I’ve been thinking a lot about my professional use of social media lately, wondering how best to spend my time.
I’ve used social media since the early aughts. At that time, I worked for a website that wrote about digital marketing, and social media was the hot new trend. I had access to the latest thinking on these new platforms from industry experts, and I often joined a platform to test it out.
In those early days, I connected with a lot of editors on Facebook and Twitter. I’d been a member of other social groups, like EFA’s and Copyediting-L’s email discussion lists and the Cranky Editors space on LiveJournal, but I struggled to remain engaged in those spaces. They just didn’t fit the way I spent my time online. But the back-and-forth on editor Twitter? The eventual launch of editor groups on Facebook? I loved them.
Until I burned out.
After about 10 years of intense social media usage, I just didn’t have the drive to do it anymore. This introvert was tapped out. So I backed way off for a couple of years. When I needed to reinvigorate my marketing for Right Touch Editing, I eased back in to using social media for marketing, trying to reengage.
It worked okay. Which is fair because I put in okay effort.
But then we started to see more and more problems with social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, which had such long histories (in internet terms) and massive amounts of users.* I didn’t want to be surrounded by constant toxicity, yet I still needed to market my business. And I wanted the ability to hang out with my friends. Where could I do that safely?
I had to rethink my social media use.
Facebook: Limited Use, Mostly Personal
I used to be really active in several editing-related Facebook groups. Then one of the biggest groups had a very messy, fairly public meltdown. I followed the thread for a bit but largely stepped away. It was painful to watch editors fighting so vehemently with each other. A few years later, the dust has settled but I never regained the habit of keeping up with these groups.
I visit Facebook far less often than I used to. I have a page for Right Touch Editing, but I don’t do much with it. I pop into editor groups to see what’s up on occasion, including at Editor Alliance, Conscious Language + Design, EAE Ad Space, and Editors Who Talk Tech.
Most of my limited Facebook time is spent in my feed, catching up on the happenings of family and friends who are still there. Cute kids, vacations, life milestones, pets, gardens—I’m all in. I post pictures (usually via Instagram) and share the occasional post.
Marketing-wise, though, I don’t think Facebook works for me. Most of my business is with organizations and they don’t seem to use Facebook for professional reasons. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also because of concerns of how Facebook is run and how wrong interactions can go.
Twitter: Limited Use, Mostly Professional
I’m not engaging as much on Twitter anymore, either.
I used to be a heavy Twitter user. But after I stepped away from daily usage, Twitter changed. Editor Twitter seemed to be less active, mostly because there were so many other places to hang out.
Twitter became way more political, as well. Not that you couldn’t find politics on Twitter pre-2018, but when I came back, everyone seemed to have something political to say. No matter who I followed, I was sure to find a broader spectrum of topics, making it harder to focus on editing and writing tweets.
Having Twitter lists and using a social media dashboard to view tweets by list or hashtag helped, but I never did get over the overwhelm of Twitter’s pace. It used to give me a rush to have those fast-paced conversations, but now it’s just exhausting.
That said, I still have uses for Twitter. I’m still gaining editor followers, and I like the platform for covering live events. I love to live-tweet and I did the live-tweeting for That Word Chat for the show’s first few years. I like being able to create collections of tweets, either as Twitter Moments or Wakelets, to tell a story that lasts more than a few minutes in someone’s feed.
I joined a couple of Twitter replacements, including Mastodon, to see if I could leave Twitter’s toxicity behind. But none of them really grabbed my attention, nor did I find my clients there. One of these alternatives may work out, but they are still in their early stages. Until then, though, I’ll continue to dip my toe into Twitter, using my curated lists to avoid most of the muck.
LinkedIn: Expanding Use, All Professional
I want to revise my profile to be in line with best practices—a task that I never seem to get to. I also want to revisit how I approach posting. I’m reading The LinkedIn Branding Book, and I’m a member of John Espirian’s Espresso+ group, which are helping me wrap my head around how best to use the platform.
Like other social media sites, LinkedIn has become more volatile in recent years, though less so than some other platforms. I think this is largely because of its professional focus. People are less likely to loosen up here than on platforms that already have a casual feel to them. It’s actually been more work to keep the predatory businesses at bay than to avoid toxic posts, but both seem manageable at this point.
Gated Communities: My New Hangouts
The smaller groups on Slack and Discord are where I spend most of my social media time these days. They’re better moderated and the spaces aren’t beholden to the platforms themselves. So I’m not worried about the culture changing when the platforms decide to make sweeping changes.
Because they’re smaller, they seem to be the right amount of busy: enough to stay interesting without being overwhelming. They also tend to have a narrower scope of topics, making them easier to follow. And I really like the different channels for different topics. I don’t need to follow all of the topics, just the ones that interest me. That too makes staying active easier.
On Discord, I’m in Editors Lair, run by Crystal Watanabe. There’s a companion Facebook group, but it’s not very active. The Discord membership strongly leans toward fiction editors and many of them focus on genre work. (Although, that could just be who’s most active in the group.) It’s a fun, supportive space, with channels for hobbies and different forms of entertainment, as well as work-related ones, separated by fiction and nonfiction. Check out the Facebook group first. If you’re interested in the Discord group, reach out to one of the Facebook admins for an invite.
On Slack, I’m in the Editors Tea Club, run by Erin Servais. A women-only** group, the Tea Club has an active Slack space with a lot of channels and regular online events, including the original Tea Club gatherings, Coffee Chats, and Book Club. The group even hosted a mini-conference recently, with all presenters being club members. It’s really quite something. If you’re interested in joining, you can contact Jennifer Dinsmore.
I’m also a somewhat active participant in CIEP‘s online forums. Restricted to CIEP members, the forums support diverse conversations and help build the CIEP community. As a US member of this UK organization, I’ve found the forums offer a great way to feel part of things.
The downside of these spaces is that they’re gated by their nature. There’s no place to search for Discord or Slack communities and the only way to join is to get an invite.
It’s time for a directory of editing community spaces.
If you own or belong to a gated editing community and are looking for new members, contact me to have your group added to the list I’m working on.
Email Erin now
Less Toxicity, More Safety
All in all, I’m not spending any less time on social media, I’m just spending it differently. The smaller, private groups I’m in are thriving. LinkedIn is what it’s always been and it’s worth the effort for me to be there.
Among editors, more and more are seeking out less toxic spaces with a greater concentration of the people they want to connect with. It makes sense: when a group reaches a certain size (based on platform, structure, and moderation), it becomes unmanageable. Inevitably that group will either break down into smaller groups or collapse completely and be replaced by smaller groups. Eventually those smaller groups themselves may become too big to manage. And the cycle will start again.
We have so many places where we can gather online. No one needs to feel forced to be on any particular platform just to market their business or connect with colleagues. We can focus on finding spaces where we can find the people we’re looking for and where we can feel safe and comfortable. There are far more spaces than any one person can be in, anyway. You do you, and don’t worry about the rest.
*Honestly, this was bound to happen. A system can only get so big before it becomes unmanageable. And when the system users are the product being sold by the system owner, you can expect that owner not to protect the users.
transwomen transgender women and (I believe) nonbinary folks. Sorry, gents!
06.09.2023: Edited to use transgender women’s preferred term in the second footnote. I’m grateful to edibuddy Sasha Nyary for pointing this out and giving me the opportunity to improve. For readers who want to learn more, check out “Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide to Writing About Transgender People.“