Toward a world beyond earning a living: unjobbing, decolonizing time, and cultivating a culture of leisure in an overworked world.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Not A Public Figure: Why I'm Leaving Facebook and Twitter

Soon I’ll be leaving Facebook and Twitter permanently. I won’t delete my accounts right away, but I will no longer update them.

This means I’m permanently retiring my Facebook page for The Anticareerist. At the moment I have about 1700 followers there. Due to Facebook algorithms, only a tiny fraction of them ever see what I post. Ultimately, however, my decision to archive the page has nothing to do with reduced page reach.

I’m leaving Facebook and Twitter because I want to get back to the full embodied joy of writing that I once knew. I’ve missed out on some of that joy in the last few years, because even with a reduced social media presence, Facebook and Twitter still loom large and take up too much space in my life. The deeper I sink into my contemplative practice, the less I find I can tolerate Facebook and Twitter, because they drain me. They take from me so much more than they give back. I don't have the time, energy, or emotional bandwidth to wade through all the potential minefields and keep up with the level of engagement that Facebook seems to demand. And I don’t want to be exposed to the level of detail Facebook gives me about people’s lives - not even for my closest friends. Cutting down my friends list or posting to restricted custom lists of friends didn’t make much difference; it's the platform itself that is the problem for me. Facebook and Twitter are like a noisy, crowded town square, with neon lights and advertising everywhere trying to grab my attention and profit off my unpaid labor. It's too much for me. I want to immerse myself in quiet endarkened retreat space, from whence my best writing emerges.

Like most writers, I’m a hermit by nature. I’m not interested in being a public figure on social media, even on a small scale. Ultimately, I don’t write for an audience. Writing is demanding work, and it’s definitely nice when that work is recognized, appreciated, and supported. I appreciate my readers in return. But validation isn’t the point. Even if I knew no one would ever again read a single word I type, I’d still write. I write because words show up in my awareness unbidden, and because I am relentlessly driven to get those words “out of my system” and wrangle them into a coherent narrative. I write because daimonic forces give me things to say. I’m no longer interested in tracking the number of social media followers I have, or whether or not I’ll have a publisher-approved “platform” for my books whenever they are released. I know enough about the state of the non-fiction book publishing industry - and digital media in general - to know that it’s unlikely that I’ll break even on my books, regardless of the size of my readership. Tren Griffin, for example, writes that

“…the marketplace is not able to absorb all these books and is hugely over saturated. […] The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 2,000 copies over its lifetime.”

So I think it’s a good idea to keep my financial expectations realistic. My day job as a copywriter pays the bills. I’m no longer even going to try to make my daimonic writing into my means of financial support.

What I am going to do, however, is keep on writing. I’m driven to write by forces much deeper than I’ll ever understand. I’ll keep publishing my newsletter intermittently here on Substack, and I’ll keep updating my blog whenever time permits. I still love Substack, and I still love blogging too!

Leaving Facebook and Twitter frees up more room for my daimonic creative writing to be done for its own sake - for the sheer joy of it - without any consideration of its social media reach, earning potential, or ability to generate shares and comments. That feels so liberating and welcome for me.

A recent essay by writer Nicole Dieker captured the zeitgeist in book publishing perfectly, I think, particularly regarding social media. I find this part especially striking:

“I would not be surprised if the increase in print book sales was directly correlated with our desire to stop looking at social media for at least, like, 30 minutes.

“…social media isn’t working the way it used to. Part of it is because we’re kind of oversaturated with “read my book!” promotional posts, part of it is because we feel awkward writing those promotional posts in the middle of what feels like a constant national tragedy, and part of it is because a lot of us are culling or avoiding our social media feeds. […]

“Even if Facebook weren’t force-choking our posts…we’d still have to deal with the ways in which social media both amplifies and dilutes any message we try to share. Everyone is asking you to read their thing, whether it’s a Twitter thread or a debut novel. Nobody has time to read everything, and the novel is longer and costs money (or a trip to the library).”

There also seems to be a certain level of social performance expected on Facebook. If you don’t engage promptly or regularly enough with certain types of friends’ posts, for example, or if you don’t engage in a certain type of social media activism, there’s a social price to be paid for it. (Never mind that the vast majority of Facebook posts seem to have a half-life of a few hours before they drop off everyone’s radar forever.)

The other side of this coin, of course, is that most humans are social beings. In the absence of feedback from people on social media, sometimes we worry that nobody even cares what we have to say, which contributes to depression. The oversaturated media climate in book publishing (and music, too) only adds to the problem. Attention spans on social media are stretched to their limits already, and many people are understandably reluctant to add anything to the long list of things they’re already tracking. What an awful climate for mental health on both sides.

In any case, my decision to let go of my presence on Facebook and Twitter is an affirmation that I’m not cut out for the role of a public figure, even a small-scale one. I have other ways to serve. My role is to preserve my time and attention for the writing itself, and deliver the best work of which I am capable. The work will have to find the right audiences in other ways that don’t drain so much of my energy for writing.

If you still wish to follow The Anticareerist and receive new posts, you can either

1) Subscribe to the newsletter at Substack, and/or
2) Subscribe to the blog.

(If you’re reading this by email and not on a website, obviously you’ve already done one of those things. Thank you for that!)

I realize this change will not be ideal for readers who rely heavily on Facebook and Twitter, and I apologize for that. But I’ve been through major change this year - change for the better, I might add - and part of that involves accepting my limits. I must say a hard-line NO to some things in order to free up enough room in my life for an enthusiastic YES for other things.

Thanks for understanding.


You can find out more about The Anticareerist and its author HERE.

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Toward a world beyond earning a living: unjobbing, decolonizing time, and cultivating a culture of leisure in an overworked world.