This article will be a little ranty. As an author and an anime/Japanese culture blogger, there’s pressure to have a social media presence. While JP has a Facebook page and I have Tumblr and Twitter accounts, I abhor social media. Now you’d think a guy who enjoys writing would enjoy writing on these systems, but that’s the kicker, social media isn’t writing.
Now, I’m an introvert (although if you’d meet me you’d never know it, I’ve learned how to wear a social mask). Many introverts rather like social media; they provide a way to expression thoughts and opinions in ways introverts do best. After all, most of us aren’t good at the whole verbal communication thing. Writing gives us space to think. But that’s the thing for me. Social media doesn’t give me enough space. Twitter and Facebook and other platforms encourage small-bite conversation. Small-bite conversation fails to convey information properly. For one, you can’t properly cite sources to support an argument. For another, they encourage superficial thinking. You can’t properly hold an intelligent conversation on Twitter that allows you to build a reasoned argument. It’s all fluff, and as an introvert I abhor fluffed conversations. Twitter is full of small talk. The problem now, as the recent US elections have revealed, people mistake this small talk for substance. We’ve seen Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and other candidates fire back and forth across social media in small bites. News media latched onto every Tweet and Facebook post as if it was reasoned policy. I found this troubling. No nuance, no substance, just fluff. It encourages emotional reactions, and from my experiences social media fails to encourage people to think deeper.
As an author I’m expected to build the magical edifice called a platform. It’s a confluence of social media designed to help me connect with you, the reader, in order to sell more books. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy engaging with readers and the anime community. However, I want to engage deeply. Emails and blog comments and reaction posts (do people write these anymore?) are superior to social media because of how they provide depth of conversation. Everywhere I turn, people hawk the almighty social media platform as necessary for writing success. Each time I read or hear about it, my hackles rise and my stomach sours. It strikes me as disingenuous to connect to people in order to sell something, even if it is a book. The entire idea goes against my personality. I crave quality connections; quantity exhausts me and cheapens the exchanges. It feels wrong.
Of course, I post my books here. While I would like you to buy them, I don’t like the hawk them (maybe that sentence is a shill?). My goal for JP is to provide you with decent, researched information about Japanese culture and otaku culture, not to push my books on you.
The anime community thrives on social media. Many fans enjoy discussing episodes with other fans on Twitter as they watch them together. In this way, Twitter and Facebook and other media are great. They work like the chatrooms of old. Problems arise when people attempt to use these platforms for politics, religion, and other topics that require substance. I rather like forums because they provide space for building arguments, but I’ve noticed in recent years short Twitter-like posts have leaked into forums. Anyway, social media can tie a community like what anime fans have together; however, it also hurts the foundation of the anime community: blogs. Before social media, people met on blogs for discussion. Now, many blogs are quiet. Everyone links back to centralized social media outlets, which is a problem of itself. The quiet can discourage some anime bloggers. They write, but few people comment. Sometimes it can feel as if you shout into a vacuum. The saturation of social media makes it difficult to carve out a place to be heard. Not to mention all the bots adding to the cacophony.
That cacophony turns me off the the platforms. So. Much.Noise. I leave physical places that have a fraction of the noise social media has. It makes me frazzled. Not to mention social media sucks time from the day, time better spent writing.
So what’s the point of my whining? I’m not some Luddite; I’ve tried to like social media. I don’t really mind Facebook….as long as I’m not on it for long but Twitter, ugh. I’ve tried several times to like Twitter. I just can’t. It goes against my personality. I have to be socially “on” as a librarian, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is be socially “on” online. Now, I know social media is what you make of it. As I said, Twitter and other platforms are great for anime fans who like to watch shows together. At the same time, social media encourages distraction. Zen philosophy teaches how distractions can hurt our ability to live deeply. That ability encourages people to slow and savor the moment. Christianity teaches this too. But social media appears to undermine our ability to focus according to just about every study I’ve read so far.
I’m bad about multitasking too. I am aware of how much I miss when I try to write and watch something, for example. I can enjoy neither really. I fail to give due attention to the movie, anime, or writing project. I know people who are always on social media; distraction appears to be their normal state of mind. It’s not healthy. While scientists debate if social media is pulling us together, the distractions social media causes–think of how not being able to check your notifications makes you feel–is affecting our minds. It’s not good to always be distracted.
I’m not saying you should avoid social media. But you should use it less often and with more mindfulness. If you are an author or blogger, consider how much of your time social media consumes and how you could otherwise spend it. You may struggle to make regular posts, for example, but if you track your time spent on Tumblr consuming content, you may find you have a wealth of time to write. Social media encourages consumption over production. It made it easy to share and like things, and infinite scrolling is addicting. I have to be careful of Tumblr and Facebook thanks to scrolling. Time evaporates if I am not. But when you are consuming content, you aren’t producing. When you are tweeting, you are also not producing. You can’t write a blog post or a novel on Twitter.
While I’m ranting: social media should have a think-again timer on everything we post. Often we will think about a comment we jotted and wish we hadn’t hit the enter key. While we can delete it, it’s already been seen. Perhaps a 10 – 15 minute timer would fix this and some of the vitriol on social media. After you post, the comment or tweet will sit in queue for 10 – 15 minutes before asking you “Are you sure you want everyone to read this?” It may annoy people, but it might also help curb bot activity and general immaturity.
So the point of this rant: just be careful of how you use your time. Every second that passes is a second gone forever and a second closer to death. I have to remind myself that regularly. Otherwise, I find I have frittered away my entire afternoon with distractions instead of grasping it and spending the time doing what I love and with those that I love.