Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, March 10, 2014

The temptation of shutting down your social media accounts


We've all been there.

There are times when social media can feel so infuriating, when it feels like all everyone does is look for an excuse to feel outraged, and sometimes you might even find yourself the target of that outrage.

There are times when it feels like other people are so popular, so happy, and you're struck by your own imperfections.

There are times when you feel like you put so much work into just staying above water, doing the bare minimum, to check off a box of "Things Writers Are Supposed to Be Doing," but like the Red Queen in Alice and Wonderland you're just running to stay in the same place.

There are times when it feels tempting to shut it all down, to just retreat into the real world, to let the next fad come and pass and not invest so much time into something so temporal.

It's tempting to want to shut down your social media accounts and not even bother with the difficulties that come with putting yourself out there on the Internet, especially those times when someone out there in cyberland takes time out of their day to try to cut you down to size. The Chinese government invented a chilling term for the practice of seeking out people to shame on the Internet. They call it the Human Flesh Search Engine.

I've felt all of those things at various times over the last seven+ years of blogging (gahh!!!! Seven years WHERE DOES THE TIME GO). But I've never decided to shut it all down. I still have my social accounts, and I still blog.

For one thing, to shut it down feels like a false retreat. Yes, maybe you would feel a short term gain to disappear into virtual darkness and just let the Twitterverse spin on. You may win a temporary reprieve, but as people like Satoshi Nakamoto go to show, the Internet can still find you even (or especially) when you don't want to be found.

It seems like this is the way the world is going whether we like it or not. The future is going to be a confusing mix of public and private, with a heavy emphasis on the public. Even if you have warts out there on the Internet, at least you're out there. At least you have a trail that people can examine and consider the whole, people who know you and can come to your defense. It gives you a voice, even if it can feel at times like there's no escape.

As tempting as it can be to want to hunker down and let the world pass over you, it still seems like you lose still more by retreating into the wilderness. I don't know where this is all going, but I'm excited enough about the future to stay in public on the Internet, even as I wonder sometimes what in the world we're all doing.

Have you ever thought about shutting down your accounts and retreating? What did you decide?

Art: The Red Queen's Race by John Tenniel






57 comments:

Richard Mabry said...

Oh, yes. My relationship with social media isn't love/hate...it's tolerate/despise. But, like many authors, I'm afraid to withdraw, because we're "supposed" to have a presence there. Like you, I've often said, "Gaah." Maybe that's a club we need to form.
Thanks for the post.

The Advicist said...

No... but only since I took the easy route of anonymity! I do often close a window when I find myself getting outraged by someone's outrage, however. I find if I wait 10 minutes, someone else always come along and shares the outrage for me... S

Nan said...

Oh my, how is it you're in my head this morning? I'm feeling very over all the social media stuff, but I know that it is how the world is going to be from now on. If I want to be present in the minds of readers, I have to be involved. But right now, I'm tired of remembering to check blogs, FB, and Twitter. Maybe some days, it's better to retreat for a little while. See ya later...oh, and thanks. This gave me permission to retreat...for a little while...

Shawn said...

I always said that the day a President of the United States is elected, they should just assign a Special Prosecutor whose job it is to impeach him or her.

Make it official. Make it par for the course. Make it an inevitable fact of life.

We'd get a better President if he knew somebody was really waiting to hold him accountable for breaking the law.

And the day you start your first blog, the blogosphere should assign you a bipolar blog troll. Make it official. Just take it as-writ.

It sounds strange, but a resident bipolar blog troll made me a better blogger. My blog troll may (should) prompt me to edit out the fluff, the bluff, and the bee ess before I hit the Publish button.

Just a thought. YMMV.

(It's also why I dispensed with my anonymous account and chose to stand behind my real name.)

Jaimie said...

The Human Flesh Search Engine. How perfect. DESTROY DESTROY DESTROY.

I've retreated from a lot of industry news just because of that. The gossip! My god. It's fun to feel part of the enlightened few, but when it got down to what we were actually doing? Dissecting people's personal lives? Scary real quick considering my own "imperfections."

Shawn McDonald said...

And now I'm wondering why I'm signing on using my google ID and it's posting as a blogger account.

???

I'm wondering why Richard M. gets his stuff attached to his Google Plus ID and I don't even have that option.

???

Sorry to use your blog real estate for a test, Nathan. I'll delete in a second.

Maya Prasad said...

I'm not yet enough of a figure online to really have to retract anything, but I've witnessed it many times: someone, who you agree with 99% of the time, tweets something that starts up a storm. And YOU KNOW they wish they could take it back. They are horribly embarrassed, but the internet does not forget. I know that day comes for everyone. All I can say is, I think the other 99% of the time should count, too. And if we never come back to a blog because we disagreed with the writer one time...we'll soon run out of blogs to read.

Michelle Moran said...

Absolutely. Particularly after my divorce Terry McMillan style when it felt like the entire world was watching the circus that had become my life. I did my best to control it so that as few people as possible would know what had happened, but for two years afterward, if you did a google search with my name, the first thing to come up was "Michelle Moran divorce." :/

Recently, Laura Lippman challenged people to post a photo of themselves on Facebook without any makeup or Photoshopping. After I participated, I started to look back at my photos and think, "What an amazing and glamorous life that girl has." And then I thought, "Who IS she?" They're my photos, and my experiences, but the number of "likes" a photo receives sometimes makes the experience I've posted about not even seem real. It makes it seem more glamorous and amazing than maybe it really was. And, of course, only the best photos are posted, so it isn't real, because life isn't a frozen moment of perfection/cuteness/beauty. So yes, I'm tempted all the time to unplug, simply because while most of the time it's fun, some days it's hard work for all of the reasons you mentioned.

And then, of course, there's the implosion factor. If everything in your life goes south (which hopefully it won't! But having been there, the possibility is real), it feels like there are only two choices (for me anyway). To become a public sideshow, or to post nothing about it, making social media feel even more unreal and unlike life.

But having said all of that, the fun in reaching out to readers/friends/family outweighs the feeling that sometimes what's posted isn't the entire story.

Heather Button said...

I have absolutely thought about shutting down my social media. Especially as I go through things that are very private and personal to me. Especially when people only ever like rants or memes. But instead, I'm choosing to be selective about my social networks. I have too many to focus on, and I really only need 2 to 3 to make a difference. So I'm looking at what each does, and how to use them to their best advantage.

Mirka Breen said...

"Retreat into the real world..." that strikes me as funny. I retreat into the real world most of the time.

Suzan Robertson said...

Yes, I often feel like abandoning my online presence and retreating into the real world.

I just learned that two blogs I created with my real name and deleted a long time ago now belong to people I don't know (with my name still attached to them.) I complained to blogger support, and they deleted my current active blog, claiming I was impersonating - myself!

Made me want to delete all my online accounts and unplug my router.

Anyway, I have learned (the hard way) that being an independent thinker and voicing strong opinions online can be dangerous, and that social media is a necessary evil - a business tool for online presence. I rarely engage in the everyday chitchat unless it's about writing or books, and I no longer join in controversial discussions that might turn inflammatory.

On one hand, I'm probably missing out on some lively discussions and maybe a few laughs, but on the other hand, I'm not wasting as much time as before.

Janiss Garza said...

Considering that most of my friends are not local and some of them I met via social media before actually meeting them in person, I have always considered it my lifeline. There have been times I've been tempted to take down a blog, though! But mostly because of the work it takes to keep it going. For an semi-introvert like me (once I'm comfortable, I go into extrovert mode - but it takes a lot to get there), it is much easier to be social and get my voice heard when I don't have to do it face-to-face.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, there are days I fantasize about not being on social media and not writing. If I just had to work and take care of my family, I'd have so much more time. But I always come back to the fact that I enjoy it and the writing.

Julie Musil said...

I've thought about it only when I stressed about not doing enough. Once I told myself it was ok to not socialize 24/7, I relaxed about the whole thing. I'll do what I can when I can, and on the sites that I enjoy. Other than that, I won't worry about it.

Linda Maye Adams said...

Not retreating, but I did ponder shutting down my blog last year. It didn't seem to be doing much. But I shifted my topics (now posting about life in the military for women), and it's been gaining in interest. It's hard when you don't see any progress, even after doing something for many years.

The social media I really hate, hate, hate is Twitter. It's noisy and cluttered and spammy and reminds me of all those military parties where I was ordered to attend on my time off to have "fun." I started out on that, but I've largely dropped off it because it was so much work keeping up and just wasn't enjoyable. I figured if I wasn't enjoying it, that was probably showing throw.

Maria Ashworth said...

I'm tweeting this. Did I answer your question?

thesoundofonehandtyping said...

I decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Doing so had made me realize just how much time I've been wasting out there, time that could be spent doing something productive. (Facebook is getting nervous: they sent me an email that said, "uh, we have all of this activity out here for you." I signed on today solely to reset the counter and to shut off the emails.) That leaves Tumblr, LiveJournal, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest where I have a presence, and some of those will probably go soon, too.

Joanna said...

I am in the midst of writing a complex book, have a new grandchild, 2 sets of company plus all the normal day to day stuff. Last week I decided something had to give and well... I quit my blog. Today, a frequent commenter telephoned to ask if I am OK... another emailed an inquiry and I read your post...

So, somehow I'll find the time to blog... Nathan thank you for providing a just the right words to get me back to the keyboard.

Joanna

Nicole L Rivera said...

All. The. Time. I pulled the plug on Facebook once, but as soon as I put my account on hold my husband reminded me about that publishing career I was going after. How I had to have a social media presence. So I went back on and reversed the damage.

I love social media and I hate social media, but I'm not breaking up with social media--not for the foreseeable future.

bridgetwhelan.com said...

My great worry about social media is that so many people blur the boundary between the private and the public. It's a delicate line to negotiate but it is one we all have to consider every time we tweet or publish a blog post. Writing about work worries may be ok, but is ranting about your rotten boss? While sharing parenting problems may be a supportive communal activity, your story does not belong to you alone and your teenager may not appreciate that his angst riddled school career is up for discussion. Closing down social media? No - keeping it as a distant acquaintance, yes.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Sometimes I do want to shut everything down and vanish from the internet. But I know that eventually I would miss it, and trying to restart from scratch would be a nightmare.

Luckily, it's simple to take a break. I just don't log on to any of the sites for a few days. It's good to unplug every now and then.

Cassandra L Shaw said...

Since I've just started on this see me, like my brand / books journey - no. But I have already found the time suck huge, and am sure I will only find it more so as time go by - especially while I find what works for me and what doesn't. It would be much easier to just write, put book out, and write the next. That however, is not how the publishing world runs these days.

Stephany Simmons said...

Nothing has been shut down yet, but I have been very neglectful. I don't feel like it has done me any good sales wise and most days I feel like I am just yelling into the void.

In the end, I'll probably keep all the accounts live, but I'm not sure I'll ever go back to to the social media using gal I once was.

Anonymous said...

So timely! I was thinking of shutting down my FB account just today! And sometimes I leave my Twitter account untouched for days (or longer!) while trying to write, but I generally value the contact with my fellow writer-tweeters when I get around to it. For the record, I enjoy your columns a lot, Nathan. I hope positive comments help offset the negative comments.

D.T. Krippene said...

It's so easy to get pulled into the time morass of social media. I tend to focus on one (blog/website), and let Hootsuite manage the others. Less is more.

Sarah Brentyn said...

Just had a conversation about this last week (which is, um, when I opened my Twitter account). I was going to delete everything I had online. But since I'm going to put this post on Twitter... Oh, it's a temptation alright but I think, like you said, it would be a temporary relief and I'd regret it.

pat said...

Last year two of the very prominent writers whose blogs I had been following stopped posting with no warning. It was the most freeing thing! If people who actually have a blog following can disappear without a word, how much more can I?
The chance of my attracting someone to my blog is pretty slim. OTOH, reading other people's blogs exposes me to neat ideas and pleasant conversations. Maybe my 'presence' should just be as appreciative commenter.

Debby Gies said...

It is difficult as an author, a new author at that to concentrate on their writing and have to worry about their social presence, something which we need to have for exposure for our work. Before I began building my platform I liked to keep my life private and to have to do a 180 and put ourselves out there can be intimidating at times. So I'm sure many would prefer to cut social media but in today's world we just suck it up.

Bruce Bonafede said...

First, I think, for a writer, social media is a marketing tool, nothing more and nothing less. When you let it become part of your life, or when you take seriously the nonsense about "engaging" your audience - just because somebody talks to you on SM doesn't mean they'll buy your book - you've crossed the line and should get your life back. Second, I work with real experts in social media in my day job and most of the "advice" given to writers by "experts" on this subject is flat wrong. There's a whole industry now of writers who can't make a living writing making a living telling other writers how to use social media. It's actually pretty amusing. Me, I use social media to post jokes. If people like the jokes maybe they'll share and maybe I'll get more followers and maybe they'll buy my book. It's marketing. But I would write those jokes anyway. I NEVER waste time creating content specifically for social media.

Phyllis Humphrey said...

Yes, I've often thought about giving up social media, but decided it was a necessary evil these days. However, I don't go there every day and rarely comment. But one can't "just write" all the time. The well must be filled and we are social creatures. That's why I go out into the world from time to time, act and sing in shows without pay. I recommend it.

Anne OConnell said...

For sure! It's so easy to rationalize spending all day 'managing' my social media rather than working through the most recent challenging plot twist in my novel that has me stumped! Unlike Richard, my relationship with social media is a love/love... but too much of a good thing isn't always good :) So, I'm signing off now to find a way to kill off or otherwise maim my antagonist!

Happy writing,
Anne

Alex King said...

Gatifloxacin is a broad-spectrum fluoroquinolone antibiotic drugs in recent years developed a new antibiotic . But since 1999, the drug has been approved for listing the world how patients taking gatifloxacin in patients with symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia . The researchers began to notice last year that the drug caused health problems, especially changes in glucose metabolism .
Gatifloxacin in 1999 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for listing in April 2002 in Japan approved for listing . Gatifloxacin for the treatment of pneumonia, bronchitis and urinary tract , kidney , skin, and other infectious diseases , and generally for the treatment of gonorrhea , and urinary tract infection in the lungs . Doctors often in the nature of the infection is not very clear circumstances to prescribe this drug ,Gatifloxacin hydrochloride the main consideration of its wider antibacterial spectrum . However, in clinical use, found that the drug can lead to changes in glucose metabolism , and changes in blood sugar can cause coma and other serious problems , even death. Patients with symptoms usually begin within 5 to 10 days after taking the drug .
According to the U.S. "Los Angeles Times " Web site on March 2 , entitled " Antibiotics may cause elderly glucose ," the article reads : Elderly patients taking the widely used antibiotic gatifloxacin (Gatifloxacin) can cause elevated blood sugar, may be hospitalized resistance will increase nearly 16 -fold ; this drug can also cause lower blood sugar , increase the likelihood of patients hospitalized three times .Gatifloxacin mesylate This conclusion on the cause of some doctors recommend this drug will be withdrawn from the market .
"New England Journal of Medicine" website published a research report this year showed that: the patients taking the drug 1% of hospitalization . Several previous studies have shown that diabetes increases the risk of blood sugar abnormalities occur after taking this antibiotic , also appeared several deaths. This latest study suggests that all patients taking the drug are at risk , not even in patients with diabetes as well. Authors of the study said, because other antibiotics have the same effect, there is no reason to continue using this drug.
U.S. drug manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb Company also said: The study concluded that " after-sales experience to date is consistent with our " so that they take into account when applying changes to the specification of these conclusions .
February 16 ,Clotrimazole the official FDA website message : add a new contraindication in gatifloxacin TEQUIN (Gatifloxacin) SmPC : diabetes drug may cause side effects, increased patient symptoms of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia risks, this may result in premature aging , degradation of renal function , diabetes disabled.
March , Health Canada and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company jointly issued the relevant gatifloxacin safety alert bulletins.
And there are four of these drugs similar to fluoroquinolones , some of which have been withdrawn from the market or severely restricted , respectively temafloxacin (Temaflloxacin), grepafloxacin (Grepafloxacin), sparfloxacin (Sparfloxacin ) and Qu difloxacin (Trovafloxacin).

G. B. Miller said...

I deactivated my FB account for about 8 months, from late 2011 thru early 2012. Mostly it was due to not wanting to deal with their new thing (at the time) called "Timeline" because I thought it was a serious invasion of privacy.

Beyond that, the only thing I do now to limit my aggravation is to simply limit the time I spend on FB.

On the plus side, I don't do Twitter (I value my job) or Google+ (didn't like being forced into it). I just do my blog.

Donna Fasano said...

Oh, I've had that feeling. Lots. And I've stepped away for a while, but I've never shut down...because I'm afraid that, if I did, no one would come looking. :)

Traci Kenworth said...

I haven't gotten to that point. I try and avoid anything too argumentative, just ignore it as best as I can.

Stacy Green said...

Yes, especially Twitter. There is so much spam on Twitter, with everyone hawking their stuff, that I have contemplated shutting down more than once. But I've changed my approach to it, just tweeting random stuff and not worrying about engagement in conversation. If it happens, great. If not, there's Facebook. The biggest thing for me is time management and focusing on writing.

Beth Overmyer said...

I am so tempted to shut everything down. It's a major time-suck...but that's because I've allowed it to become so. Le sigh.

Catie Rhodes said...

I have had days like you describe in which the world of social media seems like a negative place. Sometimes I've wanted to disappear and never come back. But not that often.

I struggle more with playing hooky from work with social media. I ended up buying a software program called Anti-Social and one called Freedom ($20 for both) to force me off social media so I'll, you know, actually work. ;-)

Avery Tingle said...

I flirt with the idea occasionally. I will sometimes take weened hiatuses from social media just to get back into my own head for a moment, but blessedly, my social media is stock full of other writers and creatives. I get a lot of inspiration and lessons from them, so I never tune out for very long.

And honestly, I think it's because I tweet while writing (while I'm at my rawest) that I've been able to build the following I have.

Amanda said...

I disabled my Facebook account for several months last year, and while, on some accounts it was wonderful, I also missed out on some communication. Ultimately, I decided that I would enable my account again, and just use it the way that is most useful/enjoyable for me. Facebook is such a basic communication tool now, that not having an account is almost like choosing not to have a phone.

Meredith Towbin said...

I watched a documentary about J.D. Salinger the other night and was in total awe of the attention he received once he became a recluse. And this was during a time when social media didn't exist. His isolation made him so incredibly mysterious; people were desperate to even snap a photo of him. One of his fans actually drove hundreds of miles to Salinger's private house hoping for the chance to speak to him.

All I could think about was how an author like me, who is just starting out, could never do what he did in this day and age and make a career for him or herself. I constantly feel the pressure to blog, tweet, post on Facebook, etc., just to remind people that I exist.

I wish the work that I do could speak for itself. Unfortunately, it doesn't. And so I'm left trying to come up with witty tweets and hosting giveaways to increase my blog traffic, which will somehow, someday, maybe help me get published.

Lady Jewels Diva® said...

Absolutely!

When I started blogging five years ago I slowly joined as many websites as possible, including for promoting my books.

Then I started leaving those websites because it's just too much to deal with every time I'm online. You need to keep across social media pages, book selling pages and websites, it's just too much and too tiring to keep it all going.

That's why I'm shutting down my three novel FB pages. I'm releasing a new novel and two e-books this year and I just don't want more FB pages to deal with so they will be unpublished in the coming months and all of my books will be advertised through my official author page so I only have that, my FB profile, and two other pages to deal with.

I'm also checking through my other S&M pages to see what to cull. I don't use Instagram but it's a matter of having it so you have your name url to keep it all in the family.

Social media is tiring and mostly useless, and if you don't need a particular page or site then it's time to cull and wrap up those you do in a neat little package so it's easier to deal with.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Thanks to Facebook my latest book recently vaulted into the top 100 on Amazon. I wouldn't give up my social media connections for anything!

Good post, Nathan. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's good, Nathan :)

mortiana said...

Meredith and Cassandra and so many others--I agree with your comments. I only came to FB reluctantly because my "community" had already migrated there. I hate FB and especially Twitter. As an unpublished author I understand it is an evil necessity. I have been struggling to try to create an author page without success. I hate blogs; I want to write and to live my life, not read about other people's. Today I was just about to post "FB is making me especially sick today" when I saw Nathan's post.

AD Starrling said...

I have definitely felt the need to take a break from social media and kinda did last year when I shut myself off for a month to finish my third book.

The following post by Kristine Rusch is a great reminder of what social media should be first and foremost. Fun :)

http://kriswrites.com/2014/02/26/the-business-rusch-social-media-part-2-or-discoverability-part-10-continued/

Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

We are very consumed by these dang social media accounts. We should venture into the real world. The only thing is: isn't the real turning into social media? That's we are headed, I believe, and only a few "different and creative" people will venture off it.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

I've thought a lot about shutting down Google+. No comments, few +1s, and despite having a couple of thousand people in circles few posts. But my webmaster keeps telling me that having an account is important to my search engine ranking.

Jules said...

I'm always tempted to leave Tumblr because the anger, even when I agree with it, especially when I agree with it, can be so overwhelming. But I rely on Tumblr and Twitter because they often deliver news faster to me than actual news sources. And to leave it all behind would feel like I'm allowing myself to become irrelevant to a world I've otherwise worked very hard to have a voice in.

Scott Marlowe said...

I don't ever really think about shutting down my social media accounts, but I do find myself using them less and less. Twitter has become a distraction and Facebook...I never really used FB that much to begin with. As for what we're 'supposed' to have as authors...who cares? My readers care about my books and stories, not what I'm doing or saying on Twitter.

Cynthia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia said...

When I first joined Twitter, it was just so I could follow authors and other industry professionals. So I did a quiet hmmmmph whenever someone knocked on people like me (e.g. if you don't update your Twitter, why bother having an account?) I'm beginning to Tweet a little more, but probably not at the frequency of seasoned Twitter users. But I prefer to just go at my own pace. So with all things social media, I just try (key word: try) to remain aware that what I get from my experience might be enough for me at a given time. My experience doesn't have to mirror someone else's, even if it seems like they're having more fun (key word: seems).

Crowhill said...

I was doing "social media" before it was called that -- back on listservs and internet discussion boards and so on.

To some extent the internet seems like it's full of people with Aspergers -- i.e., people who don't get social cues and obsess on weird things. I think that's partly true, but it's also a consequence of the format. You lose tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, etc., and words devoid of those things often lead to misunderstandings. It's far too easy to leap to conclusions and think somebody's an idiot and a jerk.

I've learned that it takes a very long time to get the feel for someone through this text-based communication, and that means you have to give lots of grace and lots of benefits of the doubt.

"Social media" often frustrates me, but I've found the best solution is to step back, interact with some real people for a while, get some perspective, calm down, give the jerk who just rattled your chain a little forgiveness and understanding, and then try again.

Caroline Bliss Larsen said...

I've definitely been tempted to take myself off social media, but every time I think that, I remember that for every negative aspect of social media, there are plenty of positive ones.

Richard Ennis said...

Twitter seems so impersonal. With "writing advice" posters for example. They post a lot but give zero replies. I'm new to Twitter, but was hopeful for making some constructive use of it, and SOME edifying conversation anyway. And celebrities? No chance of a reply there, unless you're one of them.

frau wy said...

I have often been tempted but the difficulty is that you need social media to stay in touch with what other people are doing- in my case this is for business as well as social. So that means I need to retain my accounts. I am however very cynical about it all and am very much aware that someone out there is using this whole social media movement to harvest all of our information. But the choice is yours; you decide how much of your life you want people to see and how often.

Jason Bougger said...

The thing I hate the most about facebook is that it just seems to make people seem so petty. It's all either bitching or bragging. I keep my account because it's the only way I can keep in touch with some people, but I rarely interact with people on it.

For writing stuff, I just set up a facebook author page instead. That way I can interact with writing people about writing stuff without involving other friends, unless they care about my writing stuff.

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