Friday, 3 February 2017

Please Like Me!

Please Like Me

A few months ago Paula Vince posted a fascinating article at vincereview.blogspot.com.au about why people don’t leave comments on blog posts. The discussion was illuminating. Many people commented (ironic?) offering various reasons from previous comments being misunderstood to the challenges of technology. What was agreed was the need to continue to support each other in promoting and encouraging each other on this writing (and publishing) journey.

I have a similar question. Why don’t people press like on a Facebook post?
It’s a simple thing. Press the like button, or if you want to invest a little more, hold the like button to get an emotion (love, haha, wow, sadness, anger). Hey, if you really care, write a comment. What puzzles me is how people can ‘see’ an article and just move on, not even acknowledging they’ve read it. Especially when it’s such a simple thing to press ‘like’.

I’m a relative newbie to Facebook, having only been on since 2014. Prior to that I couldn’t really see the point, as I felt social media had the potential offering a sheeny-shiny, shallow artificial connection that made users think they really were connected, at the expense of real deep relationships earned over years. Turns out I was right. And wrong. Wrong because Facebook can be more than just a friendship-meter, tracking your popularity (ugh! who wants to revisit those high-school days? Oh wait…) It has the opportunity to connect acquaintances (those from Omega conferences, etc), to share useful information (I’ve learned HEAPS about writing from my ACW friends) or track how a loved one far away is doing (not in some creepy stalker-like way!). My sister has lived overseas for the past four years, first in England, now in Canada. Her photos of her many trips have been (literally) eye-opening, and something that Facebook expedites, as opposed to an email with a link to download her photos via the Cloud or Onedrive or some other method of streaming photos. Facebook can be good. But it has a downside, too.

Did you know social media can be like a drug? In 2012, a Harvard University study on social media found that talking about oneself through social media activates a pleasure sensation in the brain usually associated with food, money and sex (www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8038). Dopamine – that organic chemical in our brains – is released when we get a response, whether it’s a ‘like’, or a text, or our tweet re-tweeted. Dopamine – that same sensation that occurs for gamblers, smokers, drinkers – is highly addictive. We want more, more, more – we become insane by greed! (to quote Barbara Cartland 😁).

Getting likes makes us feel good. (Hello?) But what if we don’t get the ‘likes’ we crave? What if the post we craft, or the news we think so amazing, earns the social media equivalent of a dismissive eye-rolled ‘whatever’?

The drug that makes us check our status before saying good morning to our spouse, that makes us upload photos of meals or check our phones instead of talking to our dates, that makes us think about our emails rather than actively engage in work discussions – this drug has the potential to cost relationships. Motivational speaker Simon Sinek explains it clearly here: youtu.be/jeAtNduPFmI

Rather than listening to people to truly hear we listen to craft our reply. Rather than spending time, lots of time, with those who see us at our best AND worst – those who truly know us – we look for affirmation from those we barely know. Those very same people whose indifference is revealed by their scrolling past your post to find another more titillating, more worthy of a ‘like’.

Have you ever had to ‘go dark with social media? Take time away because it just doesn’t make you feel good anymore? I have. (Honesty time here). Sometimes I’m just not secure enough to cope with the plethora of information Facebook bombards my feed with. Sometimes I’ve unfollowed people because my ‘highlight reel’ cannot compare to theirs, and instead of getting that ‘feel good’ hit, I get a shot of ‘feel bad’ 😢. Sometimes I re-follow them, sometimes not. I know my posts have the potential to make others feel the same way. I try to make my posts positive, to be light and salt, to not add to the negativity so prevalent in certain circles (aka the news). I don’t actively go out of my way to make people feel less (does that sound arrogant? SO don’t mean to be; hear my heart). My sister told me about a Facebook ‘friend’ who posted about her amazing boyfriend who just graduated medical school, finishing her elation with a breathily snide ‘what has YOUR boyfriend done recently?’

Ouch.

Narcissistic, perhaps?
Insensitive, much?

People who spend more time on Facebook suffer from higher rates of depression than those who don’t. ‘Seeing everyone else’s highlight reels: how Facebook usage is linked to depressive symptoms’ was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2014. In it, there’s a clear link showing studies provide evidence that people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others. (Read more: http://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2014.33.8.701)

I’m an introvert by nature. Sure, I can put on a smile and, given the right circumstances, act like the life of the party (I’m not pathologically introverted!) – even if I find myself exhausted at the end. Being introverted means I worry about what others think. Sometimes I can even obsess over it, wondering what people REALLY meant, rather than taking their words at face value. Sometimes I feel emotionally fragile, and can go to a dark place, my ‘cave’ where I can only cope with those I know who truly love me, despite my flaws.

Some of you may be aware that in a few short weeks my debut Regency ‘The Elusive Miss Ellison’ releases in the US. I’m very aware that there will be negative reviews and potential for 1 star ratings - not because I think my book is bad! – but because that’s the nature of putting your creativity out into the world for assessment. What one person loves another loathes. I get that.

I’m learning (still learning!) that my security is not to be found in other’s opinions, not to be found in comparing myself to others, but to be found in Jesus Christ.
I am not the sum total of ‘likes’ received.



I am the child of the King. Chosen for His purpose. Appointed, anointed to share His love and light and hope, especially through the medium of words.
Australasian Christian writer – you are, too. Beloved, anointed, appointed by the King.

When I remember this, when my focus is on God, who truly has my best interests at heart, then my heart lifts, and I’m reminded of the bigger God-picture, the bigger God-purpose that instills confidence and hope in my future. I need to feed on the truth of His word rather than the feeds of the often faceless popularity-pollsters in the virtual world. When I notice I’m addicted to other’s opinions, ‘going dark’ on social media might be the detox I require to get the balance right, aided by an increased dose of Bible, prayer and praise.

My prayer is as I continue this writing journey, with all its ups and downs, that I – and you – will know deep within our soul that ‘likes’ don’t need to matter as much as His love.

His love – the true hope for all the world.

Your turn:
What makes you ‘like’ or simply pass by a post?
Have you ever had to ‘go dark’ to save your soul? If so, what helped you ‘rebalance’?


Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of the Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novel 'The Elusive Miss Ellison' will be published in the US by Kregel in February 2017. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


Connect with her:    www.carolynmiller.org    
                                 http://www.pinterest.com/camillering
                                                                     https://www.facebook.com/CarolynMillerAuthor
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17 comments:

  1. So many important points in your post, Carolyn, but I particularly love your paragraph that begins 'When I remember this'. That's where it's at for me. As to your questions at the end, I'll answer the second one first. I haven't ever 'gone dark' deliberately to save my soul, but I HAVE had reality checks, like disasters in others' lives or calls for help from those who need me. These have caused me to get my priorities right and realise in a hurry there are so many other much more important aspects to life such as family and close friendships or the wellbeing of others or my own wellbeing, which for me includes first and foremost a vital, close relationship with God.

    As to your first question, I think I 'like' a Facebook post if I agree strongly enough with the particular article linked to it or the sentiments it expresses, but also if I simply want to encourage the person who has posted and cheer them on. But mostly, it comes down to time for me--often I just have to flit through what is on Facebook and, sadly, don't stop to 'like' or truly read what others have said. For all of us, our time is limited, so we have to choose how best to spend it, according to our situation or season in life--that's just the reality of it, I think.

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    1. Thanks Jo-Anne - encouraging as always. How important it is to remember to nurture our relationship with God - the true sustainer of our soul ❤

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  2. Hi Carolyn, really good post and thank you for sharing your heart with us. I go 'dark' regularly with social media. I "fast' it as I find it can be too distracting and become too intrusive in my day (due to the dopamine rush I presume). It's like the Lord gives me a nudge every few months to say, hey, this is now getting too important to me, so let it go for a little while.

    I'm a 'liker' … like you I figure if you take the time to read something you might as well acknowledge it. I'm like that with blog posts too. It's so easy to encourage someone with a quick click or a few words on a post.

    We're all excited for your soon to be release … it will be such a wonderful time for you. And yes, there may be people who are less enthused about it but keep focusing on you being the daughter of the Creator who thinks you're simply marvellous.

    Bless,

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    1. God bless you Ian, 'God's gift' of encouragement. I 'like' (see what I did there?) the idea of fasting social media. Sometimes it takes something like that to help us refocus as we ought. How important to keep the main thing the main thing!

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  3. I'm hearing you, Carolyn. I love social media because it lets me understand people and where they are at. And yet I know they only show me what they want me to see. And my problem is, I'm an empathic person and and introvert so that every post I see, I take on board and feel what the person is feeling. Face to face, I would usually only take on board, say 10 to 20 peoples' feelings and lives each day. With social media it is so much more and to be honest, I'm emotionally and mentally exhausted. Sometime I don't even have the time and energy to pray about urgent situations people have posted. I am also much better speaking with people one on one and reading their body language to gauge what to say and what not to. I don't have that on social media and so I often post with much fear and trembling, wondering what people are really thinking and feeling. I love the idea of 'going dark' but am afraid of missing something important. Maybe that means I've got an unhealthy addiction? Or maybe I just know people expect me to be on Facebook and to be able to contact me that way when they feel they need to. I even get private messages for me to ask Rob work/computer related questions and I feel I would be letting people down if I wasn't 'available'. Hmm, worth thinking and praying about. Thanks for this thought provoking post. Loved it. And can't wait for your books. May God give you such complete confidence in Him that you are not injured in any way by any negative reviews!

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    1. Thanks Jenny. It's a tricky balance isn't it, trying to be truly emotionally there for people without getting used up. Maybe that's part of the benefits of 'going dark' social media-wise - we get internally recalibrated as to what is (perhaps) more right and true. Amen, sister!

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  4. Hi Carolyn,
    This is a great post. The benefits of using social media are big, but the costs you've mentioned can be just as big if we don't use it wisely. That addiction to approval can really creep up on us. There's also that tendency to harshly compare the inside versions of our own lives with the outside versions our friends put out there, but also a science cost. A guy whose book I read compared the way we check our social media updates to trained rats pressing a bar for food. Since this is an experiment I had to do back in Uni days, it made an impact on me :) He also said the mini-dopamine rushes we may get several times a day aren't necessarily what our bodies were wired for. I'll have a look at your links too, which I'm sure will give more food for thought. Your new release date sure is getting close, and I'm looking forward to it.

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    1. Thanks Paula. It will be interesting/ scary to see how this social media obsession shapes society in future. Just as our brains aren't wired for constant hits of dopamine, so society will (probably) face some changes, too. Wow, lab rat comparisons - the darkness awaits!

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  5. I "go dark" occasionally because I'm out of WiFi zone, but people might not know that because I use a few tools to automate and schedule in advance. But it's still me!

    I also don't keep a lot of track of likes etc. I should, because part of the reason I'm on social media is for the dreaded Author Platform, and the experts say I need to track Likes, Comments and Shares so I can see what's connecting with my audience.

    I understand that, but as you've pointed out, it's a fine line.

    And God loves us, even if our fans don't like our posts!

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    1. Yes, dreaded author platform 😩 Good thing God does love us - how important to let that revelation soak into our soul. ❤

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  6. Sometimes I read a blog post and enjoy it, but cannot find the right words to type out a comment. If I could copy the whole post and insert my comments throughout it would be less overwhelming. It takes me an hour and a half to two hours to write a book review. My thoughts and feelings are so strong that I cannot seem to articulate them well to write them in a simple, easy-to-read fashion.

    I am looking forward to reading your book. It's been pre-ordered for a month now and I've been hearing wonderful things about it already from some of my other favorite authors!:)

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    1. I often have the same problem. It doesn't seem enough to just write "great post!". I guess that's where social sharing can play a part - I can share a post on Twitter and Google+ even if I can't think of a witty or intelligent comment :)

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    2. I agree Sylvia. Trying to massage our thoughts into something meaningful can be time consuming, and we don't want to appear trite. I've had experiences of crafting a response only to have technology suck it into the vast void at the last moment, forcing me to start again. But when I feel passionate about it enough then I'll persist, or if I sense the author needs encouragement (ha - who doesn't? :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sylvia (and for preordering my book!).

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  7. Hi Carolyn, excellent post! I read your post thinking yes, yes, yes. I also discovered Paula's excellent post (thanks for sharing the link). I have a confession: You won't see me liking many Facebook posts because I'm rarely looking at my newsfeed. I love my Facebook Groups and I try to make time to visit. I also associate Facebook with work because my indie group projects, group blogs, and writing organisations use Facebook Groups for communication. I mostly ignore my newsfeed because I'm over all the political ranting and the general negativity you mentioned. Facebook used to be fun. I use Twitter to read current affairs and follow the news. Watching my Facebook friends have verbal disagreements like little kids in a sand pit isn't fun. I do try to schedule time each week to catch up on the blog posts in my group blogs.

    I'm so excited that your debut book is releasing soon! Enjoy the ride and cherish the experience. :) If you're concerned about reviews, don't read them and avoid visiting Goodreads etc. until you feel you're ready to process the content of the reviews in an objective way. There's no rule that says authors must read their reviews. I didn't read my reviews when my debut book released.

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement Narelle! Yes, the politicizing of Facebook in recent months has made me unfollow a few friends :( It's important to feed on what's good and true and right (sounds like a bible verse, hey?). Fueling our creativity needs careful consideration! :)

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  8. Social media certainly has a Jekyll/Hyde relationship with us, doesn't it? Still, it's a necessary platform for us as writers and we each need to deal with the highs and lows of its use. Personally, I have no problem 'liking' posts. It's really very easy to hit that button. I like to think of it as a form of encouragement, so I don't find it difficult to do.

    Can't wait to read The Elusive MIss Ellison, and thrilled to hear about your June release too!

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    1. Thanks Andrea! Yes, I agree, it really doesn't take much to hit like, especially when we're aware of how much that simple action can mean to the person sharing. Hope you enjoy 'Miss Ellison'! 😊

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