The Double-Edged Blade of Social Media

The Double-Edged Blade of Social Media

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Good afterevenmorn!

It’s me again. Here to wax lyrical about social media and how it is both a boon and a bane for the creatives of the world. As it is for most everyone, I think. Let’s be honest, as a means of connecting people, finding community and disseminating information with incredible ease and speed, social media is absolutely unparalleled. Of course, on the flip-side, it is a vicious tool for deliberate bullying, polarisation, and the disastrous spread of misinformation. It seems that whatever the effect of social media, be it good or ill, there is something on the other edge that serves as to balance it out… more or less.

For a writer, or any creative, really, it is an incredible tool. It is also a terrible burden. Does the good outweigh the bad, or at least is the balance a net null? It seems that if we have any hope of being successful, we cannot escape social media (however much we may detest the need of it). But is that actually true? Is it really worth it for us to be there?

Let’s take a look at the positive and pitfalls of using social media as a creative.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

There is a theory in advertising that it takes approximately seven mentions of your name/brand before it starts ringing the familiarity bell in people’s minds. And people are more likely to pick up a thing if it’s from a something the recognise, or are at least aware of. In order to be read, it’s simply not enough now to put a couple of ads, get your books into a bookshop and just leave it at that.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the case? I mean, it’s possible to do it that way and get exceptionally lucky. As of now, it really helps a writer if they can create a community around their books. In order to do that, forming genuine connections with readers becomes a necessity. The key here is genuine. People can tell if someone is being inauthentic, or they will quickly find out, and that becomes something of an issue.

Generally speaking, if people like you, they’ll be more inclined to check out your work. The more eyes on your work, the higher chances of you finding success with it. Is it worth it for you? Well, that depends. Here are the pros and cons from where I’m sitting:

Pros

  • Finding a community of people with whom you share similar interests, likes and loathes. This can be an incredible boon for writers, as writing tends to be such a solitary endeavour. Finding that community, even if very small, is a wonderful thing and can help enrich one’s personal life as well as boost chances of creative success.
  • New friends!
  • People who like you are more likely to check out, support and spread the word about your work. It’s great!
  • You have a higher chance of getting your work out to people who will truly appreciate it.
  • You get your own wee cheerleading group. It’s always nice to have someone cheer you along; particularly if you’re feeling down about your creative life.
  • Being responsible to others can help get you motivated to write and finish that book.

Cons

  • If you’re anything like me, being your genuine self in such a very public forum can feel a little like being naked in front of a crowd. It’s uncomfortable… or downright unpleasant.
  • Para-social relationships can be quite weird, and sometimes terrifying.
  • To that end, being online a lot can open you up to any number of trolls and online dog-piling is a real and stressful thing.
  • You will have to learn how to optimise various algorithms of whatever platform you decide to join if you want to be good at it.
  • People are very good at sniffing out BS, so you best be as honest and real as possible, because ho boy! Many authors have learnt the hard way…
  • It’s time-consuming, and that time could be spent writing.
Image by Robert Fotograf from Pixabay

Listen, writers have been grumbling about having to put themselves out into the public sphere in order to promote their work for as long as there have been writers. Some thrive in this strange new world of social media. I follow one on TikTok in particular who has been doing exceptionally well for herself, and appears to be growing. She is, admittedly, exceptionally good at it. She’s natural and engaging before a camera in a manner I cannot hope to match. She speaks well and with authority on a variety of related topics. I really enjoy her videos. I simply do not have the ease that she does (and to be fair, neither monetary support and extra time). I’m jealous, but also very aware that it is my own failing.

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I haven’t created my online tribe in the same way as she has. The followers that interact with me tend to be all people I’ve spoke with in real life who have followed me over onto social media. I find myself in continuous awe of folks who can come up with pithy remarks in just 130 characters, or who speak so well before a camera.

That, alas, is not me. As my followers are largely people I know in real life, I’ve been incredibly fortunate not to suffer a lot of the scarier aspects of online life. That, and the fact that I’m practically invisible there, means that the trolls largely leave me alone. There have been a few weird, amorous advances that I have no qualms about stopping bluntly and without ambiguity.

For me, being online is a necessary part of trying to make this writing career a ‘thing.’ But I don’t think it’s an absolute necessity. After all, there are plenty of writers that made it long before with little to no social media presence (Steven Erikson comes to mind) and some whose careers have been compromised by their presence on social media. Public displays of bigotry or exploitation are always a risk.

Remember that a social media presence is related to, but also quite different from marketing. Or, rather, it’s indirect marketing. It’s usually not a good idea just to continually scream ‘buy my book’ at people in a social media context. One ad or two sprinkled in with other content is absolutely fine. Making everything an ad for your work is probably not going to work. But enthusing about something you’re genuinely passionate about and maybe talking about how it made its way into one book or another. But what would I know? I’m not a master of it by any shot.

The bottom line is simply this:

A writer’s decision to attempt the whole social media thing is still a very personal one. It can be quite scary. It may or may not be critical to your success as a creative. I do believe it certainly helps, so long as you’re not horrid to other people or other groups online.

But is it necessary? Well, I’m afraid that’s for you to ruminate upon and decide for yourself. How unsatisfying.


When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, and a cuddling furry murderer. Her most recent titles include Daughters of BritainSkylark and Human. Her serial story, The New Haven Incident, uploads every Friday, and can be found here.

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Thomas Parker

Social media, good God. I am firmly convinced that one day, people will look back from the ruins (literal or metaphorical) and confess that the internet (and social media especially) was a civilizational catastrophe, in the precise meaning of the word: an enormous, all-embracing disaster. (He said in an online comment typed on his computer – I know, I know. Who was it who said that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds?)


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