On Self-Promotion and Measured Decisions

I have been on the fence about social media for a long time… and by on the fence, I mean impaled by uncertainty, stuck beyond all powers of unsticking between the forward-moving concourse of platform promotion and the chambers of my own backwards heart.

If you would, please read this post in a whisper because that is all I can bring to the discussion. I have already done my share of ranting, judged and envied until the two became indistinguishable, and questioned myself hoarse. This feels ridiculous to admit because we’re talking about Facebook here. But it’s not just Facebook, is it? For me, the question of how to promote myself online is ultimately a question of how I define validation, and un-impaling myself from that particular fence is not easily done.

Like a first-timer at IKEA, I wander the aisles of the Internet accumulating fistfuls of free measuring tape—one strip to measure Twitter followers, another to tally Facebook fans, one for comments and another for acceptance into certain circles, and every one of them labeled How Legitimate Are You Today? The thing about free measuring tape, however, is that it’s always too short. You can’t measure the stature of a human being any more than you can a Svärta bedroom set with that strip of pre-printed paper. I know this.

The temptation to measure is always there though, close on the heels of the good and life-giving impulse to share my words with you. It’s a scarily small step between loving feedback and needing it, and that’s where my dilemma lies. The question I’ve found myself circling back to time and time again is this: Can I actively promote myself online without losing myself in the process? And the answer is… no. Deeply, and with a certainty born of many restless nights, no.

I’m not saying that the social media experience is like this for everyone, but trying to clamor for the world’s already-fragmented attention feels about as natural to me as taking a job in the stock exchange would. I was not made to wave my hands and shout. Nor—and I say this with great affection toward those of you who have this gifting—was I made to narrate my day in 140-character zingers. Instead, I was made to sit down and chat over beverages some place where we can hear each other think and forget about the passing hours. I was made to write slowly and to do it as an extension of holistic living, not as a response to (or worse, a bid for) other’s opinions.

I’ve discovered that my soul has nothing of the marketer about her. This can make me crazy, especially knowing that marketing savvy can be the sole difference between a writing career and a writing hobby. This is also why I’ve dangled on the social media fence for so long. Do I try to jump into the game even though the pace overwhelms me and I can’t keep the rules straight and I am sure to be wheezing and disoriented within minutes? Or do I walk out of the stadium into the quiet evening air I so love, knowing that I may have just turned my back on the opportunity of my life?

I hope you’re still reading this in a whisper because all I have left of this debate is its still, small core: How do I define validation for myself? And friends, as much as I love you and welcome your company here, the answer to that is located behind the secret panel of identity, the place God and I go alone to sort out the whos and whys of me. No other person or group has a say in it. They shouldn’t have a say in it, at any rate, which is why I’m making a pledge to myself, a decision at last: to enjoy social media as an outlet and a meeting point… and to close my browser the second it begins to mean more.

In other words, I’m keeping Facebook but dropping the measuring tape.

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  1. I think this may be quite obvious, but I totally agree with you. I love Facebook, but it is such a time suck. I don’t have time to hangout there all day. And that is not an exaggeration. I HAVE spent all day hanging out there. There is A LOT to click on! I participate sparingly, but enjoy my “likes” because then I can see clips of Jimmy Fallon and the Daily Show, and read short articles from NPR. I know you are talking about self promotion, but I don’t really do that at all. I have to admit when I write something and NOBODY reads it, that can make me feel bad. However, then I have to sit myself down and have a talk about WHY I am writing in the first place. The first reason is for myself. And that makes it okay if nobody EVER reads what I write. Nobody reads my notebook after all. I think that is the primary reason it is easy for me to let my blog go when I am teaching. I am looking forward to getting back to it though. Only two more weeks!! I can’t wait!

    • Oh man, I didn’t even get into the time suck factor! I like getting to see videos and articles I wouldn’t have looked up on my own, but for every brilliant Jimmy Fallon clip, there seem to be three crappy BuzzFeed links, and argh. By the way, I know I’m terribly delinquent about reading your blog (or anyone else’s), but I am so glad that you’re here and that you write when you have time. Only two weeks!

  2. Oh man, I totally agree. I still feel very weird about it all. But one thing that HAS gone well for me has been hosting, promoting, and curating conversations that I am actually interested. Shying away from the you-scratch-my-back-i’ll-scratch-yours world is hard, but so worth it. a publisher recently described platform this way to me: you write things, and then people want to interact with you about it. that’s it. that is a philosophy i can get behind. just keep writing!

    • I do very much like the way you’ve curated series on your blog. And I appreciate your publisher’s insight too, though I’ve never heard platform described in those terms before. It almost seems too simple to be true. 🙂 Write + interact; that’s the totality of the reason I started blogging lo these many years ago, and I’d love to have that always foremost in my mind when I’m online. Thanks for your comment!

  3. In a way, I have it easy, because we don’t have internet at home but I have free access at my workplace – so on lunch and when it’s slow I can troll around and write posts and read things – but at the end of the day, I’m forced into the quiet open and I take a deep breath. I cook and garden and converse with my english major man. It’s the perfect set-up (for me). I wish I could give you the perfect set-up.

    • Oh man. Do you know how wonderful that sounds to me in this moment? We couldn’t live that way in the long run (one of the biggest factors in our move last summer was internet connectivity… and when two of you work almost exclusively online, you’re kind of always on), but a break from all online expectations sounds like heaven. A hard heaven. 🙂

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