The Social Media Conundrum

Social media slowly came into existence in the early 2000s. The first to enter the online world was MySpace in 2003. Facebook: 2004. Reddit: 2005. Tumblr: 2007. Pinterest came about in 2009 and Instagram in 2010. Message boards predated all of those. I have fond memories of my days discussing the franchise on the Star Trek dot com message boards, and a few others whose names I can no longer remember. Just as message boards had their time and place, so does every social media platform.

They say that one of the ways to be a successful, published author, one should have a super strong social media presence. While having loads of followers does help, and I’ve seen it work out quite well for many, I’m not entirely positive this absolutely has to be the case. Do your readers actually want to interact with you? Do you with them? Should having a online presence be a qualifier for publication?

That’s what this blog post will be about. I’ll either talk myself into or out of a specific platform as I reassess my involvement online for 2021. 2020 was a brutal year in the online world. It’s no longer a safe place for opinions – if it ever truly was. There’s a “herd mentality” that comes along with social media and, if one goes against the grain, they’re ostracized. Okay, that’s a strong word. If you’ve spent any length of time online, I think you get what I mean. Here are my thoughts on the top four big platforms, and if I’ll continue using them in 2021.

I don’t know about you, but throughout the course of 2020, all forms of social media have lost their charm. My feelings about the online world began to change back in February with Facebook, during the first rumblings of COVID-19. I hadn’t had an account for nearly a year and a half at that point and thought to start a page again because we didn’t know what the future would hold in terms of seeing family during Pennsylvania’s shut downs in March. When I saw just how ferociously my family argued with one another over (what felt like) every little thing, I threw caution to the wind and deactivated that newly made account. I want to keep on loving my family without the inclusion of politics.

Will I continue using Facebook? No

“An open Facebook page is simply a psychiatric dry erase board that screams, “Look at me. I am insecure. I need your reaction to what I am doing, but you’re not cool enough to be my friend. Therefore, I will just pray you see this because the approval of God is not all I need.”

― Shannon L. Alder, source

On Instagram (which is now also under Facebook), if you don’t have that “aesthetic,” or don’t have the same views as those who are also popular, their algorithm won’t favor you and you’ll be in the Tiny Account Trenches. No matter which hashtags you use. I used to think it was just because I didn’t want to take the time to type out descriptions or include something fanciful to get noticed. No. I think, once I realized Facebook bought out Instagram, that killed that app for me. Occasionally I post on IG, but it’s main use now is to keep in touch with an old school MMPORG friend from my college days.

Will I continue using Instagram? Yes

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, source

Pinterest is the only social media platform I’m still trying to figure out. And because I’m still learning how to use this platform, I find myself enjoying it more. Things are less instantaneous, you don’t see the politics that Twitter loves to throw at everyone, and one can curate their experience. This is how Facebook used to be, way back in the early 2000s. Back then users had more control over what they wanted to see. Now it’s “here’s what a friend of a friend of a friend” liked or posted. Because you know so-and-so, surely you know these folks as well!” Not so with Pinterest. I love that users can not only share images and links, but create “mood boards” for practically any reason. It’s a platform of more practical use.

Will I continue using Pinterest? Yes

“People who smile while they are alone used to be called insane, until we invented smartphones and social media.”

― Mokokoma Mokhonoana, source

Here’s the platform I struggle with the most: Twitter. Many times this year I’ve wanted to “rage quit” Twitter. The platform thinks every topic is political. And people are just angry in general. While I love the fact that it can connect you with other writers and individuals in the industry, and what it’s done for my website this past year, I find myself lonely more often than not. I see everyone else chatting with each other and, even though I try adding something to the conversation, I feel oft ignored. Not only that, but the constant online contests stress me out (I’m a slow writer, what can I say?). As such, I’ll be following as many blogs as I can in January 2021, and I’m permanently deleting my account the first week in February. It’s all become just a little too much.

Will I continue using Twitter? Maybe

“Social media not only snatches your time, but it also teaches you attention deficiency.”

― Neeraj Agnihotri, Procrasdemon – The Artist’s Guide to Liberation From Procrastination, source

Huh – so it looks like the decision to leave Twitter was a lot easier than I thought it’d be. I’m one of those “all or nothing” individuals, and I’ve found myself a little too into Twitter and not so much into my writing. I very strongly feel that if I can remove one of the last modern barriers that continuously distracts me from my goal of being a published author one day, then I’m going to do it. Heck, if I can get rid of all streaming services AND not even have a tv plugged in for nearly a year, then I think I can detox from social media. It’s time to focus on the art of writing once again, and step away from social media in 2021.

*This post was updated December 31st, 2020

Why Now is A Great Time to Start a Blog

Blogs are to the Internet as quills and ink are to writing. Blogs have been around for a long time, but with the introduction of new tools, plug-ins, and easier access to web hosts, they’re easier than ever before to build, maintain and analyze. Is that the only reason why I say now is the perfect time to start one? Absolutely not.

With many of us affected by current world events, more people than ever are searching for new content to divulge in. Blogs help us find like-minded hobbyists, or fellow fans of a favorite television show or musical group, and so on. Use this interesting time to connect with others and learn something new in the process. You don’t need to be an expert to start a blog.

There is a learning curve when it comes to building a great site, an audience, and a social platform. Don’t let the idea of learning something new dissuade you! And don’t worry – you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get started either. Are you feeling up to the challenge? Everyone has to start somewhere, so let’s take a look at five steps that can help you along your way.

Step 1: Search Out Other Blogs.
This is where the content creator proverbial rabbit hole begins. A specific topic search is the best way to find out what other creators are putting out. Do you knit, organize or read? How about cooking, drawing or baking? Is cross stitch your thing or do you adore fairy gardens?

While there’s quite a menagerie already lending voices to their respective communities, don’t be afraid to add your own! If, at this point you just want some new resources to glean from, then skip the rest of this article! What? What’s that? You still want to dip a toe in? Great!

It can be very easy, when creating online content, to copy or mimic someone else’s work. It’ll be tough, at first. Have patience. You’ll definitely find your own voice. That doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired by other creators. Give credit where credit is due and source your resources.

Step 2: Decide On Your Content.
What are you the most passionate about? What do you want to discuss or dive into the most? Lifestyle content is a growing, dare I say it, industry. There is, however, a Even more specialized content on platforms like YouTube is shifting to daily vlogs – or video blogs – in which viewers can see another way of life.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg; just an example of what you can do. Personally, I’ve never enjoyed being in front of a camera. I’m a writer, so the braod topic of writing was the most obvious route for me.

You will experience a lot of trial and error as you grow your platform. Don’t be discouraged if an idea doesn’t pan out. Example: I once tried maintaining a Korean pop music site. While I enjoy the genre, my passion for running the site quickly died. I still listen to kpop on a daily basis, but my true passion lies with writing.

Step 3: Pick Your Platform(s).
These days, many platforms are free-to-start to give users the chance to explore and decide if that host is right for them. The only host I use is WordPress, and I have a Premium Membership. It took a year of use to take the plunge, but I’m awfully glad I did. I just wish they had a plan between Premium and Business. I’d like to use plugins, but I don’t need eCommerce tools. That’s when user feedback becomes an important tool for the site host. Find one that works well with your ideas. There’s no harm in having multiple accounts. Remember: Don’t spread yourself too thin. Start slow and work your way from there.

Below are ten examples each of video and web site hosts for you to peruse.

Video Hosts

Web Hosts

*I’ve included parent companies in case you’d rather not be associated with them for any reason.
**If a parent company isn’t listed, that host is privately owned.

Unless you’ve gone to school or video editing and filmography, or you’re self-taught, you may want to begin with a web host blog instead of a vlog. I only mention that form for those who are better speaking words rather than writing them.

Okay. Have you chosen your host? Let’s move on to the next!

Feeling overwhelmed at the start of something new is natural
and completely normal.

Step 4: Utilize Social Media.
Admit it. You groaned reading this step. However, social media’s grown to become an integral part of daily life. Let’s face it – there isn’t a single social media site that’s clean as a whistle when it comes to reputation. You have to choose what’s right for you. I use Twitter on the daily; Facebook isn’t in my vocabulary; MySpace who?; Snapchat and TikTok? I’ve no idea how to use those.

Picking what social media to use can be more overwhelming than finding your home base platform. Of course, you don’t have to use it at all. But it’s much easier to connect and share your creativity with potential readers through shared links and tailored updates. If you found this blog, you probably did so through Twitter, or WordPress’ Reader.

The point of the matter is, you don’t need an account with every offering. In fact, having more than two or three typically cuts productivity and increases procrastination if not utilized properly. My perfect storm is Twitter and Pinterest, with minimal involvement on Instagram.

Social media can be an incredibly effective tool.
Don’t let it distract you from accomplishing your life goals.

Step 5: Learn to Use Graphics to Your Advantage.
Humanity is a very visually influenced species. Last year I stumbled upon the Yes, I’m a Designer website in search of ideas for my own creations. As with anything, protect your work, and be cautious in what sources you pull your graphics for posts from. (I’ll leave the subject of copyright up to the experts). Since 2012, I’ve created graphics for church, my own fan fictions (when I wrote them), and, eventually, this site.

I use BeFunky. It’s $6.99 a month (cheaper than a Netflix subscription), and includes large libraries of stock images, design elements, filters, and other design tools. If you want to go this route, here are some great web based graphic design programs you don’t even need a degree to use. Some are more advanced than others.

All these sites offer different skill levels from novice to advanced. As with anything, choose what course is right for you.

Well, now. After all that, are you still interested in blogging?

I’m not going to lie – keeping a blog is a lot of work. With creativity, persistence and a little luck, you can hone your little corner of the Internet into a cozy place you love.

Hapy blogging!