I feel my approach to social media is a lot different than other experts. I strive for a holistic approach. On Mondays I blog about craft to help you guys produce the best “product” possible and, often, on Fridays, I talk about the writer human and give tips for how to develop the character of the professional author. Then, of course, Wednesdays are social media. Yet, these three facets often blend together, and, to me, that is a powerful reflection of the world we now live in.
One of the reasons that traditional marketing doesn’t work well in the Digital Age is that the concept of boundaries has changed. Last week we talked about Personal Space Invaders and how we all resent them, but this week we are going to talk a bit more about that notion of “personal space.” We now live in a world that no longer has the same boundaries. We are steadily becoming the Global Village that Marshall McLuhan envisioned over fifty years ago in his revolutionary work, The Gutenberg Galaxy.
Tribes then Print and then Tribes + Print
If we study the entire history of human communication, we find that Pre-Literate Tribal Human and the Digital Age Human have a lot in common, and the Human of the Typographical Era is fading away. In the Typographical Age (reliant on the written word), humans were highly reliant on official gatekeepers of information. Information flowed one direction, from top-down. So, in much of the 20th century, we relied on the TV-Industrial complex for all of our news, our opinions, and for recommendations about what goods and services to buy (until the Internet changed all of that).
To understand the big picture, we need to go back in time a bit…
The Gutenberg Revolution
With the invention of Gutenberg’s press, literacy exploded and so did human reliance on written information. The written word fractured the tribal communication system of serfdom and transformed society. We no longer had to be in the village square to get the skinny on what was what. Humans began to rely more and more on the printed word now that literacy was no longer a privilege reserved only for the elite. As a consequence, we drifted apart. The tribe had split, and it seemed it had split for good.
But, in the Typographical Age, as I mentioned, there were gatekeepers. Yes, humans, for the first time in history were facing information glut, but we still had those people in power who could tell us what to pay attention to.
Then came social media and the village square is back with renewed fervor.
As Society Changes, So Does Communication
In a tribal system, we don’t rely on newspapers and fliers, we rely on each other. There are people who always have good advice, great recommendations and who know what is what. In a world that is deluged with information, it is just easier for us to ask our peeps (the other villagers) what they think.
For instance, I ignore most of the news. Why? Well if this were the 1800s then the only news I would get would be what was directly relevant to me. I might hear that Santa Ana was no longer honoring the treaty of 1824 and that conflict was imminent. I might hear that wounded Confederate soldiers were in town and needed care. I would hear if a railroad was going through, but almost every shred of information would have been directly relevant to me or to those I knew and loved. Information could only travel as fast as human, horse, train or boat.
These days information comes instantly from every corner of the globe continually. I have to pull away to maintain my sanity. I cannot equally care about the race for the presidency, school shootings in Colorado, a missing girl found dead in Mississippi, villagers slaughtered in Dafur, or the Russians manufacturing thermonuclear Beanie Babies.
Too much information will crater me emotionally and psychologically. I don’t withdraw because I don’t care. I withdraw because I have to to stay sane. Humans were not wired to cared equally about everything in the world all at the same time.
This is one of the reasons that experts who recommend we blast out link after link after link are only tossing gasoline on a fire. People are already on system overload and, if we add to their overload problem, they won’t have warm, fluffy feelings for us.
Age of Instant
When the telegraph was invented, the Typographical Age was living on borrowed time. Information could travel almost instantly from anywhere that had a telegraph. Suddenly people in Georgia could get national news right from D.C., or San Francisco. For the first time, humans could get international news while it was still relevant.
This was right about the time we saw the birth of advertisement and the TV-Industrial complex. This system of gatekeepers worked well because it was communicating to a society still bound by Typography (the written word) and not relationships (the tribe).
At the latter part of the 20th century, one device struck a mortal blow to the TV-Industrial complex—the personal computer. The Internet had already been around for a while (the military had been using it), but the Internet alone didn’t have the power to topple the current system. No, so long as we could only communicate via letters or expensive long-distance phone calls, the TV-Industrial Complex ruled unchallenged.
Once the personal computer became affordable and user-friendly, it’s natural partner was the Internet. At this point, the TV-Industrial complex’s days were numbered because, for the first time since before the Gutenberg revolution, people were able to “talk” to one another easily and for free. We started relying on each other again instead of books, pamphlets papers and official gatekeepers of the TV-Industrial complex.
Brave New World
We can see the first aftershocks of this change. The Western world rippled and stretched with a 10.0 magnitude aftershock that toppled Tower Records. The executives were no longer in control of the musicians, thus they no longer could control the music. Shortly after this, another 8.0 ripple took out Kodak. Kodak no longer could control how people shared images. Now? We are in the 6.0 that is shaking traditional publishing.
Yes, each aftershock is smaller because the groundwork for change is already there. We need less “shaking” for the same amount of change.
These “media quakes,” much like natural earthquakes, are taking out the rigid, old structures. Anything that doesn’t bend and move with the ripples of change is going to fall over. There is also another result of all this shaking and destruction. Old topography is no longer regonizable. We can’t find the streets (paths) that were once so familiar to get us where we wanted to go.
Instead of write a book, query, rejection, repeat 735 times, rewrite 736 times, agent, more rejection, book deal, we have a hundred different pig-trails to take us to our end goal. Yet, the key is we are now far more reliant on each other. We lean on our tribe for emotional support, information, and feedback.
Why did I take you through this brief history of media?
I wanted to give you an idea of how much this world has changed. We can’t use tools that worked in a 1980 world because that world no longer exists. Also, one of the necessary “fallout effects” of all this shaking and global connecting is that boundaries no longer seem to make sense any more. They are no longer clear and this can create problems.
In a 1980 world our boundaries made sense and they had been there for over a hundred years. We didn’t interact with agents all over the country real time. We didn’t talk to other writers all over the world. We weren’t expected to be plugged into a “hive” to “build a platform.” So what’s happened is that we are getting new psychological stress. Humans need boundaries. It stresses us not to know where we stand in relation to others.
When are we being responsible marketers and when are we crossing a line and becoming a personal space invader? How do we set boundaries with ourselves? How do we set boundaries with friends and loved ones who can’t see that writing is working not goofing off?
How do we set boundaries with personal space invaders who want to use our Facebook page to advertise their books? How do we lovingly confront when people get out of line? The upside of social media is we have more access to friends and loved ones. The downside is that toxic people have unprecedented access to us as well, and that can be a nightmare if we are ill-equipped to deal with these types of individuals.
Writers Don’t Exist in a Vacuum
I know that as The Social Media Jedi, I have often served as the Social Media Dear Abby. It is tough to know where we stand and what to confront in the Digital Age. In a world without borders, how do we set boundaries?
I try to be very transparent with you guys and I will admit that I struggled with anger for a long time. I finally realized what the problem was. Yes, I am generally a happy-go-lucky-gal who laughs and smiles all the time, but I wasn’t setting boundaries. When people crossed a line, I told myself and them it was okay when it wasn’t. I wasn’t confronting in love early, so by the time I did confront, I was seeing red. What should have been a “gentle but stern talking to” quickly devolved into a thermonuclear strike followed by salted earth and a curse of seven plagues.
Many of you might fall into the same trap. You are nice, nice, nice, gentle, nice, nice, not-so-gentle, then BOOOOOOM!!!! *screams*
Anyway, I finally realized what was going on and found some helpful tools to handle this growing problem. In the Digital Age, we need to master loving confrontation and the art of setting boundaries. I know we all grew up in a world with clear borders and expectations, but that world is buried under a pile of digital rubble and we need to take up the torch.
I go out of my way to help writers in every area of life, so I’m offering a new class I am calling Good Fences–The Writer’s Guide to Setting Boundaries. I have priced this at only $15 because I hope this class will bless you with better relationships, productivity, and peace of mind.
So what are your difficulties? Where do you struggle with setting boundaries? Does your spouse or family refuse to respect your writing time? Do you have a hard time getting off social media? Do you have tips for keeping boundaries with yourself and others? Do you ignore the news and only pay attention to what you hear from friends and family? Or can you keep up with all of it>
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of October I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.