What’s Your Story? #socialmedia


Fishy thoughts

My thoughts on Social Media

Today, I had a minor setback. My first instinct– to go and share it on Facebook.

I don’t share much of my private life on my blog, nor on my Facebook or Twitter. But recently, I’ve noticed a tendency– or maybe a temptation– because I don’t give in to it, of sharing about my life on social media.

I recently read this article in the New Yorker by author Dani Shapiro, about exactly how damaging giving in to this temptation can be for writers:

I worry that we’re confusing the small, sorry details—the ones that we post and read every day—for the work of memoir itself. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for “sharing my story,” as if the books I’ve written are not chiseled and honed out of the hard and unforgiving material of a life but, rather, have been dashed off, as if a status update, a response to the question at the top of every Facebook feed: “What’s on your mind?” I haven’t shared my story, I want to tell them. I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite.

In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me. I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that our feelings—that vast range of fear, joy, grief, sorrow, rage, you name it—are incoherent in the immediacy of the moment. It is only with distance that we are able to turn our powers of observation on ourselves, thus fashioning stories in which we are characters.

There is no immediate gratification in this. No great digital crowd is “liking” what we do. We don’t experience the Pavlovian, addictive click and response of posting something that momentarily relieves the pressure inside of us, then being showered with emoticons. The gratification we memoirists do experience is infinitely deeper and more bittersweet. It is the complicated, abiding pleasure, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, of finding the universal thread that connects us to the rest of humanity, and, by doing so, turns our small, personal sorrows and individual tragedies into art.

I am given to Facebook updates and blog posts about the small things in life. Now I’ve begun to wonder whether that’s affecting my storytelling. Maybe I’m not building up enough steam over the years, by letting it out through my social media updates. Maybe the fact that I talk about small, impersonal-sounding details on my blog is affecting my storytelling abilities.

What’s your take on this? How much of your inner life/ rants/ life news do you share on Facebook and other social media? If you’re a writer, do you think sharing life experiences on social media detracts from an author’s ability to tell a story?

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138 thoughts on “What’s Your Story? #socialmedia

  1. I’m coming late to this blog post (haven’t been online much) but I’d like to say that it depends on what purpose social media has for you. For example, my Facebook page, my personal page, is strictly private and where I communicate with friends and family. I have a Facebook page for one blog, and a page for my Perceval novels. At these pages, it’s all business, as it is for my Twitter account. For my commentary blog, I tend to reveal a bit more about my experience because I am posting from my personal experience and background. On the Perceval blog, I do my best to stay focused on writing, classical music, movies and books, and leave my personal life out of it, unless it affects my posting frequency as my recent surgery did.

    What I dislike more at blogs in ranting. I’m fine with some personal sharing, but as soon as the ranting starts, I move on.

    Do I think allowing my personal life into my online writing affects my offline writing? Not really. The only way it affects it is in the time suck social media is!

  2. As a fiction writer, I have the luxury of keeping the two separate. I can share my everyday frustrations as well as strange stories from my past without it taking steam out of my other writing. For me, telling my life stories is a fun pastime, not the big long-term goal. It’s fun, not serious.

    Now that my college drinking stories have started to run together and form some wider coming of age story, I’ve found myself enjoying it less because now I have to write about bad times (every story has bad times!) and that blurs the lines between my easy-going blogging and my more ambitious writing.

    I see where you are coming from and I totally understand your conflicted emotions!

  3. I had never thought about it this way, and it is such a helpful perspective. Sometimes I catch myself counting social media updates as some sort of saved inspiration for a future piece. I need to stop posting and waiting and start that heart achey process Dani Shapiro describes…

  4. Sharing, and knowing how much to share, is always difficult.

    Tina Jordan wrote a great article in Entertainment Weekly (July 18, 2014 #1320) about Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of The Mists of Avalon. Apparently, the writer may have been guilty of some horrific crimes, particularity against children. It has changed Tina’s love for the book.

    The point is that some people will love and identify with you more because of a common bond. And others will hate you and avoid your books for the exact same reason.

    Kevin Smith faced this when he released the movie Dogma. I recall protesters at the movie theater, blocking the entrance to the mall. On one hand, he took a lot of heat and lost some potential fans. On the other hand… best media coverage a movie can get without spending a dime on advertising.

    So you could take a stand on something big, and maybe get over-exposure as a result. What’s that saying… there’s no such thing as bad publicity… perhaps it falls in there.

    Just a matter of if you can handle being associated with it.

  5. I’ve wondered about this myself when it occurred to me that I used to publish essays on a regular basis, but since starting my blog, I do blog posts. I’m not sure this is a negative thing, but I definitely think my need to do a more intensive essay is dissipated by the blog posts. On the other hand, I frequently do FB statuses that are “written” – writerly observations, as you say. I think this has actually helped people know me as a writer. As to the disclosure of the personal, I’m more likely to do that in a blog post than FB – then I’m always surprised when I see someone in person and they mention it!!!

  6. I think , what you share and how you share is crucial. Fiction can never be 100% fiction it is a fine balance, an extension of an writers experiences told in a different context in a different dimension. The more it becomes imaginary the greater the chance to disconnect with readers.

    I write short stories based on imagination, but it definitely has shades of experiences from my own life.

  7. I share things that I don’t care if people know and, for me, it doesn’t block me from further writing but, then again, I don’t think of myself as a writer. Writing is intensely personal whether it is fiction or not. One is creating something that comes from deep within. I believe each person is unique and where one would never write anything on facebook or feel it impedes their creativity, another would feel just the opposite. In the end one has to go with what motivates and stay away from what doesn’t.

  8. Pingback: “She didn’t mean to pull a knife on you….” | R. J. Nello

  9. I am not a fiction story-teller, so I may not be the one who can comment on how sharing my life experiences will affect my story-telling.

    But, story-telling, in a general context, is the best way to reach out and touch the minds and hearts of the readers – be it a blog, an article, or even a subject book. Researchers have found that story-telling is the best way for education!

    So, in that aspect, all my blogs (which is the only medium I write), are stories. I weave stories with supporting data for my blogs about population. It could be my personal experience on talking to people about the topics, which I share about, or a sharing of a personal life story of a subject who decided to do something in their personal lives about India population.

    My twitter one-line sharings are pretty much well-known public data, and I am not concerned about it. I carefully choose my circle in Facebook – and distinguish between a friends-only posting and a pubic posting, so that way, I am not too much worried about what I share.

    So, in a nutshell, even my personal life sharings on any media (blog, Twitter, or Facebook) has not affected my writings in any way.

    Having said that, I am always a bit cautious about what I write and how I modulate :-).

    Hope that makes sense…..

  10. I don’t use Facebook at all — leery of the lack of privacy and the great time suck that it would probably become for me. But I am older, so it is easier to not have that be a part of my life. Recently, when I was getting ready to move, I spent some time reading through a box of old letters from friends and relatives, written in the pre-digital era. I was struck by how thoughtful and clever everyone was, how much time and effort went into their messages to me. I find that missing from most communication I receive now. For me, writing a blog, and reading others, gives me a chance to re-create some of that kind if communication, but it takes time, and way more thought than Facebook or Twitter would.

  11. What an interesting thought, I never realised it but I do believe it’s true. I recently posted something on my facebook, quite poignant to me, with the intention of turning it into a more elaborate blog post. I got many likes and many comments, and since then have done nothing about the blog post! I will keep this is mind, the quick satisfaction one receives from a ‘like’ is temporary and not as long-lasting I feel, as the feedback you get from a truly gripping, deeply personal piece.

  12. I don’t share anything on my social medias. I just don’t feel like the world needs to hear I’m having a bad day or that I just ate at Taco Bell. Still, I will post on Twitter if I’m excited about something or if some huge, sad thing just happened in pop culture.

  13. Hmm, I share certain specific subjects, and unless something that happens to me might be useful to some other reader/writer/gardener/opera-goer, I try not to succumb to the temptation of sharing it. It does happen sometimes, I don’t think putting something on a post stops you developing thoughts about it that are very different in the long term. Then I am not writing memoirs.

  14. It’s clear that some people see themselves as writers when they post certain things on facebook but to me, some feel completely out of place – something that may become obvious when the ‘friends’ don’t have any comments to make. But maybe a blog is just too much work.

  15. At fil media. However, over time, I came to reaslcial media. However, over time, I came to realize that wasn’t a choice I was willing to continue and have gone the opposite direction. I rarely post anything about my life on social media. I do post my blog posts about my continuing change into a computer programmer and IT professional. My private life, however, is shared more directly with those people who are part of my inner circle as it were. I have found that this strategy seems to work better for me.

  16. I don’t share much. It can become an obsession, infringing upon not only my time but view of who I am. It feels like over exposure, boasting, I don’t know, makes me want to ask: who cares what I had for breakfast. But, to each his own. I have friends who make very good use of Facebook with interesting aspects of their lives.

  17. I don’t think sharing personal details, of course to a certain extent, affects my writing style…I usually share small happenings of my daily life on social media…a nice thing to see that people could relate with them and interact accordingly… :-)

  18. An intriguing post. I do not think that story telling capabilities go wrong – after all I think writers strongly relate to happenings around them, and thus write. But talking about random small, sorry details on social media will not help you but put you out for other’s to analyse you. They do not read interconnected to me.

  19. I have developed a habit, as someone else mentioned, of formulating sentences to post on Facebook when something significant has happened to me. Its pretty stupid really, especially when you get no ‘likes’ and realise that no one cares. Better to keep it for the fun/trivial stuff or simply just for looking at people’s holiday snaps and use the blog for deeper self-expression.

  20. You know that is what I was exactly thinking. Facebook and all give me a continuous outlet of my inner feelings. I noted its affecting my creativity negatively. I stopped sharing personal updates as a starter. The blogs I share are personal (actually creatively put to fiction) to impersonal they have no negative impact on my creativity. Recently my updates on google plus are more than fb.

  21. I rarely use facebook, it’s merely a tool for keeping in touch with distant family, I don’t understand the appeal of posting life details to a public forum. That said, others get some kind of satisfaction from doing so, so I suppose it depends on the person. Each to their own.

      • Some people believe that just writing, no matter what you write, helps you improve. I’m wondering whether that is necessarily the case. Maybe writing only tweets all day makes your writing tweety (and puts it in danger of being eaten by Sylvester).

        • ROTFL.

          Yes, writing, no matter what, does give you some opportunity for improvement.

          Writing on Twitter makes you brief, to-the-point– that’s not a bad thing. I was reading about some or the other successful author who said that writing Vogue copy (left, dress by Valentino , shoes by Ferragamo) helped her too.

          I too believe no writing is ever wasted. (I just threw away a 90,000 word draft last year, then another 50,000, then another 30,000.)

          But to truly improve, we must receive critiques, realize the flaws and make a conscious effort to improve.

          10,000 hours of writing would only help if we remain constantly aware of the scopes for improvement :)

      • I suppose that depends on the person, if it’s a way of expressing yourself and letting yourself be heard then I would say it is a good thing but if it’s posting for the sake of simply posting, without a real purpose, then possibly it could be a bad thing. The real harm is done when a person obsesses over the posts, constantly updates for fear of not being seen or heard; posting every detail because it is then that the virtual world becomes an extension of their own mind and they diminish themselves as a result. That’s my opinion at least.

        • And I agree wholeheartedly with that. The day FB likes become more important than my reading or writing, I shall quit. So far, I only post stuff that seems to resonate with my audience.

  22. These are great questions!! I enjoy blogging, FB, and Instagram, especially blogging, but I sometimes have to walk away from all of it or I don’t get anything done on my WIP. It is always a juggling act! I do agree with you that it is different for everyone, and each writer had to find what works for that writer. My love is writing fiction, and so I think that is where the deepest expressions of myself appear, but I do also love blogging! I don’t get too personal on FB, except I do link my blog, but I only blog every three weeks or so. Thanks so much for opening up this conversation! (I hope to be on Twitter soon, but will need some -a lot!- of help from my friend! 😊)

    • ‘a good story is a good story’: agreed. I wonder though whether social media is the right platform for them? I’m ambivalent, really. But then on some days when I share an observation on FB and get almost as much interaction as I get on this blog, I don’t give a damn. Stories are about communication, aren’t they ? :)

  23. Sharing or not, I think we must do what works for us. I know people who are very lonely and so sharing their stuffs on social media gives them some sort of sense of companionship. As much as it is like washing one’s dirty linen in public, if it can help one stay sane and not feel lonely, I won’t ever judge it. We are different afterall.

  24. I don’t think posting on facebook necessarily detracts from other creative endeavors. I usually consider facebook status updates to be in the nature of one-liners or brief anecdotes, an entirely different process from a longer, more thoughtful blog entry (or work of fiction, or whatever else it is you’re working on). I guess for me facebook is slick, entertaining chat and blogging is more of a monologue. I purposely keep my facebook and blogging separate though. Each to me serves a very different function.

  25. I have radically curbed my urge to share anything beyond the most mundane on facebook — though I do often share my blog posts. I find myself sometimes feeling embarrassed reading/seeing some of the more personal posts of FB friends in my newsfeed — kind of like craning my neck to look at a car crash. Also, what you’ve written above resonates for me; so much of status updates would be better used for the raw materials of story telling. It seems so wasteful. Nice post. Shared it on twitter and facebook ;-)

  26. An interesting notion that posting regularly to Facebook vents some of the “steam” that could better be used in other writing pursuits, and I suppose there’s some truth to it if you don’t distinguish between what you write in your blog and what you write on some other social-media venue. For me, Facebook is a much more spur-of-the-moment type of thing for reacting to current events, while I think of my blog as something I use to entertain. My Facebook posts tend to be reactionary, while my blog entries are more planned out (though anyone who has read my blog would probably reject that statement). Facebook is effortless, and it shows. Blogging is more like work, but also a labor of love.

  27. I do rant from time to time, sharing blog updates and interesting quotations. But, sometimes we need a break from social media. Whether we like it or not, we have become narcissists on social media.

  28. Given how wordy I still am in all my blog posts and my books, I think I’m still doing okay in the face of social media, haha.

    However – it’s an interesting issue to bring up. We are living in an age of instant gratification and short attention span. One example: thousands of non-edited self-published books available.

    Twitter and FB can have the power to teach us brevity, though. Also to the broader question… I think sharing life experiences brings credibility to our storytelling and draws readers in, eventually, to the stories we wish to sell vs simply share in bites.

  29. I’ve stepped back from facebook and only post big things (like updates on my daughter’s surgery earlier this week). Otherwise I stay pretty quiet. I also recently went through and pared down my friend’s list to mostly family.

    I don’t do any other media besides my blog, and I do occasionally post ‘life’ posts, but usually because what’s going on in my life is going to affect my blog in some way. I posted last week about how stressed I am about the upcoming school year, and because of this I’ll be taking a short blogging hiatus. Otherwise I try to keep my blog book focused/lighthearted :)

    • My facebook is all over the place– and I usually treat it as one of my writing faces. My rule for posting? If I write an update and still feel like posting it after half an hour– I post it. Otherwise it remains in my notes.

  30. The experiences I share usually involve me poking fun at myself. Most people in my circle know: I’m a writer, my teenaged daughter says some really funny stuff on a consistent basis, I’m terrified to open canned biscuits, and I hate spiders. (And now, YOU know these things.) I don’t think those things are too personal. I guess I’ve been on social media for so long, (remember AOL Chat rooms?) I don’t consider what I share online as detracting from anything I may write for publication.

  31. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think that there is not one right answer to your question. Every person reacts differently in similar situations. I mean that what you understand as personal information which should be kept private, is not perceived as personal from everyone else. For example, you might consider that your relationship status should be private, while for others it’s not at all something they think about. The “problem” begins when we are considering the details of our own lives more important than they actually are. If your personal life can inspire others, you shouldn’t fear to let people know your story. So, I believe you can share your life with the public if there is a “higher purpose”. Writing and posting about all the insignificant details that are totally useless to everyone else or writing about totally impersonal things should be a matter of personal choice… Of course, that’s only what I think… :)

    • Every person reacts differently in similar situations.

      That’s much wisdom right there. I try to figure out what others are doing, but in the end, I end up sharing what I feel is right for me.

  32. Though I cannot say about you, but for me sharing personal experiences on my blog and social media sites is a huge success, I use to get many good complements when I started sharing my own personal life on my blog and social media….

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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