Sharing is Not Always Caring

Isn’t the notion of a message in a bottle romantic? The thought of putting your message out there, releasing it to the world in the hope that someone will find it and get back to you. How about a handwritten love letter? Even the most cynical of us would agree that an everlasting declaration of love is a very special treasure to have… that is if you are sharing it for the right reasons and with the right person. And then, in comes social media and the 21st century.

If you are a novelist, poet or any such writer who dreams of getting published, you may realise that traditional means of publication are quickly going out the window. There are thousands of scams out there and the idea of not paying to get published is quickly being replaced with the popularity of vanity publishing. So now that the writer puts down the funds, as well as the idea, the time, the emotional breakdowns (at times) and the sheer energy needed to complete a work, they also have to promote it. Enter social media.

Writers are normally very focused on writing, on mastering their art and, if you get them alone, very shy. So most of them do not take to promoting themselves very well. Personally, I am planning to come out with a book of children’s stories in the form of poems. They have a child-like feel and can be enjoyed by adults too. I am doing my groundwork, using Instagram, Facebook, and even LinkedIn to get more followers and perhaps a sponsor who likes my work so much that they are willing to invest in my work — for which I would be eternally grateful. So far it is going well, I have received positive feedback and I enjoy giving the world a glimpse of what is to come.

That is me and my personal work, my intellectual property and the art that I feel fit to create. When it comes to writing articles for a newspaper as a journalist, it is a very different matter.

I used to write about cultural events. I would research what was going on and I would receive emails and personal messages about events that friends and others were organising. Being a poet and being interested in everything to do with the local cultural scene means I already knew people who would later launch their own books, be part of a play, or have something they thought they could say through me. I loved to help them as I know what it is like to get promotion and have someone who really cares represent you and your work. With the newspaper industry going through a crisis, journalists getting minimum wage and the work being pilled up on skeleton staff, the fact that a journalist fought to write something original and then use social media to promote it as much as possible is something that I realise now, is very much appreciated. But it is the sharing part of the content that got to me. Some people would pitch an idea and follow it up with “and we would love to share it with all of our many followers.” More sharing, more readability for the newspaper, more money, and that means you know you still have a job at the end of the day — you weren’t so sure about the end of the week. Others would ask for something to be changed in the article, so they could share it. “I am not sure about how you phrased it, I don't feel comfortable sharing it like this,” or “why didn’t you also mention that?” Again, more shares, more readability, you go through the motions.

I felt as if I was being bullied to perhaps write about something I would normally not write about and change my style to fit someone else’s ideals. I shared for them, I shared for the newspaper, I shared for my colleagues and I shared to promote myself up to a point. Others shared to promote themselves, their events, their friends. That was the purpose in the first place and I was glad to be part of that process. Most people would say thank you, invite me to the event free of charge if there was an admission fee and even take me out for lunch. I was doing my job and I loved it. I was happy when I found out about the turnout at the events I was promoting, and how the organisers received comments that some people showed up because they read my article. These are the things that made me glad to be writing for a living, but the being ‘pushed’ into writing for the shares and likes, and the edits so the sharing could go on, was something I was not so comfortable with — just a note here, if it was a subject given to me by the boss or a comment by my editor, then there would be no questions asked.

The bottom line is that sharing, in this case, is not caring, it is more like bullying. So, I have taken my experience, written about it in the way I feel fit and I am now sharing it. Let the caring continue.