[Electric Speed] The double bind of social media

Digital tools and resources for creative people
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Electric Speed from Jane Friedman
A note from Jane

I’ve been talking to writers about social media for nearly 15 years now, and its become an increasingly fraught issue to offer guidance on. But one key challenge that I consistently hear, even today:

I don’t have anything to say. Or: I don’t know what to post about.

The problem of nothing to say is legitimate. Identifying a direction you’re comfortable with on social media (and can sustain) is perhaps the most important question to grapple with.

Unfortunately, a writer in this position is in something of a double bind: social media works best if you’re not feeling obligated to say something. Once youre under pressure, you can feel resentful or trapped, rather than inspired to play or experiment. Which reminds me of a moment from my childhood.

When I was about three years old, my dad was very excited to try out his new talkie film on his Super 8 camera. So on a lovely fall day, he took me to the backyard swing set and turned the camera on me. If you’ve never heard a Super 8 camera, it’s loud—you know you are being filmed.

“Say something, honey,” Dad instructs. [Silence and staring.]

“Jane Ellen is taking her first talking pictures, and I want you to say something. Smile! C’mon, gimme a smile, c’mon...” [Weak attempt at smile.]

“Say ‘Hello, Daddy!’” [Barely audible response.]

“You’re not talking, Jane Ellen...” [watch the minute-long video]

Children naturally play, but often resist commandments to play or perform. I find adults are not so different. Unfortunately, because social media has become darker and more toxic over time, it’s difficult to help writers out of this double bind.

As for my dad, he eventually learned a better method of engaging me: offer a great prompt or activity. By spring, he was filming backyard Easter egg hunts, which were happier for everyone and didn’t require exhortations to perform.
Jane

P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
Getting Book Endorsements (Blurbs)


P.P.S. There is more to this newsletter. Keep scrolling!

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Learn more at a virtual open house June 16 or 26.

Sponsorships help support Electric Speed.

 
Jane’s Electric Speed List
Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I am not paid to mention any of these resources; there are no affiliate links.)
Goodbye Tweetdeck, hello Tweeten
I’m an avid Twitter user, but if I had to depend on the Twitter website or app to navigate what’s happening, I would have abandoned the platform long ago. It is a terrible experience. For years I’ve instead relied on Tweetdeck, a customizable, multi-column view of Twitter that compartmentalizes information based on criteria I select.

Recently, Tweetdeck announced it would no longer be available as a standalone app, which both breaks my heart and necessitates a replacement. So far, Tweeten (free) is doing the job well. Even better, when I launched Tweeten for the first time, it imported all my Tweetdeck settings without me having to lift a finger.
Go back in time with the Web Design Museum
This site takes you through milestones in the history of web design from 1990 to the present. Why I find it of particular value: I’m writing some personal essays set during 1992–1994, and it vividly reminds me what it was like to be online at that time. I also had no idea that some sites have deep histories (Lynda was established in 1995!).
How well do you know where you live?
I really enjoyed this location-based game, although I performed quite poorly. On the plus side, I now pay more attention to the streets and alleys around me while on a walk. I’m determined to improve.
Conduct more meaningful & thoughtful interviews
A division of Stanford University has developed a one-page empathy interview guide with 10 insights you can use during your next interview. While it has some tried-and-true advice (don’t ask binary questions), it includes specific tips I haven’t seen elsewhere (never say “usually” when asking a question). H/t Jeremy Caplan
 
I Hate Social Media—Now What? with Dan Blank. $25 webinar. Wednesday, June 15, 2022. 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Eastern.
NEXT ONLINE CLASS
June 15: I Hate Social Media—Now What? with Dan Blank
When it comes to developing your author platform and marketing your books, so many people default to using social media. But what if you don’t want to use social media—for any reason? In this course, Dan Blank shares powerful alternatives to sharing your writing with readers without social media. The marketing tactics covered here have been used to create the network you need to develop word-of-mouth marketing, and get the kind of publicity hits you want for your books—of any genre or category. What’s more, everything Dan shares in this class can be used with social media, if you are a writer who does want to use social media.
Your turn: life-changing books
In the last issue, I asked you to tell me about a book that has changed your mind. Here’s what you said.

  • The book that immediately came to mind was Susan Cain’s Quiet. I’d been raised in a family who didn’t value introverts—there’s something weak, underdeveloped about those kind. After reading Quiet I recognized the quiet strength I’d had all along and how others outside my family valued it greatly. Her words flipped my perception of myself and my life on its head! —Anne Anthony
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: A wonderfully readable discussion of how subjective and political science, supposedly a relentless pursuit of truth, has always been. A comforting reminder that the money people have been trying to shout down the truth people for centuries, and eventually the truth people always win. —Grace Burrowes
  • The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz showed me that much of what I thought I knew about nutrition, health, and weight loss was actually scant (and often problematic) research corrupted by the diet industry. And it opened the door to other interesting work on the topic. —Lee Thomas
  • The book that changed my mind: Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul by Jane Roberts. It explained the nature of reality in a way that I’d intuited it/experienced it, but could find nowhere around me or in any writing I had come across. —Zorica
  • Reading Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis profoundly changed my understanding of systemic racism, I think because I wasn’t looking for that. Shocked to learn that some of our revered founders argued against abolition saying that freed slaves wouldn’t be accepted into our society. Now, who would be preventing that? —Ann Nelson
  • The Power of Regret by Dan Pink —Hoang Samuelson
  • I’ve read several books on Intermittent Fasting (IF), but my favorite was Fast. Feast. Repeat. by Gin Stephens. The most important lessons I learned include: IF is not a diet but a lifestyle, losing weight takes time, and “Delay, don’t deny!” —Angela Eckhart

Next question: What is your favorite search engine hack? Mine is appending the word Reddit to my search when I’m looking for honest, personal takes on specific products or services. Hit reply to this message to let me know your search engine hack, or share on the Discord server for Electric Speed subscribers.
 
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“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.”
—Marshall McLuhan
Jane Friedman
Created by Jane Friedman
I report on the publishing industry and help authors understand the business of writing.

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