Writers are always told to boost our presence online, to engage fans on social media and stake a claim on our respective genres, but these boosting bombardments eat into our writing regiments. Our manuscripts sit on the back burner while we argue with Reddit moderators. Our word counts diminish with every tweet we finish.
Writers only have so much creative energy. If we are always trying to lure readers to our blogs our energy drains fast. Our labor of love starts to feel laborious.
We’d rather use that stamina we spend on social media telling stories. So we ration our online interactions. We compose compelling questions so we can smuggle our spam onto public forums. We target influencers to reach new readers. We hijack hashtags.
The problem with rationing our involvement is that we tend to come across as inauthentic, intrusive, and inorganic.
“You say you’re struggling with depression, that it feels like no one will listen, and the walls are closing in? Sounds similar to a character I’ve written. I prescribe a double dose of my fiction. One copy for yourself and another for a friend.”
Not every writer on social media is stealth marketing to the unsteady, but thinking algorithmically does do something to your personality. Once the phrase “cultivate relationships” enters your vocabulary you lose some of your emotional intimacy. Your ability to empathize is diminished when you start seeing people as clicks.
Symptoms of the Problem
When social media ceases to be a place to reach out to others for fun and becomes a place to “extend your reach” then you may have a problem.
Ask yourself; are you incapable of empathizing with people who only use social media for amusement? Are all of your off the cuff remarks calculated? Is your every status update strategic? Do you hate chatting with readers, because you have less time to cultivate your wit?
Do you narrow your emotional output to better serve your metrics, because sad shit doesn’t get as many clicks? Or do you admit your vulnerabilities when you know there’s an audience for them? For example: #MentalIllnessMisconceptions, #IntrovertProblems, #DepressionIsReal, etc.
Do you think you’re being 100 percent real only to realize your math is off and that your candor is just as contrived as anything else you put out there? Do you wish you could be half as brave as you pretend to be on the page? Do you feel like you’ve ceased being a person and have actually become your brand?
What You and a Sociopath Have in Common
You might just be a social media sociopath. Not in the sense that you’re cyber-bulling strangers or actively seeking to do harm. You’re a sociopath in that you’re so exhausted from raising awareness of your writing that you don’t have the energy to form close attachments.
You’re a sociopath in that you’ve been working so hard to appeal to people that now you feel like you’re posing as a person. That smirking face in your avatar isn’t you. It’s a mask meant to showcase how you’d like to be seen.
You’ve been playing to an audience for so long you’ve forgotten how to be natural.
How Social Media Sociopaths Happen
We brand builders act like sociopaths because we’re pushing products in places where others are trying to have genuine conversations. We can’t just say, “Shut up about those Marvel movies and check out my story.” We have to use a little finesse
We study the social norms of whatever platforms we’re on, not to obey them but to emulate them, to seem like we belong, so that we can better segue into our links. We’re not looking to be less intrusive, just more evasive. We’re not looking to make connections, just conversions. We’re not looking for more friends, just satisfied customers.
We want our work to resonate with readers, just from afar. If our writing touches readers deeply we want to hear about. Send us a direct message; just don’t expect us to respond. We’re never truly there for anyone, not when they need us. We’d like to be, but we don’t have that kind of time. Not when we want to get back to our writing.
I’m Just Being Honest
I can’t tell you how not to be a social media sociopath, because I am one. Obviously. Even when I’m open about what I’m doing the irony doesn’t absolve me. I’m not blogging for the sake of blogging. I’m blogging to get you to read my fiction. I give advice to help myself.
I believe in altruism, just not on this platform.
I love sharing my art on the Internet. I hate trying to trick people into looking at it. I hate writing top ten lists, piggybacking on pop culture, just to get you here. I hate relegating the writing I’m proud of to banners in the margins, but that’s what a lot of us are doing.
So what’s the point? Is this just another article condemning the very medium it’s distributed on? The point is in the title; are you a social media sociopath? Ask yourself that question when you find yourself doing something you’d rather not for the sake of your brand. Ask yourself if you’d visit that subreddit if you didn’t have anything to peddle in it. Ask yourself how long you’d let that DM exchange go on if you weren’t trying to sell something. Ask yourself if it feels like you’re running on con.
Find a better way to get your message across without being a social media sociopath. People respond to authenticity. If you’re afraid you’re being too calculated, maybe you should make a habit of shooting from the hip. Maybe you should use social media in real time instead of relying on a scheduling application for everything. Maybe you should post that blog entry without doing eight more revisions.