The Great Digital Nowhere

Using Social Media to My Advantage

I follow my friends and family on Instagram. I also follow artists, writers, Justin Timberlake and skateboarding. I spend way too much time watching Nora Vasconcellos’s videos. She fearless. She bleeds and gets right back at it again.

It’s impressive to watch her skate but her level of skill isn’t what got me hooked. She doesn’t refer to herself as a skater with the same intensity as she does a creator.

She shares an equal amount of videos where she falls and fails as she does nailing tricks and skills.

Although she considers herself an athlete (the first female athlete on the Adidas skateboard team) skating for her is a form of art. It’s expression and the more tricks she masters the more creative she becomes.

While social media is a valuable tool for marketing my work and connecting to the vast unknown, an entire world I would not have access to otherwise, it can also become an addictive time sucker as I scroll through infinite feeds and waste hours.

It takes effort and restraint to limit my usage. Once I set the intention of utilizing it in a productive manner it became easier to close my laptop or simply log off. I didn’t require the use of tracking or blocking apps regardless of how many time wasting articles I read suggesting it does.

There are also many articles which focus on doing a digital detox, but science shows us that human behavior is not designed to just quit or change habits in a moments notice.

My impression of what a digital detox would be is similar to a fad diet where you gain a bounce back of 20 pounds or more once you’ve reached your desired weight mark. These cases are more harmful to the human psyche than productive.

It did require a plan of action to curb my internet appetite, though. There are far too many social media sites nowadays, so many I could invest an entire day posting my stories and artwork everywhere only to find myself with no physical time remaining to write stories or create art.

I needed to narrow it down.

I had to figure out which social media sites worked best for me and which ones I most enjoyed participating on. The sites with little to no return or an insignificant use of my time had to go.

I can share stories I’ve published on Medium (and stories I’ve enjoyed reading) directly to Twitter. It’s a great platform to network on, make connections and build lists of what I want to see most. I can’t say I’ve completely mastered it, as I’m still relatively new to the platform but I have figured out how to focus on the community I’m most interested in while avoiding politics and the spread of hate.

I use Facebook to hangout in writer’s groups and I’ll share fun personal anecdotes on my creators page. Facebook allows me to select what I want to share publicly and what I want to share with friends only. This works good for me.

Definitely Instagram. I’m able to share both my writing and artwork, it’s super simple to use and I love looking at other people’s photos too. It’s not much for actual engagement. It’s more of a visual platform but should someone reach out, I’m still able to respond. It’s an all in one for me. I can share print screens of quotes I’ve written, photos of my art, scenes from my life and videos of my cats because without cats the value of social media would drop substantially.

I hit up Quora once a week for an hour and answer a few questions. I enjoy Quora for two main reasons:

First, some of the questions people ask are ridiculous. Do you have self esteem issues? Feeling poorly about your current status in life? Then I recommend Quora. I read the weirdest shit on Quora. The amount of stupidity will help you feel a lot better about yourself.

Second, it’s an abyss of story ideas. It’s a good site to research current topics people are interested in, and given the quality of typical questions asked on Quora it’s clear people are interested in everything and anything. I find it to be quite entertaining and worth my time as long as I remain within my set time frame.

I’m not a bot.

There are websites and apps that will post to social media for me. This convenience puts a damper on personal touch. Although I can get my work out there while saving time and effort, it lacks in the area of engagement. When I considered using this software as an option I had to ask myself, am I really just in it to market my writing and art?

No. Nothing says not personable more than “shared via Crowdfire,” or, “MeetEdgar” next to my post.

I’m not a bot. I’m a human being. I want to be part of the conversation. Being “social” requires socializing. I actually take the time to personally post, share and be responsive. As a creator, I often look to my community for inspiration. There is a great deal of value to be found among my readers.

Some days my social media investment takes longer than others but it’s a big part of sharing my work and it’s important to me to have that level of interaction with others. I just have to stay strong and when time is up, that’s it for today.

I do my best to check in three times a day during the week and a minimum of once a day over the weekend.

One thing I found that really works well for me is that I only access social media on my laptop. This guarantees I make the time and effort, but I’m also not staring down at my cellphone 24/7. I’m present during the time I’m not on the internet. I’m present with myself, my work, my family and my life.

Building a community.

This is key to making social media a great place. For me, social media isn’t about the number of followers or the size of the following I have. It’s about developing rapport because building a community means building a connection.

I also don’t strictly share my writing and artwork, I share myself and my life. I document my creative process and social media helps me get it out there for others to see. A large part of my creative process is every day life.

Building a community requires me to occasionally go through my friends list and followers and unfriend and unfollow those who never engage with me or others in the community. This may sound shitty, but it’s not. I feel I need to do this to make social media more meaningful for me. I’d prefer to have less followers if it means more quality engagement.

Social media does have its downfalls but it also has its good qualities and purpose, and as with everything else in life if you focus on the good it will outweigh the bad.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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