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My Unhealthy Addiction to Social Media

You know the old adage, “you learn something new every day?”

Well, over the past couple of days I’ve learned just how much social media can suck.

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I had a streak a few weeks back where I published new writing every day. And, as a result of this quotidian content (and my dedication to self-marketing), I saw an increase in engagement.

I’d log into my various communication channels and find some kind of update—likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter, comments on Instagram, claps on Medium. People were responding positively to my work, and not just the new stuff; older posts were getting as much attention as the latest piece.

And I was into it! I responded to comments and followed my followers and basked in the love from my virtual community.

Then, it all stopped.

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Social Media Mania

As a new freelancer, I had to spend some time getting my ducks in a row — updating my website, organizing my office, coming up with ideas for articles, and reading up on this new career of mine. My writing dwindled a bit and slowed to a new post every four or five days. And I paid for it.

I kept up with the daily marketing, but it didn’t seem to matter. The likes, the followers, the comments, the claps all slowed to a trickle. I’d log into the various platforms to find…nothing. No indication that anyone cared about anything I was doing. My peeps were all distracted by something shinier and my work was no longer relevant.

In an attempt to win back the love, I did the only thing I know how to do: push more of my writing out into the world via social media. I focused specifically on my Facebook author page, Twitter, and my website.

  • I invited all of my 366 Facebook contacts to like my author page. Of those invited, 92 clicked the “like” button.
  • I posted links to my Medium articles on Twitter multiple times a day; a majority of the posts went unnoticed.
  • I spent hours working on a newsletter to send to my oh-so-impressive mailing list of 23 people; of them, 9 opened the email and only one clicked on the embedded links. And that one was my mother.

Because of this lack of interest, I got depressed. Really depressed.

This is when it dawned on me just how unhealthy the social media feedback loop is, particularly for those of us who spend 90% of our days alone and living in our heads.

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Expecting Validation from the World

I rely on feedback from others to gauge my self-worth when it comes to my work.

This is something I discovered during my 26 years in the workforce. Beginning with my first job, at age 16, I learned from my colleagues how much value I provided to the team. From daily conversations and annual reviews, to promotions and pay increases, I gained continuous insight into my strengths and weaknesses.

Now that I’m working from home, I’m alone most of the day, with only my scattered, emotionally frail thoughts to keep me company. I’ve come to rely on social media to provide the encouragement formally given by supervisors and peers. Any lack of interest — unopened emails, unread articles, ignored Tweets — says to me, “You’re not good at this.”

And, as someone who has never taken well to being ignored, my response is to get even louder in an attempt to win people over. I spend more time on social media trying to get more attention. I refresh my various accounts every few minutes, hoping for some indication that my work is of value.

I’ve developed a deeply obsessive relationship with the Internet, knowing it’s not healthy for me but unable to break it off.

But Now, It’s Time to Say Goodbye

I can’t keep going like this. It’s not good for me. With each newsletter that goes unread or post that goes unnoticed, I feel my ego plummeting. It’s junior high all over again.

And yes, I realize it’s silly. The responsible adult in me knows that people have a million other things vying for their attention, and I can’t expect them to flock to my pages every time I post something new.

But, the home-alone-all-day-writer in me needs that feedback. I need interaction. I crave it. I don’t know how to function when my work is going out into the void unnoticed.

So, to maintain my sanity, I’m taking a break. Following the advice of folks smarter than me, like Jonathan Greene and Melanie Rockett, I’m going to spend more time writing, less time promoting. Maybe without the ongoing marketing my Medium stats will plummet. Maybe my work will go unread. Maybe I won’t make any money going forward.

But, if I can break the cycle — if I can write for the sake of writing and not for the sake of stats — then perhaps I can develop a healthier relationship with the Internet. One in which I don’t have to rely on social media icons to appreciate the value of my work.