The Social Media Rules That Govern My Slapdash Online Existence
Over the weekend I saw someone on Facebook opining about how someone unfriended them and they wouldn’t dare unfriend people that quickly and what’s wrong with that other person and, I dunno, at some point there I faded out, took a nap, and woke up seven hours later in a snowy field covered in a space blanket and somebody else’s blood?
That last part isn’t really relevant, so we’ll just pretend I didn’t say it.
*wipes two Jedi proctologist fingers across the air, hoping you’ll forget*
What’s relevant is that I’ll unfollow/unfriend people like that.
*snaps Jedi fingers, accidentally breaks someone’s neck with The Force, oops*
I thought it might be interesting to codify my social media “rules” — which are as ironclad as a jar of marshmallow fluff, which are as eternal as a fruit fly’s sexual maturity, which I fail at as often as I succeed — here on the BLOGGEREL CAROUSEL known as ye olde terryblemynds.
1. The Unfollow Button Is On A Hair Trigger With Me
I don’t think twice about unfriending or unfollowing people on This Here Internet. I have an almost sociopathic bridge-burner mindset when it comes to social media, and sometimes it makes me feel cruel — like an emperor who whimsically thrusts his thumb up or down in order to decide whether or not you’ll plunge into the pit of syphilitic tigers I have raised from cubs (and apparently, given syphilis to?). But truth is, me following you is not that exciting, so I’m pretty fast on the trigger when it comes to ejecting people from my feed.
Let me unpack this a little, because I think it suggests I’m a total asshole (which may be accurate!). But the logic for it goes a little bit like this:
I view my social media landscape as equal parts “my backyard” and “the radio stations I listen to in the car.” It is curated. It is me attempting to filter signal out of noise. It’s me attempting to make sure I have the right ratio of voices on my radio and guests at my backyard BBQ bondage orgy bacchanalia. In other words…
It’s all about me.
I recognize that social media runs the risk of granting us all our own little echo chambers. We cultivate little gardens of foods we’ve already tried and won’t take a bite of a funny looking vegetable despite the wisdom of expanding our palates. But social media for me doesn’t work well as an ideological melting pot. I think you have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to not really want to hear it. That’s not to say I dislike you, or don’t believe you possess the right — but there comes a point where if your feed feels like I’m rubbing my hand the wrong way on a shark, where it feels like hot sandpaper-on-sandpaper action, I’m gonna to cut you loose. (This is doubly true if your only function online seems to be: “Show up wherever I’m at, and disagree noisily.”)
(I should also note that my social media feed goes well beyond family — it contains a wealth of people who I have literally never met. If I’ve actually met you or know you in some capacity, I’m a lot slower on the EJECT button. But if you’re Just Some Person, then I’m quick with the tiger pit.)
I will at times aggressively prune my follow/friend list like a meth addict tending to his bonsai tree. I go online to delve into social media to have fun and be funny and, yes, at times try to engage in deeper conversation. Largely, though? I use it for enjoyment. Mirth. It’s like, I don’t hate-watch television shows just to watch them. I read books that try to expand my mind and my experience, but I still have to dig the book. My social media feed is very much like that.
And if I feel like for some reason it’s just not a good fit, I will silently bid you a fond farewell.
NOW PLEASE TO MEET MY TIGERS: MISTER STRIPEY AND LASERFANG THE MIGHTY.
2. I Follow For A Lot Of Reasons But Mostly It’s Because You’re Funny
If you’re funny, I’ll probably follow you.
This is not a cue for you to try to tweet funny things at me.
It’s not that you’re not funny. It’s that I have a particular sense of humor. I don’t even know how to describe it. Some shit makes me laugh. Some shit doesn’t. Yes, yes, I’ll follow you too if I think you’re a good writer or a nice person or blah blah blah. But if a RT comes into my feed and it makes me BFLOL (bona fide laugh out loud), I’m in. I’m your Huckleberry.
3. Be A Fountain, Not A Drain
I try to be positive about things online because being online is frequently a big drain. It’s very easy to get swept into the sewer online and suddenly everything is GLOBAL WARMING and LOOK DEAD CHILDREN and HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT GAMERGATE DID THIS WEEK, THEY GLOBAL WARMED A BUNCH OF DEAD KIDS and too much of that makes my sphincter clench up hard enough to bend a drainpipe. Let’s be honest: the Internet can be kinda fucking depressing.
So, I try to introduce into it a positive voice. Not universally, but even when I’m waggling my toes in septic waters I try to at least be a little funny about it.
This is true too in how I talk about pop culture. I try to remember that even if I don’t like something, someone else probably did like it — hell, someone else probably loved it. I might think your shoes are ugly, but I’m not going to pop a squat over them — you like them, so what’s the problem? I will make my own shoe statement by wearing the shoes I like to wear, and when I discuss shoes, I will discuss them as if these are my feelings and not my expert opinion because really, what the fuck do I know about shoes?
4. I Keep Self-Promo Original And Minimal
Self-promotion is part of being Author Human Who Authors Things.
(Read: Brian McClellan on the tricky relationship an author has with self-promotion.)
As such, I have to do it. I have to do the Booky-Book Dance.
And I assume if you’re following me, an Author Person, you will gladly submit to and even sometimes expect a little self-promotion. Ah, but here’s what I also assume:
I assume you don’t want to be bludgeoned about the head and neck with it.
Further, I remember that I am ultimately a storyteller and an entertainer and it is my job to WORD THINGS GOOD, so if I cannot bring a little style and panache to my self-promotional efforts, then what good am I? So, if I’m going to pollute your feeds with my own Narcissistic emissions, the hope is that I will do it in a way that is both painless and perhaps even amusing or informative.
5. The Imperfect Ratio
Very, very roughly, here is the ratio I try to live by online:
10% self promotion
30% signal boosting
20% me talking about writing stuff
40% who the fuck knows just gimme the mic
It’s that 40% that I particularly enjoy, where I’m going to talk about… mmmyeah whatever I want to. I’ll talk about B-Dub or my dog or that TV show or the coffee I’m drinking or I’ll just shout incoherent things at the screen in PURE ADRENALIN-LACED HOT CAPSLOCK ACTION or instead i won’t use capitol letters at all or even punctuation.
Or maybe I’ll just tweet a strange photo at you.
Or engage in hashtag memes or:
*places funny action inside asterisks*
I don’t know. It’s the Wild West out there. AND I’M “TWO PISTOLS” WENDIG FLINGING BULLETS OF PURE WEIRDNESS IN YOUR GENERAL DIRECTION oh god those weren’t weird bullets those were real bullets weren’t they.
*quietly flings both pistols into a shrub*
*kicks dirt on corpse*
*casually backs out of the scene*
6. It’s Okay That I Offend You (Long As I Don’t Hurt You)
My social media feed, which includes this blog, is NSFW.
It may even be NSFL.
I offend people.
I get messages about how I offend people, often because I like to use naughty language.
And honestly, I don’t care.
Offense is easy. It’s shallow as a spit puddle, offense. Offense is cheap-as-free: you can be offended at how somebody’s dog is looking at you, you can take offense at somebody’s shitbutt sweater. I have been offended at the way a tree just sits there. Judging me. Stupid tree. With its stupid leaves and its condescending bark. PUTTING ON AIRS. I see you, tree. I am offended by you.
That tree doesn’t give a root that I am offended.
Nor should it.
Where I worry is when I veer into hurtful territory. We like to make hay about how words are just words, but when writers say this, I want to poke them in the eye and remind them that words have power and that’s pretty much the entire core of what it means to be a writer in the first place. If you don’t think words matter, you should stop committing so many of them to paper.
The line between offensive and hurtful is broad, but blurry, and it’s easy to traipse over it and go too far — I’ve done it, others have done it, and when called on it, I like to think I’m responsive and responsible, where appropriate.
7. Social Media Easily Weaponizes Shame
Social media affords us a fascinating ability — the power of the mob. The power of the mob is not a thing I say lightly, and it’s not a thing I say dismissively. The mob is a force of nature, and must be respected. It is neither good nor evil. It can be used for good, and can be used for ill. The mob throughout history has moved the needle toward acquiring freedoms for people, and it’s also gone the other direction and taken freedoms away.
Online, ideas move fast. You can say some dumb shit online, get on a plane, and hours later your career is over and your life is set spinning like a top (and there’s even a hashtag devoted to your now-eternal oopsie). I’m the first to admit that sometimes, bad ideas and toxic people need to get burned, but I also realize that I’m not very comfortable being the one constantly flinging gasoline and lit matches. Because everything moves fast here, the mob mentality moves fast with it. Let he who is without sin HA HA WHAT I CANNOT HEAR YOU OVER ALL THESE STONES I’M THROWING MAN THESE STONES ARE JUST EVERYWHERE AND SO EASY TO PICK UP AND FLING
Ahem. That’s not to say every opinion is worth listening to. Or even respecting. It’s not. That’s bullshit. There genuinely exists a lot of straight-up poison out there, and you are under no obligation to share it, respond to it, or drink it up and let it sicken you.
But I just try to remember at times that shame is very easy to weaponize on These Here Internets. It’s very easy to want people to feel bad about what they’ve done — and calling them out is probably also not a very good way to make them feel bad about it. I have to be doubly cautious of this because, as someone with a larger social media footprint than some, it’s easy for me to mobilize the troops even without meaning to. (“Hey, look at this bad review.” “WE HAVE BROUGHT YOU THE REVIEW’S CORPSE. COOKIE NOW?”)
8. The Three Pillars
So, with that said, I try to remember three traits I try possess while socially mediaing:
Empathy is important as it helps you imagine where people might be coming from. It’s that idea of, hey, someone ahead of you on the road is driving slow — before you bite through your steering wheel and road rage them into oblivion, try to imagine what they’re going through. Maybe they have a dog in the car. Maybe they have a stack of teacups in the backseat and if any of those teacups break, some supervillain will kill their family. You just don’t know.
Logic is important to try to suss out what things are real and not real. (This is particularly important as bad information travels just as fast as good information here. These days I see a news article going around about a girl whose cat got stuck in a tree, I’m practically paranoid about it. “WHO WROTE THIS. IS THERE A STUDY? ARE THERE INDEPENDENT WITNESSES? IS THIS PROPAGANDA FROM THE ANTI-TREE COMMISSION, OR THE CAT COALITION. WHO BENEFITS? FOLLOW THE MONEY, WENDIG. FOLLOW. THE. MONEY.”
Nuance because, hey, we really, really like things to be black and white, which is usually a pretty good reason to remember that things are not that black and white. It’s easy for us when things are simple, two-sided problems. And they rarely are. So, just try to see if there are shades of gray. I don’t mean to suggest that you should look for nuance in people who are straight up hateful trolls, but just try to get the measure of a person. Sometimes we judge folks for one slip-up and fail to look at the overall picture, at the larger pattern — it’s not all white hats and black hats out there. People usually aren’t heroes or villains. They’re just people. Except when they’re trolls.
9. I Try To Remember That It’s Okay If You Unfollow Me
Just as I am fast to unfollow folks, I have to remember to be okay with you unfollowing me.
I’ll admit that when I see someone I admire has unfollowed me, it causes a twinge in my gut — but at the same time, I have to remember: this is the point of social media. If for some reason I was too noisy or too weird or too mouthy, then more power to them for cutting my ugly square ass out of their quilt. Damn, yeah. Don’t keep giving me the microphone if you don’t want to hear what I have to say. The last thing I want is to be sand in your social media undies.
10. Yes, I Vanity Search My Own Name
Sometimes people are surprised that I do this.
Some view this as particularly sad or pathetic.
And that’s fine. I understand the inclination.
But as noted, I am Author Person. My life and my profession is very connected to social media. So, I like to know what people are saying. Not just shit-talk (though I do see some of that weekly) — but vanity searching my name has shown me news stories, blog posts, reviews, sales.
This also means that if you’re talking about me, at least on Twitter, I’m probably seeing it. At least if you use my last name, correctly-spelled. (Pro-Tip: basically nobody else in the universe has the last name of “Wendig,” and if they do, they’re related to me.)
11. I Reply When I Can But Man, That’s Getting Hard
I once had the ethos that I would thank people for retweets.
Then I had the ethos that I would reply to all tweets sent to me.
Ha ha ha ha *sob* no.
I can’t do that anymore. I can’t do it for a few reasons:
a) Because my Twitter feed is a swiftly-moving river. It is no longer a lazy stream. Drop a paper boat into it, and that fucker is crushed between Scylla and Charybdis fast as you can say “first edition Iliad.” (Yes, yes, I know, Scylla and Charybdis are from The Odyssey but then the joke wouldn’t have worked and YOU KNOW WHAT JUST SHUT UP.) This means I don’t see every tweet and even when I do see it, I don’t have time to reply to everyone. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to write books. And writing books is how I pay for my mortgage. And my sex furniture.
b) Not every tweet requires a response. I try to respond to genuine questions, but a lot of times it’s just statements and… I don’t wanna just tweet “OKAY” at you. “I ACKNOWLEDGE YOU.”
c) Twitter is a jerk in that it won’t show me everything anymore. Different apps show me different sets of mentions, but ultimately — I’m just not getting them all.
12. All Roads Lead To Here
One tenet of my social media tentpole rules that remains true:
All roads take you here, to this blog.
And, ideally, to my books.
I don’t use social media and this blog just to sell books — I do this and that because I like this and that. But I also need to sell books (if only to pay for the no-kidding very-high fees associated with hosting and operating this blog). As I have said in the past:
I CAN’T EAT TWEETS.
And I have tried. The Apple logo on my iMac has a literal bite taken out of it.
Right now, this blog remains a viable location. And it’s nice because I control it, I own it, I operate it, and I can opine at needless length. So, I try to drive traffic to this place.
A central hub.
A supervillain HQ.
THE MOTHERSHIP UFO.
Them’s the rules.
Now, after that very long and probably unnecessary post, I ask:
What are your social media habits, rules, guidelines?
What ideas and behaviors govern your online existence?