To be clear, i didn't make this choice lightly. I genuinely believed that I HAD to be on social media if I were to offer writing services to startups, small businesses, not for profits and courageous entrepreneurs. It would be to my own detriment not to be, right?
With a good dose of existential unpicking I have called bullshit on this argument and realised that it has no substance. It is structurally weak, absurd and a thing of sand (thank's Foucault).
The thing with these network tools is that they themselves have been very carefully marketed to create a perceived need within those using them. If you're not using them, you're missing out.
Network sites like Facebook are highly addictive and random and what's worse (to my mind at least) is that these companies store your private data; things like your birthdate, your relationship status, your location, your workplace and sell it to advertisers so as they can push services and goods that you don't need onto you each time you log in.
It is simply not true that you HAVE to use them to succeed in your professional or personal life. In fact, you're probably more like to succeed if you don't use them to entertain yourself and placate boredom.
But, if one does not think carefully and thoughtfully about their actual benefit and the type of value they are adding to ones life, it is relatively easy to believe that yes, yes you are missing out or you're simply backward-living in the dark-anti progress if you opt out.
Many people don't think deeply about why they are using social media and how it is negatively or positively impacting their lives. And it's no one's fault, we're not really encouraged to.
I do however feel that most people recognise that Facebook and the like are addictive, but it's difficult to discern for yourself whether something is right for you without having a process to walk through to make an informed decision.
So, I will walk you through my decision making process in order to give you some such framework in case you are on the fence about leaving behind any of these tools.
First, I examined value.
Value, is a rather vague term in and of itself. It says nothing nuanced about value and therefore gives you nothing substantial to evaluate your activities by.
Cal Newport however offers some guidance in discerning value.
Cal defines three types of value that are useful when assessing the value of network tools and the role of technology in your life. They are as follows:
- Core Value: A technology adds core value to your life if you could not do without it. And most importantly if it is intimately bound up in your definition of what it means to live life well. For example, Skype adds value to my personal life as it enables me to talk face to face with a dear friend in Sydney and to see and speak "in person" with my nephew in Perth as he grows into a little man. Family and maintaining close connections with wonderful people are bound up in my definition of a life lived well, therefore I can deem that Skype is a technology that I will continue to use: it adds core value to my days.
- Minor Value: A technology adds minor value to your life if it gives you some minor benefit in the moment that you're using it. For example, laughing at an Instagram picture of a friend, drunk at a Nick Cave concert. This adds minor value to my life as I would derive more value from meeting her in person and hearing about the concert first hand. Thus, I cannot justify using Instagram as it is not bound up in my definition of a life lived well. I derive core value from hearing about an experience from someone dear to me first hand, not viewing the visuals of a holiday or event they went to, before we sit down to chat about it (it kind of spoils it).
- Invented Value: A technology has invented value if it solves a problem you didn't realise you had until that technology came along. For example, Twitter enables me to connect with other writers in my field and shoot small messages back and forth. Until Twitter can along, I didn't realise I had the problem of keeping in touch with other writers in my field. In the past if I had wanted to get in touch with someone that I admire, I would have emailed or called them. Simple. Therefore, Twitter is out as I can't justify using it for a problem I didn't know I had before it came along (and I don't have).
Following this musing on what value actually meant, I concluded that a technology or network tool would need to offer me, in my personal and professional life core value if I were to continue using it.
I decided to then try an experiment. I took a month away from all for them. Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Nothing terrible happened.
In fact, I gained two new clients through word of mouth and landed a promotion in my day job.
Next, I thought about what my professional goal was and I thought about the overarching frame that scaffolds and drives me to continue doing what I do.
And this is what I came up with:
Professional Goal: To craft well written, swoon worthy copy for my clients; copy that inspires their ideal clients to engage with their services, buy their products or support their cause.
To create a seamless, personalised and professional experience that leaves my clients deeply fulfilled.
Key Activities Supporting this Goal:
- Research my clients and their competitors patiently and deeply
- Read, understand and digest the latest marketing and copywriting literature
- Write carefully and with purpose
- Be a darn pleasure to work with
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google + and Instagram I concluded do not offer significant benefit to warrant continued use.
The key activities supporting this goal make it clear that to become a truly excellent copywriter (and writer) I must work deeply. I must research deeply and patiently, I must write carefully and with purpose and I must understand the current "cutting edge" work that is occurring in the field.
I must not fragment my attention with incessant Facebook checking and I must create content of core value.
Some of the common objections to this stance may include:
"If you're not on Facebook, it's unprofessional."
I disagree. I am unprofessional if I do not research my clients and their competitors deeply. I am unprofessional if I do not spend stretches of uninterrupted time and focus on creating smooth, seamless processes to increase my efficiency and work quality. I am unprofessional if I miss a deadline because I have been surveying for likes and comments on my latest post.
"You need to be on Facebook for people to know that you exist."
I disagree. Apart from knowing that yes, I do exist as a human on planet earth (at least I'm pretty sure this isn't a dream) if I continue to create valuable content that people want to read because they want to read it (that is, it adds core value to their life) they will know I exist. I will have created an authentic following of people that read what I have written because of what I've written, not because they know me personally. When you create significant value, the right people will find you. Take Jonathan Franzen as an example. He does not use Twitter. His goal is to create well-written narrative prose that deeply impacts the lives of others. Twitter does not aid this goal. And he is not lost to the ether. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and the winner of the 2001 National Book Award for his novel Corrections. In short, he is a very successful author because he is very good at what he does. People have found him because he is very good at his craft and is not afraid to have an opinion. They read him because his writing is quality, not because he is an avid Twitter user.
"If you're in marketing, you need to know how to effectively use social media."
I disagree. If however I want to market myself as a social media expert, maybe then yes I will need to use social media. But that is not what I am offering. I am offering well researched, well-written copy for businesses and organisations that are aligned with my core values. If I am to continue to grow and hone my craft, that will not come from using Facebook or Instagram. It will come from actually sitting in my chair and writing.
I'm willing to step into the breach and find out if credibility does come from being a craftsman; from striving for excellence and not from displaying social media widgets on my website or garnering likes from friends.
And so I will display only one widget, a little envelope, by which you can email me, and I can email you.
(Like most of my recent posts and behaviour changes, this one was inspired by Cal Newport. Deep Work devotee and Computer Science professor at Georgetown University DC).