Social Media Summer Cleaning

June 20, 2017 § 14 Comments

I did another self-funded mini-Amtrak residency last week. One of the best parts of the train is inconsistent/slow wifi and poor cell reception. I spend a lot of time looking out the window and thinking thinky thoughts. Another best part is shared tables–Amtrak seats strangers together until a dining car table is full. And usually, that’s pretty awesome.

Last week, the man beside me began dinner conversation by passing out scraps of paper with his name and “” so we’d know where to download his books. Give the man credit–he was of an age that paper media was probably a more comfortable way to connect than whipping out a smartphone and asking for our Twitter handles. Unfortunately, he also brought up a strong political position over the salad course, at which the lady across the table joined me in a chorus of, “Oh, we never talk politics with strangers!”

Maybe because the day before I’d heard a strong political position from my beloved hairdresser that made me rethink whether the terrific face-framing layers were worth it, or because that morning I’d gotten into a tussle with a stranger on Facebook, it hit me pretty hard to hear another diatribe in a place I thought was safe.

As writers, we’re “supposed” to “build platform.” Get to know people in our field, online and off. We tend to accept most friend requests, join most groups that seem vaguely simpatico, check what’s happening online like it’s a duty instead of a way to duck writing a tricky sentence (guilty!). Until November 2016, this all-access plan was mostly good. Since then, I’ve found a lot of my social media time feels like running through a paintball game.

Click–Bam! Racism!

Click–Pow! Horrible event I care about! Where’s my senator’s number?

Click–Zap! Surprise bigot in the comments!

Maybe you’re feeling some of this, too. And as the Social Media Editor around here, I want to give you permission (nay, encouragement!) for a good summer clean-out. Look through your Facebook friends–anyone you truly don’t remember? You don’t have to unfriend them, just unfollow. (For a more gradual process, check the birthday notifications. Anyone you don’t care enough to wish a happy day to can probably be unfollowed.) If nastiness pops up on a friend’s feed, block the source and you won’t see them any more. Every time you see something awful on Twitter (that isn’t a citizen’s duty to be aware of) mute that account.

What kind of social connections do you want to be making? What idea exchanges do you want to have? Instead of waiting for the sore spots to get poked, take ownership. Pick one day a week or one time a day to participate. Decide what topics you care enough to engage on and let everything else go–even if you have the BEST FACT EVER to refute with. Start a newsletter (Tiny Letter is pretty easy) so that it’s you reaching out when you choose, and people who email you back are likely into what you have to say. Remember social media as a place to have fun, and share silly memes, make jokes, and express your personal voice about your garden, your dog, or your writing process.

When I got into the train dining car the next morning, I saw the male author headed my way, and I whispered into the hostess’ ear that I’d rather not sit with him, please. She put me at a table with a couple. I asked them where they were from. “Seattle!” chirped the woman. We talked about Broadway musicals and mime and their children and my husband, and I didn’t once bring up my book.


Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor and the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Want writing news, events, and upcoming webinars? Join the A-List!

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§ 14 Responses to Social Media Summer Cleaning

  • Jan Priddy says:

    Allison, your essays always stir me to do something. I joined Facebook years ago in order to find former students and when I left last month, I had 1500 “friends” who were former students, people I knew through hobbies, education, and writing. I genuinely wished them each a happy birthday on their day.

    For years, the most important thing I did on FB was wish happy birthday to people I rarely see in person. I closed my blog last year after one thousand posted essays. I walk the beach each day and search for glass. What I mostly pick up is trash discarded by boaters and tourists. I live with a husband and an aging dog. My husband and I are ourselves aged. I write most every day. I also knit and bake and cook meals and piece quilts and weave wool. Sometimes past students contact me for help with applications to jobs or postgrad programs. I spent too much time reading the news each morning. Facebook seems easier to abandon than The New York Times—now isn’t that sad?

    There are the essays I enjoyed for so long, the ones I only writer in my head these days.

    I have TinyLetter in my menu as something to look at later. Thank you for encouragement and for bringing later a little sooner.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      Jan, that sounds so healthy and wonderful! I always look forward to your comments – and look forward to seeing your Tiny Letter!

  • S.M. Tsonis says:

    Smart…and DONE! I’ve been thinking about this for a while and just kept putting it off. I put it off because I dreaded the moment that will surely come after I unfollow an annoying in-law, and then I see them at a function and they ask me about some post that I should have seen but….alas, no, I will never see the 90th video they posted of their dog sleeping. Not to mention I feel disgusted with myself once I realize how much time I’ve wasted on social media rather than accomplishing any of 15 far fetched goals I’ve set for myself this year.

  • I was on the train this morning- great place to write when the rocking car doesn’t lull me to sleep. And I’m reconsidering how I use social too. Thanks!

  • Thanks for the splendid ideas. It’s too easy to just let our social media connections stand without reviewing them from time to time. Every social media contact doesn’t necessarily strengthen a writing platform. It shouldn’t just be a game of numbers. Thank you for this wise post!

  • Kathryn Rose says:

    I love this.

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  • Scott A Fruin says:

    Allison, we have never met and I do not normally email bloggers – even good ones…but I felt like a boulder rolled off of my shoulders while reading your post.  I grew up with the train and  love all the “connections” that strangers can make rolling across the continually changing  landscape. So the experience of having self-promotion and politics served up with the salad course in that wonderfully intimate environment of strangers, was horrifying.  Thank you for following up with the recognition that you (and others) can be inundated with unwanted intrusions under the color of “social” media. I am new to it and appreciate the encouragement /permission (which I interpreted as “it is social media ok”) to unload and specific thoughts on how. LaRonda Bowen 

    From: BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog To: Sent: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 6:32 AM Subject: [New post] Social Media Summer Cleaning #yiv4027053253 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv4027053253 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv4027053253 a.yiv4027053253primaryactionlink:link, #yiv4027053253 a.yiv4027053253primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv4027053253 a.yiv4027053253primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv4027053253 a.yiv4027053253primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv4027053253 | Allison K Williams posted: ” I did another self-funded mini-Amtrak residency last week. One of the best parts of the train is inconsistent/slow wifi and poor cell reception. I spend a lot of time looking out the window and thinking thinky thoughts. Another best part is shared tables” | |

    • Allison K Williams says:

      I’m so happy to hear this struck a chord for you! And I don’t know if you clicked through on “that’s pretty awesome” in the first paragraph, but I think you might enjoy the (short) bit about a much better trip 🙂

  • […] via Social Media Summer Cleaning — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]

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