Well it has been a while since I blogged regularly. Which is poor but I have been busy. My second novel is taking shape, finally. I have also been getting into making cartoons, taking care of my silly side – hence Dave The Duck. Hopefully the fruits of that labour will appear in the near future on a video site of your choosing.
It has also been a time for thinking about my life and what is important in it, especially in the light of recent events. The toxicity and illiberality of what is going on online has decided me that something has to change. As an author I am told that the only way to market my books is to use social media. Well, dear, single, lonely reader, I can tell you that that is bunk. Now it is very interesting why it didn’t work in my case, because clearly for some people it does, and I only have a theory as to why. But I shall digress a little first.
I stopped using Facebook for anything other than to see event notifications, in 2016. The vitriol around Brexit, the insane screaming of abuse between people who were friends over what was a democratic decision, the tribalism and the pettiness sickened me to my stomach. So I withdrew. Truth number one: I didn’t miss it one little bit. That horrific mixture of banality and narcissism, that feeds on everyone’s fears and rage at not ‘doing as well’ as someone they know. I finally got the recipe that made the Zuck one of the wealthiest men in the world. He did it by making many millions of people profoundly unhappy. So I left. I can’t change the world but I can change my corner of it so I stopped using it. I kept the account because it was a network of people who were my past. How many kept in touch? How many replied to my (fictitious) birthday? Less than 1 in 100. Try it as an experiment people. You wont have many people come to your funeral if all your ‘friends’ are online.
Then I wrote my first book. I read up on online marketing and attempted to use Facebook and Instagram as a marketing tool. Now I gave myself a small problem. I saw the cancel culture coming and worried that my book’s themes would be deemed inappropriate by the screamers and the freaks. Truth is anything can be deemed to be offensive by those who wish to lie that they are offended. And the online world is full of people like that. So I chose a pen name and didn’t tell any of my friends that I had written a book. I cut off my best possible line to promote the book, word of mouth from people who know me. It would, five years before, have been my first and most obvious approach. Free copies to everyone I knew who would read it and write an honest review.
So began the hard slog to try and get followers. Facebook business pages would not work for me because I couldn’t join a group as my page, as my pen name. Rather than fraudulently use a second phone I gave up on it and move to Instagram. Initially my following grew quickly, engagement was excellent, logging upwards of 40% likes per post and hundreds of views. Then over night it stopped. My views dropped from hundreds to tens. My growth became stagnation and decline. I cannot explain why. The content was similar, brand focused and high quality. And yet. I can only assume because I had had the temerity to follow some people who the people at Instagram didn’t like, I was on a list somewhere. More work went into trying to break that cycle than writing the second book. Completely wasted effort.
I am simply a story teller, trying to make something that is fun for people to escape into for an evening or two. I am not prepared to labour under censorship. I shall have to find new (old) ways to sell my books and reach my audience. It is tragic that the internet, the space that was supposed to be free, has been overrun by an intolerant mob and a handful of cyber mobsters. We can never be free if our thoughts are captive.
I expect that this blog post will be found and this blog also restricted but I no longer care. There will be a way to change this and the future of the social internet does not look like Facebook or Instagram. So for me it is a liberating experience to shut both of them down and delete WhatsApp from my phone. No more of my data is going to be used to make the Zuck any richer. No more of my time is going to be wasted casting envious eyes at an old friend’s apparently perfect life. No more of my time is going to be trashed scrolling through reams of terrible pictures. I am going to live, in the real world. I am going to use the net only to find out how to do things and to share in positive spaces. And I do not believe I am alone.