It seems like whenever I talk to folks about social media, someone brings up how toxic the environment is these days.
They’re not wrong.
But there is a cure!
Take control of your social media platforms
I took a cooking class on how to use a knife. The teacher said one thing that stuck with me. “Remember, don’t let the food tell you what to do. You’re the one holding the knife.”
In our social media experiences, it is easy to get swept up in the drama and carried away. We focus on numbers, quantity instead of quality.
We see the urgent, the surface level.
And social media becomes a danger zone that we avoid rather than the powerful marketing tool we need it to be.
Don’t let the trolls define your social media presence. You’re the one in charge. You’re the one holding the metaphorical knife. Don’t be afraid to use it!
Here are some techniques to detox your social media platform.
#1 – Create a Persona
Think about who you are as a writer. Think about who you want to be. If you were going to present in front of a large group of people, would you wear your sweat pants? Maybe you would. If that’s your persona — no judgment from me!
But most people would dress up.
We don’t see this as lying. This is just presenting our best public face.
Are you the same person when you go to a concert as you are sitting around watching Netflix? Yes. But you probably present yourself differently.
These are all variations on our persona.
As an author on social media, you want to present your best social media persona.
I knew an author who was known for hard-hitting, gritty adventure stories. These were not nice stories. He was not nice on social media. In real life, he was polite, kind, and helpful. But on social media, he was a total jerk.
Why did this work for him? Because his fans loved it. He had fun with it. This was the side of his personality that his fans wanted to see.
As a human being, he was both nice and a jerk. He wasn’t lying when he was being nice, nor was he lying when he was being a jerk. He showed people the side of his personality that they wanted to see.
Who do your fans expect to see?
The reason they have these expectations is based on our style promise, the stories that we choose to write, and the author’s voice that we use.
How does this help detox your social media?
It gives you space. This persona is like a suit of armor — or a business suit — that you put on before going into this public arena.
It can also keep you from making costly mistakes.
Think about your persona before you post.
For example, if you write sweet romance, your fans probably don’t expect you to be posting triggering political comments.
#2 – Learn how the platforms work
Each platform has its own method for choosing who you follow and who can post to your feed.
Take a few minutes to learn how to:
- follow — and unfollow — people
- mute someone permanently or temporarily
- delete a comment on a post
- ban someone from posting to your feed
- report someone for misconduct or if reporting is allowed
Then judiciously apply these new tools.
Example: a friend of mine got really worked up about a topic and started posting all over social media about it. This particular topic was triggering for me. It made me feel sick every time I saw it. I tried to talk to her privately, but she was adamant.
I didn’t want to unfollow her. She’s a friend. I wanted to see other things that were going on in her life. But that topic was toxic to my sanity.
So, I muted her for a couple of weeks. Then I unmuted her and checked. She’d moved on.
We stayed friends and I didn’t have to see the toxic sludge.
#3 – Guard your space — for yourself and your fans
We’re writers. Our fans are often coming to us to escape from reality.
We have a responsibility to make our space safe for them. We also have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to keep ourselves as sane as possible.
As creatives, our creative muse is a fragile creature. It doesn’t take too much to damage that creativity. If we want to write, we need to protect our muse.
We need to know the available tools and we need to apply them.
#4 – Never feed the trolls
In social media, some people are just trolls. They ask for money. They spout nonsense or spew profanity, not because there is an actual problem but because they are trolls. This is what trolls do.
If you acknowledge them, they multiply. They bring their friends.
Ban them, delete them, ignore them. They’ll get bored and go bother someone else.
#5 – Have fun with social media
I first learned telemarketing many years ago. My boss told me that when I was on the phone I should have a mirror in front of me. I needed to make sure I was smiling.
People are attracted to people who are having fun.
You can hear a smile even through a telephone or a mask.
You can tell if someone is having fun on social media.
People are attracted to fun.
If you take part in a toxic social media environment because you think you need to in order to sell books, guess what? It probably won’t work. You won’t be having fun.
A Cautionary Tale
We’ve all seen examples of toxic social media. I recently saw one person battle — and survive — a toxic moment on social media. With his permission, I’d like to show you what happened, what he did wrong, and how he course-corrected to come out on top.
I’m a big fan of a TikTok personality, “Old Trucker.” He is a truck driver who has a cat named Popeye as his companion in the truck.
Here’s one of his most popular videos:
The persona: Let’s think about Trucker’s persona: he’s cheerful, and… it really is mostly about the cat. He covers other topics occasionally, and as I’ve gotten to know him over a few months of watching his videos, I’ve become interested in the house he’s building, the routes he’s driving, and of course… the cat.
A troll, possibly more than one, began impersonating him and trying to extort money from his fans and from him.
Compare the popular video above to this one:
Remember his persona. People want joy and cheerfulness from him. They don’t want sad trucker. Look at that second video again. See how that toxicity has affected his presentation? It is painful to watch. There were other videos, even worse, but TikTok has removed them. Yes, you heard that right. TikTok deleted his videos, but not the troll’s fake accounts.
A bunch of folks popped in and encouraged him to ignore the troll.
How the platform works: TikTok is much more likely to ban you for being aggressive to a troll than to ban the troll. He tried to report the troll, and TikTok retaliated against him for posting videos about the troll. But fans can report the troll as an impersonator.
Now, let’s play a game. Can you tell the trucker from the trolls?
The real Old Trucker has over 363 thousand followers. The fakes aren’t even touching a fraction of his followers. In fact, it doesn’t take much work to spot the real one. If you look at their profiles, they have fewer videos.
What he did wrong
He fed the troll. When a friend told him about the troll asking them for money, he didn’t tell the friend to report it. He took action. He thought he could scare the troll into backing down.
The troll reported him for harassment and almost got Old Trucker kicked off TikTok.
Trucker wanted to protect his fans. But here’s the thing: his fans are pretty smart people. They’re not generally just going to give money to a random stranger. You see, Old Trucker doesn’t ask for money. He just shares his joy and his cat.
How he course-corrected to come out on top
He realized that in order to protect his fans, he also needed to take care of himself. He found his joy.
His fans have rallied around and are sharing the information for him, reporting the fake.
Here’s a more recent video:
On that video, someone tried to bait him into talking politics. Here’s his response:
As you can see in previous videos. I keep my page free of politics. My page is not a political outlet. Old Trucker – keeping his platform safe!
That is how you keep your social media safe for your fans. It is respectful and clear. If someone violates that policy, he can remove their comment and block them from posting on his stream. He’s learned how to use his tools.
And now we have more joyous, encouraging cat videos!
Have you seen toxicity on social media? What can you do to protect yourself and your fans? Please bring your stories and any questions down to the comments!
Old_Trucker’s example used with permission. Cat image is a still from one of Trucker’s videos. Now that’s a happy, relaxed cat!
Originally published on Writers in the Storm, February 21, 2022, 5 Tips for Social Media Detox | Writers In The Storm (writersinthestormblog.com)