Can You Get Too Personal on Social Media?
I feel like I need to preface this by saying that I am not a social media guru. I haven’t quite developed the skills to build my social media accounts into something wonderful, places where hundreds or thousands of people are waiting to see what I will post next just so they have the opportunity to engage with me. I haven’t developed those skills, admittedly, because I have no desire to. Social media seems a very shallow and insincere space, another version of high school where the prettiest people get the most stage time. I couldn’t compete in high school and I damn sure can’t compete now.
Because of this, I try to keep my social media circle or network, whatever you want to call it, small. I have 659 brilliant followers on Instagram where I put in the most effort, and 2,035 followers on Twitter, where I am still largely ignored thanks to the algorithm. Okay, so it isn’t entirely the algorithm’s fault. The people who post more will be seen more frequently. Days and sometimes a full week will pass between my visits to Twitter.
What then, you may ask, is the point of this post? Well, I suppose it’s more of a conversation starter. A topic that I am interested in seeing multiple perspectives of.
In 2020 I had a writing “friend” who I spoke with every day. I’m always resistant to new friendships, especially those that begin virtually, but this person grew on me. We developed, what I thought at the time was, a wonderful friendship. She even went as far as to tell me that I was her best writer friend. At that time, I felt the same about her. But, as is apt to happen, toward the end of our friendship, I began to notice little things about her personality, and she became more comfortable saying things that struck me as harsh or untoward. I didn’t make a production out of them because everyone communicates differently, and many people don’t realize when they’re being an ass. I know I certainly don’t.
Anyway, on Instagram, the land of pictures, I like to share photos of my life; what I’m reading, what I’m eating, where I visit, and, as you can imagine, my family. One day my friend and I were talking over text, and she said to me, “You share too many pictures of your family.”
Now, to be fair, she only shares things to do with writing or whatever other “writerly” endeavor she’s doing at the time on her Instagram. She’s very brand-focused, which is great. For her. I am also brand-focused, but part of my brand is transparency. What you see on my social media sites is who I am. I don’t fake positivity on days when I don’t feel positive, and I have a family, so they appear on my profile. A lot.
Let me be clear here, I didn’t take her words negatively. I took them as her trying to help me in her way. The thing is, as I told her, I don’t want a social media profile that’s only filled with promos of what I’m working on or the sporadic selfie with a big smile where I talk about being fabulous and going out on errands. I want people who come by my profile, whether they’re writers or readers, to feel like they’re looking at a friend’s account. I want them to know that my family is just as important to me as writing, that I despise exercise, and that I love vintage everything. I want them to see my little part of the world through my eyes and know that what they’re seeing is an accurate portrayal and not some staged version of life. I want them to know that I’m insecure and somedays I can’t find the strength to be positive. I want them to see these sides of me because those are the sides I want to see of the people I follow.
If I’m interested in you, I’ll be far more interested in your work.
Now, to the uber-serious, brand-focused individual, this may seem like a bad idea. After all, you’re selling things to people, whether it’s your stories, merch, or the idea that publishing is fun, you are a salesperson, so bringing too much of your personal life into the mix is dangerous. I disagree. As I said above, I want to know what my favorite writers are really like and I want my eventual readers to know what I’m really like. A great example to use here is Sally Hepworth (author of The Good Sister and The Secrets of Midwives). On her Instagram, she does frequent videos with her family. It isn’t strange at all to see her husband or children in her stories. I love this because it shows a side of her you don’t get to see in her writing. It makes her more relatable. It makes her a real person. A profile full of nothing but promos and merch doesn’t feel genuine to me. It doesn’t feel real. If I can’t put a face or a story to a name, what good is the name?
So, what say you? Do you think we can get too personal on social media profiles where we’re also showing our brand? Or do you think being personal is the first step to gaining genuine followers?