Outside of social media, would you walk up to people you don’t know while grocery shopping and say, “I love your shirt.” Here’s what I ate for breakfast.” I traveled to Paris too!” “I’m reading this book now. What are you reading?”
You wouldn’t. And yet that is what you essentially do on social media. With every like, comment, and post, you are slicing yourself into small pieces shared with relative strangers. I’ve found myself doing exactly this. When I get comments days later on posts I responded to, I often can’t recall what I wrote. This makes me feel inauthentic, almost glib. That isn’t like me and I’m sure it’s not like many of you in this community. Not only is this a personality conflict, it fragments your energy and focus.
There are two sides of social media. One is consuming content. The other is posting content. Both actions use energy but in different ways. Following are my tips on how to engage with social media without draining your mental bank account and staying true to your authentic self.
Where your mind goes, your energy goes
When you bounce from topic to topic your energy likewise gets jumbled. In one session on Instagram I liked an author’s book reveal, bookmarked another post, and then went down a rabbit hole of looking up the address for the perfect lobster roll in Maine while responding to another post that wasn’t even someone I follow. By the time I posted this tidbit from memories of my East Coast trip, I’d gotten completely off track of my writing goal for the day.
Another way to think of this is to imagine eating your favorite treats all at the same time. Would you take a bite of chocolate and before swallowing chew a stick of gum while also licking a lollipop? You are asking your brain to do the same thing as its reward center gets pinged with each post, like, or comment.
One strategy I’ve found helpful is to go to the profile page of the person I’m following. Then I can get a better sense of what they are promoting or sharing without having my focus fragmented by random suggested posts. I am focused on one thing at a time so my brain isn’t trying to process one piece of information while looking at another.
I check on updates by grouping topics along a theme such as writing conferences, authors, or cute cat videos. Some platforms let you group topics. With other platforms I flick through to what I want to read or bookmark others to read later.
I’ve also found it helpful to bookmark posts and set a time for reading these posts in their own time. It helps me take in what that one person has to say in an easy-to-digest way. And it helps me engage with that post to craft an authentic response. Which leads me to posting content.
Budget Your Posts Like Film Photos
Have you ever run outside just to take a photo to post online? Me too. I’ve also staged plenty of photos. Some posts have turned out better than others, but they all take time and energy in the staging process. The question to ask yourself is, why am I posting this?
In the days of film cameras we were careful with what we photographed. Printing pictures was expensive, not to mention the cost of film, and there were no previews. People only took photos they were fairly sure would turn out. Waste film documenting your breakfast? I don’t think so.
Budget the energy you put into posts like film photos. Is it worth your time and effort? Also consider the space these photos occupy. Do you want to pay for the storage? And later have to clean out 500 photos that you took just for posts? Really think through what you are posting and why.
One measuring stick for what you post is your target audience. How do they benefit? Posts can give your readers insight into your process. You can share information on related topics, such as gardening tips if your book has plants in the plot. Another possibility is posting on things that fill the same need in their lives as your writing. The key is to have a clear intent when you spend energy this way.
Another way to feel centered while posting is to think back on your origin story. This is something you reflect on for yourself on why you started writing or the reason behind a particular book’s story. Your origin story will help keep you anchored when deciding what to post for your audience.
Be mindful of how you consume content and share with your audience. With balance and moderation you can have a healthy relationship with social media. Just don’t eat an ice cream cone while your mouth is full of frosting!
Ambre Dawn Leffler is a Tai Chi instructor, gardener, and weather geek who writes about vegetables, seasons, communing with nature, and the interconnections of mind/body. She loves trees and cherishes time in their presence. Learn more about her tree time, garden residents, and wellness practices at her website ambredawnleffler.com and seasonal inspiration from her newsletter Sky Earth Water. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.