get a blog. Sell your stuff there. Be awesome on social media and they’ll visit your blog.

More signal, less noise. That’s the goal.

Here’s the brutally honest breakdown of where I’m at:

  • Facebook: PERSONAL / TRIBE –> keeper
  • Twitter: FOMO / GHOST –> should delete, probably won’t
  • Instagram: GHOST –> should delete
  • Pinterest: LEARNING / GHOST –> has limited value, should delete
  • LinkedIn: TRIBE / GHOST –> day-job, should engage more
  • Google+: GHOST –> completely useless, should delete
  • Tumblr/Medium/WattPad: FANS / GHOST –> re-evaluate / re-engage
  • Writers Carnival: TRIBE –> keeper, awesome place to share and learn
  • Blog: FANS –> keeper, time to saddle up and get back to creating.dons feathered writing hat

Your breakdown will most likely be different. You do you. I’ll do me.

Regardless, stay awesome.