The very word ‘social media’ implies a communal, or even a global bonding online where each person can share their lives in a meaningful way, hold discussions on topics, offering all sides a chance at expression. After all, we are living in the United States of America where freedom of speech and expression is a protected right under the First Amendment of The Constitution. Right?
That certainly used to be the case. It is now, however, a different ballgame altogether. Fear, promoted by many organizations, including the news media itself, had polarized everything, politicized everything. No longer are you wrong, should your views differ from the majority of that platform, at that moment in time—and I phrase it that way because the tides of opinion do shift, and rapidly. Now, when your views are contrary to the majority of that social media platform, you are outcast, demonized, ridiculed and even hunted (both online and in the offline world.) And that alone is a frightening thought.
Add to that the social media platforms. They all claim to be entertainment, and yet they drive the news, control the dissemination of news, assume the mantle of guardian and protector of truth, and even attempt to define the truth. And because the majority of these platforms are run by billionaires and multi-millionaires, with enough subscribers they are immune to the loss of some, and run unrestrained by anyone.
Worse still, the social aspect of this form of media mutated from civil and social to controlling and threatening, even within a topic with similar support. Everyone became an expert, verified through non-stop rebuttals—more attacks than rebuttals—and bolstered by the rest of the clan. In other words, social media has, itself, become a bully pulpit without repercussion. None. The more vitriol the more subscribers. It’s easy to create the demand.
And for the most part, those who live off social media as their drug of choice, are totally fine with it that way; a cheap form of entertainment and a place to let off some blood-lust with a measure of anonymity. Trends, opinions, fashions, sex, stocks, celebrity, all fair game, all candy for the taking.
No more photos of your lunch. No we have mockery of anyone with a position in opposition to that of the platform majority. No more polite criticism, only the equivalent of online bullying (cyber bullying). We see this over religion, politics, vaccinations…you name it.
It has become so bad that if you are not part of the ‘in-group’ running the circus, you avoid posting anything controversial. At the best it is a total waste of your time. At worst you risk aggravating a nut job who might show up at your front door and threaten your family. Very social, right?
I used to like social media. Now I consider it a necessary evil. I used to engage in lively discussions on Twitter or Facebook, but now I avoid it—I do not have the needed time to counter every negative comment made by people of questionable integrity and fake names, armchair police who decide that their view is the correct view. Followers and following, all very cult like. Reading through the post comments is a sad reflection of our education system and the tide of insecurity that is flooding everywhere. Now it is just a platform to post book covers or to chat with my readers and other authors.
I limit my time on social media to discussions of my writing, or celebrating other authors and their work. I had long since abandoned taking a position, or even liking or disliking something that does not fall into the bland category. I do not have the kind of free time that would make it worthwhile, will never win an argument, and would likely face an escalation offline. So why bother at all? And, quite honestly, my opinion does not matter much.
So when the advice you get is to use social media to promote your book or product, think carefully. You can swim in the same waters with the sharks, but at some point they might be quite hungry. And there is no vaccine for social media.