It’s October, the month when supermarkets make space amongst their Christmas stock for Halloween goodies. It’s also the time when we celebrate everything scary. You know what I mean – ghosties, and ghoulies, and long legged beasties, and things that make a tremendous amount of noise in the middle of the night. So if we’re going to talk scary, why not take a look at putting yourself out there on social media? How scary is that?
Building your author social media presence can be:
- and self-validating,
but it can also – at times – be a horror-filled ride that gives you the heebie-jeebies and makes your skin crawl.
In this blog post, I want to look at four of the biggest scares of venturing out into the weird but wonderful world of social media and how you might beat them off with a writerly stick (or pen, wand, keyboard – you choose the weapon).
The effect on your mental health
Let’s start with a topic that’s been in the public eye a lot over the last year – the negative effects of social media on your mental health. Let’s face it, the world and their aunties are online these days and most of them use at least one form of social media. While tweeting or posting on TikTok (Facebook, Instagram…) can be a wonderful way to connect with family, friends, and readers, consistent use of social media can also have a less chipper effect on our mental health. The majority of recent news stories on this topic have concentrated on teens, but adults can be affected too.
Checking your social media generally releases a rush of dopamine.
Likes, comments, scroll, scroll, scroll, cue the dopamine, happy author.
We all like to feel happy but the frequency of these doses of dopamine can lead to reliance and addiction, depression, and anxiety. Add to that the opportunity to compare yourself to others – be that book sales, fame, or beauty – and you begin to realise just how harmful social media can be.
I’ll touch on the comparison aspect later in this blog post, but how can you handle the rest of the social media/mental health equation? How can you protect your mental health when using social media?
- Self-awareness is a key factor. Regularly check in on yourself, and not just your emotions and moods. What is your body telling you? Anxiety, for instance, can cause aching muscles and headaches. Are you avoiding social situations in the real world that you’d normally enjoy? You know yourself best.
- Yes, you want to maintain your social media presence but that doesn’t mean that social media has to take over your diary. Planning your posts for the next month or quarter and using a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Later.com gives you the opportunity to handle your social media output more efficiently. Set aside an hour each month to plan your posts for the next few weeks, write them, and schedule them ahead of time.
- Limit the amount of time you spend online. I don’t mean in a draconian, time-blocked way (although if that works for you…), but what I do mean is ‘be reasonable’. Once you’ve checked what you want to check, switch off/put it aside/go out and talk to someone.
- Turn off social media notifications to prevent those pings from dragging you back to your phone every time someone leaves a comment or likes what you have to say. In fact, why not keep social media apps off your phone altogether? That way you have to make an effort to check your social media by going to your computer or tablet.
- Don’t check your social media just before bedtime and/or once you’re in bed. There’s a proven scientific reason for this. The blue light from your computer, tablet, and mobile phone screens is proven to interfere with your ability to sleep. Blue light blocks a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin causes us to feel sleepy. Blue light effectively wakes us up.
- Finally, don’t feel guilty about taking a break if you need to. Whether it’s the effects of social media itself or some aspect of real life getting in the way, it’s okay to switch off from social media for as long as you need. For all that the social media platforms would like you to think differently, the world won’t end if you step away for a while.
Trolls and critics
Having an author presence on social media increases the number of people who know about you and your books. The downside is that it opens you up to increased criticism too. Some of it is honest opinion with no malicious intent. This person just happens to disagree with you; that happens in all aspects of life. These are critics.
Trolls, however, are a different type of beastie altogether. Trolls generally post something to provoke a reaction. They often lie or exaggerate to support their argument. They can be downright aggressive and make threats. They belittle, over-react, and bully.
The problem is that it can be difficult to tell the difference between a troll and a critic. However, the two should be approached in very different ways.
A critic, who carries no malice towards you and simply wants to express that they disagree with you, has a right to their opinion, just like you have a right to yours. The best way to handle a critic is to agree to disagree. Don’t get drawn into an argument. If things become unpleasant, feel free to block, mute, or simply ignore.
When you think you’re dealing with a troll, you might find it helpful to:
- Stop and check your gut reaction.
- Re-read the text of the trolling (or re-watch it, if it’s a video). Consider whether this person meant to attack you. Alternatively, was it a badly worded expression of what they believe or how they feel? Not everyone is good at self-expression.
- Remember that there’s no need to explain yourself or defend your point of view, unless you want to.
- Consider how your response might portray you as a person and an author.
- Is the trolling a reportable offence? Each social media platform has a reporting process.
- Would blocking, muting, or ignoring the troll work better than a reply?
- If you can’t decide and/or you’re incredibly upset, speak to someone you trust about it.
- Once you have responded, or blocked, or ignored, move on. This isn’t the easiest thing to do but holding a grudge will only hurt you. If you need to move on physically, go for a walk, or do the washing up, or play sport. Physical action can often be the best way to shake off upset.
Comparisonitis = making yourself feel bad by comparing your life and achievements to those of seemingly successful individuals.
Social media is one of the worst arenas for battling comparison-itis because a lot of what you’ll see there are highlights and achievements. You end up comparing the reality of your life to the best bits of celebrities and online influencers.
Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. It can be all too easy to think that other authors are just more interesting than you are, more talented at marketing, and have so many more followers. They must of course be so much better than you. Rubbish!
You are you and they are they. You have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. Their life may be a complete trainwreck or as normal as most of us feel. You are astounding, talented, and fabulous just as you are. That’s all you need to know.
Shouting into the void
When you’re working so hard to post to social media on a consistent basis, it can be disheartening to receive little to no response. That response might be:
- likes, comments, and shares
- traffic to your website
- book reviews
- book sales
You might become so disgruntled that you decide to give up on social media altogether. Here’s the thing though: doing nothing can only result in nothing. However, posting on your social media channel of choice will get you seen. It might take a while for readers to see your posts or have the courage to reply, but it will happen eventually.
Here’s something else that you might find encouraging. There are plenty of hidden users who love your posts but – for whatever reason – don’t respond in a visible way.
You’ve made it safely through Fi’s tunnel of social media scares. It wasn’t that bad, was it? Social media can be a wonderful asset in an author’s toolkit. You just need to know how to handle it.
And if you’d like a little more help in combatting your social media fears, read:
Why I don’t do perfect social media posts (and 5 reasons why you shouldn’t either)
How authors can tame the social media monster
Worried about making a fool of yourself on social media? Here are 3 things to consider