What advantages and disadvantages does social media present to the modern writer?

Modern society’s relationship with the aspiring writer has altered greatly from past eras of publication. During which, most marketing and promotion was under the control of the publishers themselves, rather then the writer. With the advent of social media, writers have been forced to adapt to this new culture wave and all the benefits and fallbacks that come with it, such as the new control that the writer has or the wider scope that the internet provides.

The breadth of the internet compared to the limits of old media have been described as infinite by many, and it’s not difficult to see why. Social media grants an artist of any type access to a broad range of potential platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, all of which offer potential opportunities to build an audience and attract attention. Twitter allocates for snappy remarks and instant feedback, allowing for a more intimate but usually humorous connection between artist and audience. The fandom of a writer can interact with the latter through instant public messaging and the writer can then bounce off the fandom in order to improve their perception. Thereby making them more desirable and marketable for publishers. Instagram, on the other hand, helps to establish an aesthetic side, whether that’s through well shot pictures of the cover of their next novel, or easily phrased quotes. What’s notable is that a lot of these social media pages are simultanously malleable to a writers unique mindet as well as incredibly trendable and current. The fast-paced nature of the internet supports this range of options, as although writers may have to adapt to short attention spans and second to second coverage, they can use the widest (or if it benefits them, narrowest) breadth of the entirety of social media to their advantage in order to publish their work. On the opposite end of the equation, publishers on the lookout for writers will be able to narrow their searches down for specific genres and find the most popular in a given area of that niche. Even though the macroscopic pool of internet users may throw them off, the various search functions under social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram help to combat this (for example, through the use of hashtags.) Facebook, functioning mainly as a platform to assist friends in connecting and finding eachother, is less desirable then these other options, as they would need to find a writers specific page in order to find them or their preferred genre. This is why Facebook is better utilised as a page to support an initial Twitter or Instagram account, a curious publisher can track down a writers facebook through their Twitter, if they desired to find out more about them. According to the Writers Cook Book “Facebook has the highest audience of any social media site”[1] so many writers utilise it anyway, due to it’s popularity. A writer then has a certain element of control over whether any publishers can look to find their work.

Control is the primary tool at the writers disposal when they are looking to sell and publish their work. As they are able to choose whichever social media they wish, in order to promote their brand of work. The writer (in almost all cases) has full control over whatever they put on their social media sites. One of the ways in which this can backfire, is if the writer posts a particulary offensive content on the platform, but this is usually through the writers own incomptency in public relations, and can’t be really considered a fault of the social media itself. Artist blunders putting a irremovable mark on their publicity has always been around, recorded through mass media. Instead, competant writers and publicists are able to use social media to promote and communicate on a mass scale without needing a middle party like how the mass media was used in the past. This is important because the direct control is placed into the writers hands. The writer can mould their public persona to their liking without the need for anybody else’s interference. This is a double edged sword however, as stated before, the writers who give no thought to how their appear online will give no thought to their presence online and say offensive or politically incorrect statements to their own detriment. This is in opposition to writers who would use social media to showcase their actual comptency with writing, so publishers could see and notice how good of a writer they actually were. If a writer knows how to use social media, then it’s a big provable indicator for the quality of their writing. This can then be compared to other aspiring authors in the same genre, and publishers can them observe where one writer is against others in the genre more clearly than in the past. This aspect of social media opens up a new area of opportunity for those who want to post online in order to sell their book, they can put whatever desired information they want onto their website, whether that be Twitter or otheriwse. It is their creation, and they can alter and change their social media account to how they wish it to be designed. This is important, in order to levy control over social media, so that the writer has better influence over the perception of their general audience, closer fans, and publishers alike.

Despite the postives, there are many pitfalls as well. Although a writer may have plenty of control over their platform influence, there is markedly less control over the way your book is talked about and used outside of your social media range. This can show itself in different ways, like the fact that there a weaker influence over the audience than one would assume. The fandom usually has more control over how your writing is percieved than the artist. While audience and academic understanding of a work has almost always been this way since New Criticism took away the powers of the writer to explain what their book is, this particular phenomenon goes one step further than that. In contrast to just finding out about a book through an article in Times Magazine, which would usually attempt to give a professional review of the book, social media is more passionatly critical. For example, on a place like 4Chan, everyone posts anonymously, and this causes people to act more cynical and sadistic towards art. With no sense of personal representation, people can lapse into cruelty. In late 2014, 4chan attacked actress Emma Watson in disturbing ways such as repeatedly remarking that she was dead, and threatening to leak her naked pictures after she had made feminist remarks. The article by the Washington Post during the time, which goes into detail, said the following: “It’s just the latest in a long history of online efforts to intimidate, belittle, threaten and cow women into hiding and shutting up — the message, of course, being, If you dare to do or say something we don’t like, we’ll expose you in return.”[2] If your book is popularized on a forum like this, it could have a negitave impact on how the work is percieved. Another example is Thomas Pynchon, who had gone through great lengths to hide his private life, however there have been a lot of people trying to track him down and it borders on criminal harrassment.The one time he was captured on camera, a statement came out which read: “..he does not want to be photographed. Naturally, this only makes people more eager to take his picture. In 1997, a CNN crew spent days staking out Pynchon in New York, eventually capturing him on film. After the novelist’s heated objections, they finally broadcast three minutes of footage of street scenes without identifying the one-second clip that featured Pynchon himself.”[3] On top of this, internet harrassment can be a daily struggle, with anything from bizzarely threatening jokes to specifically targeted death threats.

Social media has a lot of issues of control, however if harnessed correctly it can cause stuff to work out in favour for the writer. One of the bigger truths is that almost all of the negitaves of social media are just thornier issues from the more bygone era of the publisher. There were still issues of being tracked down and harrassed back then, and even 50 years ago discourse over your work and who you wanted to represent as was something that was barred off. So while the disadvantages can seem bad, they are simply heighted issues of problems we are still trying to solve as a society. The writers ability to leverage themselves on the platform is ultimately such a useful tool in their favour, that sticking to the old publisher style ways are almost absurd in comparison. The world of social technology has evolved, ultimately for the better. There is an elegant thought experiement and venture from the Guardian that reinforces this conclusion cleanly, “Maybe the abolition of privacy will kill the novel. But more likely, as with the invention of trains or rockets or sex, it will make it new.”[4]

 

 

 

Bibliography

Adams, Kristina, (26th January, 2017),

https://www.writerscookbook.com/social-media-writers-platforms/, The Writer’s Cookbook

Nadia Mcdonald, Soraya, (24th September, 2014),

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/23/4chan-users-threatening-to-expose-supposed-emma-watson-private-photos-after-she-gives-feminist-speech/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bf508ef65a6e, The Washington Post

O’Hagan, Andrew (17th June, 2017),  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/17/privacy-literature-social-media-andrew-ohagan, The Guardian

Poole Steven, (2003), https://www.theguardian.com/film/2003/may/05/artsfeatures.fiction, The Guardian

[1] Adams, Kristina, (26th January, 2017),

https://www.writerscookbook.com/social-media-writers-platforms/, The Writer’s Cookbook
[2] Nadia Mcdonald, Soraya, (24th September, 2014),

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/23/4chan-users-threatening-to-expose-supposed-emma-watson-private-photos-after-she-gives-feminist-speech/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bf508ef65a6e, The Washington Post
[3] Poole Steven, (2003), https://www.theguardian.com/film/2003/may/05/artsfeatures.fiction, The Guardian
[4] O’Hagan, Andrew (17th June, 2017),  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/17/privacy-literature-social-media-andrew-ohagan, The Guardian

 

 

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