Social media success is not real success. Social media success is not real success. Social media success is not real success.
I could write that until my fingers fall off and it’ll never be true. I know, as a “writer” in 2014, that social media success is real success. It’s basic math. The more eyeballs on my words, the better off I am.
That said, I want to more specifically say that Twitter is everything wrong about being – especially aspiring toward being – a writer in 2014. It is the rat race distracting writers from what they should be doing (writing and reading), making them instead obsess over what others have (who is publishing them and who they follow/talk to on Twitter).
Maybe this makes me old-fashioned, but I think an important aspect of being a writer is being a good writer. That writing well about interesting things in an interesting way is still essential. I understand, as books tell me, that before social media there were writers, and filmmakers and artists and others, who became successful without the aid of Twitter. These people – if they’re on the website now – likely have in the millions of followers, though they could just as well have 20. For them, it does not matter. They’ve already done the thing they wanted to do, likely before the term “social media” existed. They only have the platform because their publicist mandated their client have an online presence, or, at least, an account with someone they pay to be in control of it. And for the most part, and I say this carefully as someone who does care about the amount of Twitter followers I have, those successful people view having followers as useful as, the saying goes, “tits on a boar.” This is because they have more tangible, some might say substantial, metrics to measure their success.
In contrast, success nowadays (I just used the word “nowadays” – sorry) can be attained, if more incestuously, by using Twitter. Which is where the real problem begins. Someone can have, say, 2,000 Twitter followers, and that number can be markedly more significant than a number like 900,000 – like what Bam Margera has. Because, at least in a case like mine, the 2,000 is filled with the people in charge of the journals and magazines and blogs which can determine the future of a writer. These people are the ones who could publish my work and make it so that one day I can be in a place where I am successful enough to not care about my online presence. Which is the endgame for anyone with Twitter, that they would do well enough outside of it that they would never need to use it again.
I don’t think most people would admit that, and maybe the more healthy don’t feel it, but this is how everyone like me feels. They look at their number and sense it is linked with their standing in life. They see the publisher/blog people connections, like intricate webs cocooning their psyche, and fear they’ll never break free. That being part of the writer club is for people in the social media club.
Is that diseased thinking intrinsic to our being? Maybe. Maybe if we didn’t have Twitter we’d staple newsletters to light poles to express our discontentment with the hierarchy. Or it could be a problem of modernization, that something as artificial as Twitter does have a degrading effect on our brain. We really are becoming more self-obsessed. Each one of us actually is more and more concerned with an imaginary online representation of ourselves.
Personally, I am of the latter belief. We are becoming worse as a society because of it. Here I am in my early 30s, not young really but not the grandpa that makes me sound like, and yet I am completely forged in that idea. And while it is possible there are those who have been published by blogs or websites or journals who have fewer Twitter followers than I do, I haven’t seen them. And even if they exist, what’s sad – maybe sadder than anything – is if I did come across them I’d have a moment of doubt re: their credibility.
What makes this even more complicated is that many with a following on social media often get there because of their attractiveness. Take for example a writer. Someone writes, but their writing is only the vessel which gets them attention to their profile, which people see and follow because of said attractiveness. At which point more people follow them for the same reasons, creating a snowball effect. With more followers the writer seems more legitimate, even if their writing doesn’t improve. In many cases it will in fact stagnate, because in the crucial time in which they should have received rejection – which in turn would have broken them down and forced them to hone their craft – they only receive praise and find no need, nor should they really, to improve what they view as perfect.
I’m aware of how achingly pathetic all this is. Clearly, the people who care the least about this stuff are best off. And I should remember that the only way one can move up in the world – then by extension on Twitter – is by doing things outside of social media. I know outliers exist, those who are famous because Twitter made them famous, but I don’t want to be one of them.
Or maybe I do. Honestly, I’d be happy with one more follower. Then, when I get that one, one more after that. And one more after that, please.
Eventually, I’ll be happy. Just one more, that’s all I need.