September 12, 2016

Who Am I, if Social Media Says I'm Nobody?

Why do we look to strangers on the internet to define us? I've written before about the phenomenon of people chiming in (with ridiculous requirements) on who is "a real writer." But this isn't limited to the publishing world by any means. Just consider this article from the Huffington Post discussing "62 Signs You Are A Full-Fledged Adult Now." Because apparently we can't know if we qualify as an "adult" without someone else—a random stranger writing an article—telling us that that's the case, assuming we match their view of what an adult is.

Think about it: how many posts like that have you seen?

"X signs you're officially a             "
or
"You Know You're a              When..."

Why do we need someone else to tell us who we are? Why does someone pulling together these criteria into an article or blog post suddenly legitimize us, as "true" fans or "real" writers or whatever else?

I think the answer comes down to social media. Culturally, we've come to a point where having followers on Instagram or Vine or whatever is "in" at the moment makes you "somebody"—get enough and you'll be flying around the world for interviews, being invited on shows like Dancing with the Stars, etc. If no one follows you online, if no one likes your Facebook post, if no one comments on your blog posts, then you're nobody. That's the message being constantly perpetuated by the veneration of social media.

I call bullsh*t, but then maybe that's why I fail at social media. I'm sorry, blog readers, but I know who I am whether you comment or not (though comments are always appreciated!). I know who I am whether my tweets get seen or not. I have no identity crises related to not getting enough likes or retweets or whatever else, even as I recognize that, when it comes to social media metrics, I am failing. I'm happy to connect with all of you lovely people, and let's be honest, it's an important part of being an author or any kind of entrepreneur in today's world, but I am not defined by it, or by random articles online.

According to more than twenty sources I read while writing that post I mentioned, about what makes someone a "real" writer, I don't qualify. Not by their benchmarks. But I have three published novels, and thanks to NaNoWriMo, a fourth one drafted. Why should those posts' definitions of what makes someone a writer take that away from me? I understand why they would want it to—power, theirs over all of us—but why do we, generally, let them?

I slip sometimes, when social media, including this blog, starts to feel like screaming into the void. But what I question is my ability to create engaging content, to connect via social media with other writers and readers—not who I am as a person. And if that makes me a failure at social media, I guess I just have to accept that.

So who are you, outside of internet articles and social media metrics? Because that's the you I'd like to get to know.

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