“Don’t forget which one of your lives is real…”
My husband tells me every time he catches me scrolling mindlessly or typing furiously on my smartphone.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are nothing but three windows that I constantly use to make sure my virtual life is still happening somewhere on the dark corners of the web.
These big 3 suck my time like honey on a sweet winter day.
And I let them.
Even though I know they were designed to keep me scrolling and to spark an unhealthy obsession with fleeting engagement rates and the desire to present a manicured version of my life.
And then my husband comes and rips through the veil that covers my eyes, reminding of the fragility of that digital life.
You know the facts. You know them as well as I do. Social media is making us miserable.
It is forcing us to create a digital persona who, every day, moves farther and farther away from reality.
Some digital versions of us end up being perfect on a screen but completely obnoxious and unbearable in real life.
I see people obsessively taking selfies alone on the streets not realizing how crazy they seem to the rest of us. I see other people filtering the world through their smartphone screens… and I feel a shiver running down my spine.
Maybe the insanity portrayed in Nosedive (Black Mirror) is not so far from becoming our reality.
On the one hand, we have the heavily manicured personas on Instagram trying to convince us that being an influencer is awesome. On the other hand, we have the sardonic toxicity of Twitter diffusing through our screens like a knife cutting through soft butter…
Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten something.
It is that thing that my father keeps having to remind me every time I stray too much from my real self. Sometimes I call him just to listen to him say it once again: social media is nothing but a tool.
We can use it to cause positive change, but we shouldn’t rely on it. We’d be fools to tie our value to our stats or to the number of people we can influence with our feeds.
Our accounts can get deleted. The rules of the game can change in the blink of an eye.
We’ve seen it already.
Before, you could measure your level of success by the number of followers you could amass. Then success mutated, and suddenly, the number of followers was no longer as important as the likes to followers ratio. That’s when Instagram decided it would make us jump once again by removing the number of likes from our feeds.
But if you ask anybody giving out free advice on digital marketing and social media they will rush to tell you: if you’re not getting the results you want, then, surely, your content must suck!
As if life were that simple!
And the results of that misguided advice are fragile egos and a heavily fragmented social reality with a tiny amount of mega influencers, poised against an insane and ever-growing number of micro-influencers who fall prey to fake collaborations that suck their talents, energy, and time.
Can you see beyond that heavy veil?
The grass is not greener on the other side.
Achieving those hollow mega-influencer numbers will make you happy for a few hours. But then you’ll wake up and you’ll realize you’re still the same.
Your insecurities will still be there. And, as soon as you’ll start relying on other people to carry the burden of your insecurities, you’ll start losing sight of who you really are.
We’re not only made of flesh and bones. We’re made of fears, dreams, and burdens too. Those burdens will keep you grounded, they will remind you of your humble roots and give you the courage to humbly carry your big dreams.
Even if you “make it”, you’ll realize that all you’ve ever done was learning to dance to the rhythm of an insane choreography that keeps shifting with the wind.
One day you’ll be dancing and floating in a sea of superficial attention, drowning your neurons in a rush of oxytocin… the next day, the hangover will hit you hard and you’ll withdraw from your real-life and from your real dreams.
Is this the part where you start getting pissed off at me?
Do you have to be so negative? – you may ask.
I thought this post was about the positive things we can find on social media? – you may throw at my face.
The answer is simple.
The purpose of this post is indeed to tell you about the positive things of social media. But I can’t do it without talking about the false promises that will deprive you of ever finding that good and narrow path.
It pisses me off that so many people are trying to deceive us into believing the fake promises of digital happiness. Because the truth is that influencers struggle too!
I just had this moment where I was like: ‘Why am I so ashamed of the idea of having to get a job?’Jessica Zollman, former influencer to BBC
We don’t need to demonize the idea of a traditional job. Because the alternative is not all sunshine and rainbows either…
It is perfectly possible to be happy in the confinements of a 9-to-5 job. It’s perfectly okay not to make a living from a fake digital persona starving for collaborations with better brands. You can still call yourself a writer and an author and an illustrator, even if you’re not making any money from your art.
It’s okay to live a double life. You can keep a traditional job and let it fed you and spark your creativity.
And then, you can dedicate your time off to be a content creator if that’s what makes you happy.
Just don’t expect it to be easy. Success can happen overnight, but overnight sometimes just means spending several years being ignored before people start noticing you.
The truth is that market saturation happened. People were caught up in the illusion of fake promises and they flocked to the digital world filling it with noise and making it extremely hard to stand out.
At least in the usual way.
The unusually weird way
If social media is saturated and your voice is lost in a sea of endless noise… then maybe it’s the perfect time to tread a different path.
I’ve been heartbroken for the past 6 months due to a significant dip in my engagement. I hardly gain any traction these days and most of my work is ignored…
Yes… that miserable and unfortunate comment is mine.
That’s what I think before I catch myself being ridiculous and slap myself in the face.
Yes, my engagement has been quite terrible these days.
But that didn’t stop my work from reaching amazing people who ended up reading, reviewing, rating and sharing my imperfect freshly published short story – Nobody tricks the trickster!
If I think about it, I have every possible reason to feel blessed and happy.
Who cares about engagement rates anyway, if I can still reach out to the people who actually matter?
Self-publishing that short story made me realize the real potential of social media in this saturated world.
Hint – it has nothing to do with engagement rates
The real potential is the possibility to connect with other artists, readers/reviewers and content creators who share my passion for stories.
Plus, you and I get a real chance of meeting collaborators (not followers) with whom you can work to create something unique.
You no longer have to be the only weird and awkward kid at the back of the classroom!
Because, when the hype of social media drowns in the tsunami of its inflated success, you’ll have nothing to mourn about and every reason to celebrate. Because during that time people used to chase fake dreams, you were building important and long-lasting relationships that will survive the death of your digital life.
Then you’ll have earned something much more important than likes – you’ll have met talented and passionate people whom you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise.
Think about it.
From a writer’s perspective, you can use social media to find amazing editors specialized in your genre that will be willing to help you get your novel in proper shape.
You can reach out to amazing underground artists and challenge them to create the cover of your next book.
Maybe you can also use it to find amazing people running brick and mortar bookstores and offer to organize literary cafes.
You can also find passionate photographers that will be able to make you feel comfortable enough to capture your essence in a single picture.
And connect with amazing book reviewers who really get your kind of weird!
The possibilities are endless.
But I won’t lie to you. Will these “strategies” help you sell more books so you can quit your day job?
But that’s not the point, to begin with.
The point is that your work has the potential to help other people grow as artists as well. Find these people, build a relationship with them, pay them for their art, there’s nothing more fantastic than that!
Our responsibility as artists is not to make enough money so we’ll be able to quit our day jobs. Our responsibility is to become the best artists we can possibly be.
Don’t let this pursue be fueled by metrics and fake promises.
Let it be fueled instead by an insatiable appetite, as Neil Gaiman put it, for making good art.
Are you pissed off at me or inspired by this post?
Either way, I dare you to drop me a comment down below and don’t forget to share this post with your friends.