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Archive for November, 2021

Aka Don’t Fall For The Open-Ended Questions Cloaked As Being Meant to Inspire Discussion, But Really Are Open-Leaders For Trolls, Scams, and Pushy Salespeople.

Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Is it just me, or has social media become more toxic, nasty, and predatory the past few years? I’ve backed off a lot on it because of this. That and the drive for these massive companies to maximize monetizing your online activity has increasingly pushed them to create algorithms that make them progressively less relevant to your wants and needs. At least it has for me.

It feels like this never ending course we seem to be trapped on where divisiveness, anger, hate, and extremes being publicly celebrated and gleefully politicized by politicians and news media is feeding that greedy toxicity monster infesting social media.

Where did all the puppies and kittens go? Every post now feels like a political minefield ready to go off.

Social media is the ultimate double-edged sword. But it’s more than that. The metaphor can especially be taken both ways with social media – of having the possibility of both favorable and unwanted unfavorable consequences, and that it can harm both its wielder and anyone else who gets too close.

(Sidetrack: Now I have to ask, why is it that in a hardcore close-in fight the person wielding the sword in entertainment media – movies, shows, books, etc. – so often does not get cut when they handle the blade which is shown to be so ridiculously sharp that the slightest touch to fabric or their opponent’s skin results in serious cuts, and yet a lesser touch slices their opponent?)

Social media is a cesspool of tainted necessity.

Social media – friend or foe?

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

As a writer, having a platform is essential. Publishers and agents look for it. And not just a platform you started last month and have three friends and a few posts because you feel awkward doing it.

Social media is your necessary evil.

You have to have a public face. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a website, blogging, etc. This public face ideally would be vibrant and established before that publisher or agent gets your query. While they are your target for getting published, the audience is your readers and potential readers.

Having a vibrant and established platform is also time intensive. Self-promotion is a full time job. It’s also more than just posting stuff for others to see. It is interacting with people and building a network of connections – friends, family, associates, associations, companies, fans, followers…

Your readers and potential readers following your public face want to know about you. They want to know about your writing too, but without feeling like they know who you are, that falls flat. They want to feel a connection to you, as a person.

This is where some authors go wrong. The airing of personal opinions can make your fans love you or hate you, all depending on what those opinions are. Remember the J. K. Rowling vs. LGBTQ+ debacle? Publicly airing her insensitivity lost her more than the LGBTQ+ community fans she offended. And then she made the second mistake. With every attempt at defending herself she only dug that hole deeper. Fans who loved to feel like they knew her saw a new side of her they didn’t know existed and they did not like that person.

Social media is also about networking. It’s not just about putting out posts for your readers and potential publishers and agents. You also need to schmooze others in the industry. You want to make connections and friendships with other writers, publishing professionals, readers, and anyone else who can help your writing career.

This means putting yourself out there and joining social media groups. Facebook has more than you can imagine, but not all are equal. Some have too little oversight, allowing the trolls to take over. Some get spammed with junk that has nothing to do with the group and does not belong on it.

These past few years I’ve never seen so many writers groups so spammed by bots pushing political agendas. So much that the moderators cannot keep up and sometimes give up trying. I’ve never left so many writing groups because of the politicized and hate spam posts that do not belong there and were not being moderated out. P.s. this is why I like the groups that pre-moderate posts, having to approve them before they show up.

Now here’s a caution: never ever publicly complain in the group about the posts or virtually voice your leaving because of them unless you want to be publicly tarred and feathered by the trolls. Nothing brings out their claws like someone complaining they are leaving a group. Just go. Quietly.

You join these groups and work to develop a sense of community with your fellow writers and publishing peeps. You make friends and contacts. You comment on and like others’ posts and post your own hoping for meaningful dialogue.

Sometimes that dialogue is meaningful and sometimes it’s attacked by the nasty trolls. I like to block those people who unreasonably attack or pick fights with others. They are not people I want to associate with. And if the group moderators do not bring the hammer down on the trolls in any attempt to control their assaults, then I will gladly seek out a more moderated and friendly group.

Often comments on questions fall in the range from helpful to offering questionable resources.

And then there are the open-ended questions mean to inspire discussion in writers’ groups….

Don’t fall for the open-ended questions meant to inspire discussion in writers’ groups.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

If you’ve been in any of the writers’ groups on social media, you’ve seen them.

While some of these questions are people legitimately looking to start a meaningful discussion, there are also others posting them with ulterior motives. There is an army of people lurking in social media groups seeking to sell their services, dropping these open leader questions and pouncing on the people who comment on them like the spam calls spoofing numbers ringing on your phone.

They are often also cut and pasted into multiple groups. If you see the identical question popping up in multiple groups, that for me is a big waving flashing red flag.

“Blah blah blah… share your book links. Go!”

“What inspires your writing?”

“How do you promote your books?”

The questions referencing promoting are, for me, the biggest red flags.

The list of examples is endless and I’ve fallen for a few, dumbly leaving my comment among the rest of the comments, to suddenly find myself with a new ‘friend’ (the author of the post) messaging me. Sometimes they are quicker to back off, others are more along the lines of the horror I once experienced sitting through a timeshare presentation for free tickets to the Tournament of Kings dinner show in Vegas.

You know the pushy sales tactic, where (they literally did at the timeshare presentation) tell you that you are a bad and neglectful parent and your kids will hate and resent you for life, and that you don’t deserve to have kids, if you don’t buy into their vacation timeshare. They just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, try to guilt you into it, and may even resort to veiled threats, ahem suggestions, that not buying their services will harm your chances of ever seeing happiness and will result in the loss of your marriage, kids, and everyone else in your life, forcing you to live a life unhappy and alone (or for writers, book sales).

In this case the kids are your published books, your love life is potential publishers, and the vacation timeshare is paying this person for their advertising and promotion services.

“So why don’t you want to sell any books?”

“Don’t you like your books?”

“Why don’t you like money?”

“Why don’t you want to make money selling your books?”

Falling for commenting on one of these posts a few times was enough for me. It turned me off participating in online discussions. I have an especial dislike for pushy people who will not take rejection, whether they ignored the “no soliciting” sign on my door, leaving me dealing with manically barking dogs with people in the house sleeping or trying to do Zoom calls, or they find the words “No thank you, I’m not interested.” incomprehensible. No means no, means no, means stop asking.

This is why I may be tempted on occasion, but now generally avoid commenting on any open-ended posts that trigger discussions. Too often they are fishing posts. I carefully think about what posts to comment on, be it groups or friends, and still sometimes find I made a mistake commenting on the wrong post. It’s not just those fishing posts, but in the growing toxic online world too many people have become quick to anger if they happen to have a different viewpoint.

This is also why I carefully consider which random stranger friend requests I accept, and which out of the blue stranger IM messages I respond to. Because it might be one of *those people*, the pushy ‘you hate money and your books if you don’t give me money because I promise to promote your books’ people, although more often they are of the widowed or divorced veteran with kids romance scam variety of friend or IM requests.

In fact, lurking instead of commenting leaves me with only the romance scammers reaching out to me.

Keep writing my friends and play safe out there.

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