Claiming your own personal space on the World Wide Web
There was a time span of seven years when I was heavily engaged in social media. During this phase, I ran a Facebook Page for over six years that at its peak had over 180K following. The content is not what's important here - it's my personal time I put into it and the toll it ultimately took on my personality and my general outlook toward social media and my engagement with my audience.
I was fortunate enough to been involved with a Page that really took off surprisingly well after I created it. Within a week, I had several thousand followers. After a month, tens of thousands. After a year, I was well over one-hundred thousand and counting. As someone who's never been an expert in social media nor set out to create such a beast, I was naturally elated by the apparent good fortune.
The time I put into this venture was, upon looking back now, absolutely insane. In the very beginning, when the followers, likes, and comments were piling up like a 100-foot tsunami wave, I spent well over 40 hours a week, 7 days a week, during all times of the day, "engaging" with my audience. The lines between my personal, work, and social media life became well-blurred.
I spent countless hours interacting with people from all around the world, depending on the post content. I became personally involved with strangers discussing various topics on social justice (again, the details aren't important for the sake of this piece). I fought with them. I collaborated with them. I be-friended them. I made enemies. I even received a few death threats. During the first few years of running this Page solo, I never thought once about the time nor the burden this endeavor put on me and perhaps others as a result of my real-world retreat. I was completely absorbed in the project. I had gone down the rabbit hole.
When I came to the realization that the original purpose of my Page had outgrown its welcome and use, I deleted it. I couldn't tame it or repurpose it. I could either carry on till the end of time running it or be done with it. The one thing I knew for certain was that I wasn't going to hand over the reins to my baby to anyone. Despite constant offers from others throughout the Page's existence to co-admin or take over completely, I always declined. In the end, I downloaded the data from Facebook and deleted it. C'est fini!
Since emerging from this rabbit hole - and maybe a black hole is a better way to describe this Page because much in my life fell into it darkly - I've battled with the very idea of wasting too much time on social media. I would at times grow tired of responding to comments on my personal accounts and even the very thought of social media. Periodically, I would completely disengage from social media for days or weeks at a time or delete profiles only to re-start again when I felt up to it. Needless to say, the few long-term followers and friends I still have are probably tired of my neurotic antics. And why should they suffer for my little case of social media PTSD?
A New Way Forward
I realize now that I need to change-up the way I do things. I know that I can't escape social media due to running a business and for the obvious benefits of keeping in touch with the people of my life - but a workable solution is needed.
The below "solution" is entirely self-prescribed. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who's playing the social media game to expand their Reach. This is only for me and serves as an explanation as to why I'm doing things the way I do them on all my social medial platforms going forward.
The "No Comment" Philosophy
I have a philosophical objection to social media on a couple major fronts. The first is time. Time spent responding to people on a platform I do not own and largely do not control. My question I pose to you is, why have we all been suckered into believing that we should boost the profiles and profits of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, etc.? Why are we being asked to spend so much time on social media - instead of perhaps relegating this same time toward our own websites and endeavors?
If you look at virtually any advice on SEO and best strategies for running social media, engagement is usually at the forefront of discussion. How you engage with your audience. These strategies always talk about what you say and how to say it and usually end with what you'd ultimately like to see your audience do. This could take the form of directing people to websites for various reasons, usually to buy something. Regardless of the purpose, there are always going to be comments to contend with.
Social media wizards love responding to comments, don't they? SEO strategists recommend it highly. Why? Because it means there's a personal commitment, personal time spent in a tightly-regulated space where your very comments may inspire others to do the same. "The more, the merrier" motto is certainly encouraged and rewarded with replies and likes and countless forms of emojis. Click, click, click. Type, type, type.
First and foremost, the space is operated by those who run the social media profile - and they're operating on the rules of the platform. Basically, when you comment on someone's social media page, you're giving your time away to at least two parties, and more than likely to advertisers and other third parties who are data-mining every single letter and character you type and conspiring to use it against you in the form of ads. Ever wonder why you start seeing ads for a product or service soon after discussing it or posting about it on social media? It's because YOU were the INPUT. Your words were used against you.
Don't comment, don't respond to comments on social media
This may sound extreme but it really isn't. I'm all about acknowledging someone with a Like or whatever. And I would absolutely respond to someone in a direct message. Here's a break-down of what I'm now doing on all my social media accounts:
What I Don't Do Anymore On Social Media
* I'm no longer responding to comments
* I'm no longer commenting
What I am Doing On Social Media
* Encouraging everyone to visit my website to comment
* Encouraging everyone to direct message me if they want to chat
* Looking for those who have websites to engage with
* Direct messaging those I want to chat with about something I'd normally take time to write in comments
The reasons for doing this are several beyond what I've already mentioned. Another reason is for privacy. Why should our comments, however flippant or serious, be left out for all to see? What happened to the concept of no-frills dialogue? Since when had it become acceptable to leave our real-time thoughts suspended within a trillion tiny bubbles controlled by multi-national corporations? No doubt, when it became fashionable and made socially-acceptable by these same multi-national corporations back in the late 90s, early 2000s. Now, very few people even question it. I suspect it's probably deemed unsocial to not participate in the scheme. Having your own website guarantees a two-way dialogue, depending on how the owner wants to run it. By and large, there's no regulations to be wary of, fewer or no advertisers to worry about. Less spam, less prying eyes. Less bullshit.
For those who have no reason to own a website or can't afford one, speaking to one another can still happen in whatever direct message features the social media platforms offer. Chat away. I'm not advocating for people to go out and spend money if they don't need to or want to. I'm only stating that for those of us who have a need for a website, we should be making use of that privilege whole-heartedly.
'Dealing' with Commenters
So what will I try to do going forward, besides what I've already mentioned above? I will, for one, try to communicate to those who are still commenting on my content of my new paradigm. And if I feel compelled myself to comment, I'll seek out a website or a direct message, depending on the context. In addition, I'm leaving a message to this effect on all my profiles: "I reply to comments on my website & DM"
I've only just begun this latest experiment in social media-distancing. But a more apt way of thinking about it is 'social media disentanglement' because I believe the only way to "be one" with social media is to treat it like a match: use it to light a candle and then throw it away.