Despite the fact that I am a serious writer, with a deadline hanging over my head, I seem to be spending all my time lately on social media. Now, I know that social media websites are useful tools for writers. If you're a writer, you can announce the publication of a new book and, with just a few clicks on the cut and paste keys, send that announcement out to thousands of potential readers. Your followers are your most likely purchasers. Your friends are the people who will share the news and help you celebrate. The internet provides the cheapest advertising you will ever get. But what about the downside? How much time do you have to devote to engaging all those friends, to providing your followers with useful tidbits of information, to share a joke with people you've never met? Several experiences recently have almost convinced me that a nasty, green-horned caterpillar lurks behind every social media butterfly.
I still don't fully understand Google+ and what it hopes to accomplish. Perhaps it's just me, but I'm seeing two kinds of people turning up on my desktop. The first group includes people I know, either through personal contact or previous internet interactions. A familiar face is always welcome when I go to a new site, but more and more, it seems that the people I know are simply reposting their comments from Facebook or Twitter. I don' have the time to read most posts meveral times. Then there are the people in my Circles who have popped up without an introduction and asked to join the conversation. OK, that's fine. At least they're saying something new. But more and more, the ones I get are either trying to raise money or push a particularly offensive political agenda. No, thanks.
I'm also becoming more and more suspicious of the "Groups" appearing on Facebook and LinkedIn. Talk about agendas! It seems like a good idea to connect with other people who share your interests, But these groups soon become monotonous if they can only share one set of goals or ideas. I go out into the internet to find new tastes, not a steady diet of the same old meat and potatoes. Today was a particularly annoying one. Someone in a group to which I have subscribed suggested that we all post the URLS of our Facebook pages, so that we could help to promote each other. I should have known better, but since I had recently developed a new style of Facebook fan page, I posted my URL. A plague of locusts descended! Three times I found my mailbox jammed with messages from group members saying, "I liked you page; now please go and like mine." I felt as if I were trapped in a revolving door.
And then there's Pinterest. I waited eagerly for my invitation, all the time believing that this new site was rapidly becoming the equivalent of Facebook. People kept telling me how wonderful the site was. I should have listened more closely to the ones who said that they got lost in in for hours at a time. If I understand how it works, members create little corkboards that reflect their personal interests. Then they pin pictures, sayings, blurbs, and whatever else they can round up to those boards -- for the purpose of sharing them with others. So members follow each other and look at each other's treasures, and maybe borrow what they see to add to their own boards. I still don't get the purpose of all of that. And the time it takes is indeed a sinkhole in the middle of your day. You have to find the items to be pinned, download the, assign them to one of your boards, and then identify each one with source and comments. I don't see the appeal, and I certainly don't have that kind of time.
I suspect social media sites are multiplying like those ugly green hornworns that will infest your tomato plants next summer. Yes, if you leave them undisturbed, they will eventually morph into a lovely butterfly, but not until they've stripped your plants of leaves and bitten gooey chunks out of your vegetables.
Oh, I'm not swearing off all social media. I'll keep my Facebook page because it lets me know what my real friends and relatives are up to. It provides a quick way to say, "I care about you." I'll keep my Twitter account, not only because it teaches me not to be wordy, but because among all the dreck, there are some terribly wise sayings that appear--bright new ideas that I need to hear. And I'll keep my LinkedIn account because its basic premise is to establish networks of professionals. But don't expect to see me every time someone comes up with a new idea for sharing. The caterpillars outweigh the butterflies.