Garbage in, garbage out.
My first experience with social media was on a platform one of my housemates used quite often, and he thought I should try it. I don’t know if it was because I was a chick, or because I used the wrong acronym, or if maybe I stepped on someone’s proverbial toes, but I was lambasted. Unlike the time the neighborhood boys tried to kick me off the basketball court, I didn’t hold my ground. I decided this wasn’t for me. I was nineteen.
Years later I joined Facebook, I think in preparation for a high school reunion. It has been an ideal place to see people I’ve known across the globe, to follow them from births to graduations, to sympathize with them through surgeries and funerals. We’d share common ground or funny cat gifs. During my time as an FRG president, we used a closed site to share information about living on Okinawa, everything from available programs, to family events, to typhoon readiness.
Then things got ugly during the election. People I respected would share posts that were prime examples of fake news: the headline or picture didn’t match the content, the articles were riddled with grammatical errors, stuff was unsubstantiated or simply untrue or unsubstantiated. I wanted to take my friends back with me to the nearest college freshman writing course or introductory media course and let them learn a thing or a dozen about how to verify the credibility of sources. I didn’t stick my nose out often, but when I did, it was with credible sources—links to evidence. I tried to be reasonable, to hear them out, to have a productive discussion. Yet still they sneered.
Because of this, I was afraid for a long time to enter the realm of Twitter. Social media has its pitfalls, and I had all but stopped airing any controversial opinions on Facebook. I was not interested in insults or trolls. I tiptoed into Twitter. I started by following museums and theaters, science and poetry organizations, places that offered up a daily inspirational picture or words of wisdom. Then I began following famous writers, because they are clever with words, of course.
The turning point, though, was when I started following Novelicious on Twitter. She pairs a poignant quote, usually from a prominent author, with unusual visuals. I found she brightened my day, and I was able to find common ground with her other followers. With the addition of following the hashtag #amwriting, I started finding my fellow writers, the (eh-hem) not-so-famous ones. I found this group to be positive, encouraging, and quick to share helpful ideas.
What I was discovering is not new: sometimes you get what you put in. Garbage in, garbage out. I chose to promote my most benevolent and best self on Twitter. I found myself not only sounding more positive, I was really becoming more constructive in my comments, and Twitter echoed that positivity. I began to cultivate the more affirming voices on my feed, and it was easier to be positive and encouraging when surrounded by so much support.
I’m no expert on the algorhythms of social media, but, on a very elementary level, you’re going to get more of what you “like.” If that means favoring courtesy, kindness, creativity, cleverness, art, talent, and expertise, well, I’m ready to dive right in. As the Beatles sang,
And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make
Anyway, I’m new here. Do you have any advice about how to make social media a more fertile stomping ground for writers and other creative types? Have you seen anything really clever on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere else? Please share it!