On Using Social Media

I’m an idiot.

For the past few years, I thought that completely detaching my being from the oppressing social media ecosystem is the best decision in my life. My argument was backed by my previous compulsive experience with the said networks and my observations of how the people around me are using them. I thought, no offense, that everyone using these channels is an idiot because how would you else justify spending half of your awake time liking pictures. But then I thought more about this, and I concluded: What are the odds that everyone is an idiot? Pretty slim, right? So it turned out that not others are acting foolishly, it was me. I was the idiot.

I’ll give you a moment to recover from the word above – “Did he just called me an idiot?”

So, I stopped sharing what I do on social media, where I go, and what I eat online, but I also stopped sharing the newly produced content on this website for a reason: I didn’t want to contribute to the expansion of the social networks that everyone uses as an escape from their boring lives. So much content is daily shared that I didn’t want to further traumatize the sight of the people seeking distractions.

But was this the best decision?

Surely, there are a lot of positive traits related to not using social media: I don’t have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., on my phone. I no longer have the habit of checking my profile. And I don’t really care what is happening online. I’ve unfollowed everyone on Facebook which means that I don’t have a crowd of gurus bombarding my virtual wall with their “secrets.”

However, trying to reach a wider audience for this site cannot happen if I work in a vacuum.

Since everyone is on social media, is not using social media to write articles about better habits, the flow state, and productivity the best way to get your point across?

It turned out that it wasn’t.

I’ve wrongly concluded that as long as the ideas I cover on my site are important, the medium, and the style in which I deliver them is of no importance.

I was expecting that my message about why we feel worthless nowadays, for example, will reach a wider audience just because it’s published and it’s “out there” on the web. But this directly contradicts what all the business books I’ve read say – not to mention how Google’s algorithm works. Namely, that creating something – an article or a product – is just part of the process. You should, after making a piece of content, adequately promote it elsewhere.

Or in my case, I should use social media to tell people not to use social media. Which, when you think about it, sounds conflicting. But not only that, it sounds impossible to achieve. It’s like going to a bar and screaming that alcohol and cigarettes are bad and that people, the ones inside the place should go home and do something else. No one will care.

After all, people are perfectly aware that these things are addictive and not so good for their health. Also, in general, people are also perfectly aware that social media is the same thing – addictive and time-wasting. Nonetheless, they do it anyway. We all do it. We hop online knowing that the virtual world won’t make us ultimately better. But it offers something far more important for us. Something we can’t resist.

Social media make us feel good. It makes our dull, day to day existence more bearable. The popular social media platforms give us the opportunity to forget our worries by providing us with fancy imaginary and quick-cut videos that allows us to escape from reality, even if this is for a very brief moment.

So telling people to not use social media wasn’t going to work. I had to do something else.

Fight Fire with Fire

I never thought I’d say that. At least not in this lifetime. But on the 1st of January 2021, I posted my first motivational post on Instagram.

It’s not a selfie with the slogan, “You can do it!” Nor it’s a picture of my desk where I’ve perfectly aligned my equipment. Nor, the other cliche thing for bookworms, a stack of books.

It’s a personal statement.

A short manifesto on why I’ll use social media from now on (click here to read it on Instagram).

It says the following:

What to do here? Online? In my experience, there are five things social media is good for:

1) Check what your friends are doing; 2) Find new ways to spend your money; 3) Send messages and share photos; 4) Feel good when people message you back and like what you’ve shared; 5) Get something interesting across.

But the results from sharing something hypothetically interesting in our fast-paced world depends less on how it is written, and more on how it is positioned.

So, my attempt, starting from today, is to better position interesting parts from interesting books.

I know, kind of boring and surely different from what your eyes are accustomed to seeing – beaches, mountains, trendy items, and a waterfall of filtered photos shared by mostly popular strangers.

Why then do it?

Apart from advocating for this now rarely practiced activity – reading. To attract awareness to the following concept: Poorly spent time online leads to poorly spent time offline.

Instead of solely reacting to posts. Instead of believing the everlasting leisure that is being promoted which aims to relieve you of all kinds of obligations, you will hopefully act.

And sometimes. Actually, a lot of times. Acting by standing still with a good book offline in a world that moves fast is probably the best thing you can do.

To be honest, I was frightened before publishing this.

Afraid of what others, my closest friends, and the other people who follow me online – not sure how they found me – think of me.

“Is he for real? Books? Are you serious?”

But I was determined. Regardless of how terrified I was feeling of how people will react to my post. Or worse, not react at all and don’t reward me with hearts and shares and other vain metrics. I was already convinced that I’ll start posting. Not because I was pursuing fame or seeking to become what most people refer to as Instafamous, but because I wanted more people to get what I’m so restlessly trying to convey here on this site – that books are magical and that we should read more.

Funny thing happened after this first post. Actually, a few things. First, I didn’t die. I mean, I’m perfectly alive and also no one told me anything bad. Secondly, no one unfollowed me which I think it’s a good sign because it seems that people care, or at least partly about what was said. And thirdly, which I’m really pleasantly surprised for and actually quite thrilled – my wife, a person who I haven’t seen holding a book in a few years, asked me for a book recommendation.

The last mentioned is exactly the behavior I wanted to promote and get across.

I want the content I produce for the flashy social network Instagram to act as a hook. By making a small part of the books I read easily consumable, my hope is that people will suddenly realize what type of treasures they can find in these reads. Once this realization occurs in the person reading the carousel, the following (I think) will happen: he/she will ditch the addictive social media platforms and grab a book.

In the process, probably my circle of influence will slowly increase and I will reach a wider audience.

But starting to post on Instagram was not a decision that was taken lightly. I thought about it for months. Probably close to a year. This was something I convinced myself on doing only after a deep and long personal discussion. Or in other words, when I finally figured out what I want to say, how I want to say it, and why I want to say it.

Below, I’ll share my decision-making process. Not to convince you that what I’m doing it’s the right thing. Rather to give you a different point of view.

My Process of Using Social Media

Why Use Social Media?

Sadly, online and especially on social media, there is a complete disconnect between what is worthy and what is unworthy.

Beyond the travel pics, the well-arranged desks, and the bikini models – nothing against them, I simply find them too distracting – there are a lot of great profiles that produce amazing content.

People who can actually teach you something.

Still, the profiles that are on top of the pyramid. The profiles that attract all the attention are the ones that create emotion-inducing content. These profiles are not pursuing logic. They are famous and successful because they tinker with your emotions.

If you think about it, you’ll quickly realize why this is true. After all, people use social media to get a quick dose of feedback. To escape their current grey reality and to transform, even for a brief moment, to a place that looks dreamy.

My attempt, and the goal of what I’m doing, is to offer something interesting amongst all of the half-naked people out there. I’m sure that I’m not going to be trendy nor famous there. But that’s not the main goal.

The goal is to explain that there is an alternative to the pixel-perfect lifestyle being promoted. An alternative universe that offers more than simply observing what others are so busy with.

Instead of preoccupying your time with what others are doing, feeling intimidated by the perfection these platforms promote, that you should follow your heart and intuition. And what better way to advertise this than by promoting great books from great readers.

What I Want to Say on Social Media?

The obvious thing a person reading books can share on social media is, I think, quite easy to detect: quotes (or pictures of books with a coffee mug next to it). I have mountains of notes from books that if used, can help me produce a post per hour for at least several years.

However, we all know how vain and bullshitty quotes look online. I didn’t want to sound nor look like the next mindfulness coach who pretends to have all the answers in the universe.

Besides, a quote on a single picture looks so static – not to mention tasteless. At least for me. Yes, me, the person reading books thinks that sharing quotes from books is a retired idea. And it is, everybody is doing it.

I wanted to make the content I produce more engaging and also more informative. I wanted the thing I was going to share to give you two things: context and at least more information. Only after several months of thinking about it and seeing what everyone else is doing, I figure it out – I’ll take short passages from the books I read and I’ll make them like stand-alone posts.

The end result?

Read the next paragraph…

How to Make What I Share Interesting?

Recently, it seems that everyone on Instagram is using the carousel option to create short, article-like content that is meant to be saved and re-read.

This is what I did on my page as well.

My idea, while it seems quite simple now, it took me several months to figure out.

So what I’m doing?

I’m taking short sections of the books I read and I’m transforming them into easily digestible Instagram posts.

You can see for yourself here, on my Instagram profile.

Each post is composed of several slides. The first page is to give the reader a bit of context – something like a heading in an article. Then, the next several slides are basically a section of a book that gives you information about what is mentioned in the first slide. I think of it as a short trailer of the book.

Or, to put it more simply, the content I’m currently sharing on Instagram is a long quote from a book spread in several posts – or the so-called carousel on Instagram.

And if you’re thinking, “Well, Ivaylo, you just shared that you think that sharing quotes online is dumb. Why are you doing this?”

Well, I think, at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself, that my approach is a bit more subtle.

There is a difference between reading 200 words on a single post and reading 200 words distributed amongst several slides. It’s much easier for consumption. It’s much more engaging. And it’s tailored specifically for our link-clicking, attention fragile society.

The main idea, put in the words of famous copywriters, is: “Like all great copywriting (and storytelling), the only goal of the first sentence is to make the reader want to read the second sentence. And the second sentence should effortlessly lead the reader to the third. And so on.”

Slowly but surely, I’m leading people through the text and “forcing” them to read the whole thing.

The above three – why, what, and how – are all things I thought about before starting to post on Instagram.

But while these can be categorized as strategic questions and solutions – solving the mechanics of what type of content I’m going to share and how. There is something else I’ve considered as well. Something far more important for us, humans.

Dealing With The Lack of Feedback

There is one depressing thing about posting on social media, and in general, posting online, that I don’t believe a lot of people talk about – the lack of feedback.

You see, when I share something on this site and also now on Instagram, obviously, I think it’s absolutely genius and people should read it and give a damn.

Sadly, when I don’t get enough hearts – whatever enough should be – or shares or whatever, I’m left feeling inadequate and hungry for the attention I’m not receiving.

And, to worsen the blow, when I see what other profiles around mine are doing, I see very average, very ordinary, very boring posts that get all sorts of love and affection from the medium.

All of this brings me to the following thought: Since online your content is measured by the number of likes you get, if you don’t get enough, you not only feel inadequate but you also experience all sorts of other negative feelings: That people don’t care; That you should stop posting; That people think you’re an idiot.

Paradoxically, the only way to make people care more is by sharing more. By sharing more, the chances of other people seeing your content and actually liking it increases.

It turns out, to succeed in this game, sort to say, you should endure the shame of having posts with fewer likes present on your profile and hope that at some point, people will spot your potential.

This begs the question: Is your content good because it is good, or is it good because 1,000 (or more) people liked it?

Some will argue that the more people have liked something the better it is, but it can also mean that simply not a lot of folks have seen the content in order for them to like it. Which is quite normal online. The algorithm will only show your post if a lot of people interact with it. But if you don’t have a lot of followers, you won’t get any interactions.

Online, we associate good stuff with more social validation. Said differently, you’re more likely to pay attention to something with 1,000 likes than to something with 10.

Unfortunately, if you’re just getting started as a content creator, it’s quite normal to get a minor portion of the likes that are distributed. Unless you’re a celebrity, you’re doomed to get less validation from others. It’s simple math. Since you don’t have a lot of followers, not a lot of people will see the content and thus like it. But should this stop you?

I’m far from being a stoic sage and stating that I don’t care about the vain metrics will be inaccurate. I do care. And I do hope that more people will put a heart icon next to my posts. Not just because this will justify the content I create, but it will also make me feel good. The feedback will inspire me to keep going. But since I don’t have a lot of people following me online, it’s natural to get only “leftover” likes.

How do I deal with this situation?

I’ll share a question I recently asked myself: Is my content good because 10 people are liking it, or is my content good regardless of how many people like it?

The answer?

The latter.

I think that the content is good and the way it’s presented is engaging. Simply, since becoming trendy on Instagram is not an easy feat – thousands of courses and growth hack techniques exist to help you squeeze a few extra likes – one should simply try different things and keep going.

Surely I’m biased, but yet again, I do really think the content I’m sharing is worth reading. I think that I’m not getting enough attention because a single post is not reaching a lot of people. When I look at my stats, on average, a post is shown to around 100 people.

I’m convinced, that, if suddenly the holy algorithm decides to reward me for my efforts and shows the content to a larger user base, that more people will appreciate what I’m sharing.

The precious takeaway here is that the content will be the same, but more people will like it. Internally, I’ll feel that the content is better but externally, it will be still the same.

So, to deal with the lack of “enough” hearts on my profile, I should – in my case I have to – convince myself that the content I produce is good as is. Good, regardless of how many people decided to spare a heart.

Some Closing Thoughts

As you probably noticed, I really geeked out about social media and how I use it.

But before you go, I want to share two more things about my social media usage…

First, before I actually started to work on my social media calendar, I swore that I will only do it – post online that is – if I’m not required to check or use my phone. Basically, if I can use my laptop to schedule my posts. This was an important thing for me because I didn’t want to waste my time checking my Instagram profile all the time. Restlessly refreshing, to see how many new likes came from each post.

Thankfully, Facebook, the company that owns Instagram, created Creator Studio that allows you to share content from your computer. This means that I don’t even have to use my phone. I simply schedule a few hours per week to set my posts and after that, I don’t open it at all.

And secondly, probably the ultimate takeaway from all of this is that not getting enough attention doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is not worthy. I think that if it’s worthy for you, it’s worthy of sharing.

The algorithm can quickly crush your enthusiasm but if you believe that what you’re doing is worthy, I think that the lack of feedback shouldn’t stop you from doing what you believe is the right thing.

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