Why most writers should stay away from Reddit

I will openly confess that social media has never really been my “thing”. And I think that most writers have an uneasy relationship with it, at best.

Most writers get onto social media and immediately want to promote their books.

“Hey! Buy my book!”

“Did you know I have a new book out?”

“Have you seen my new book? Here’s a link to it at Amazon, for your convenience!”

And so on…

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Did you see what I wrote? Did you?

I’m not quite that tone-deaf. I have rarely attempted the outright sales pitch on social media. I will admit, however, a tendency to use social media exclusively for linking to this blog.

“Hey, read this post I wrote yesterday. You’ve got to read it. World-changing stuff, I’m telling you!”

This is why I rarely use Twitter. Twitter is a place where people bitch about politics, and discuss material written on external links…by other people. And then they bitch about politics some more. And post some more external links. “Did you see what so-and-so said/wrote/did? Here’s a link.”

I’m not interested in doing that. I always want to post links to my material.

This makes me a bad Twitter user.

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Reddit is not for me

But if I’m a bad Twitter user, I would be even worse on Reddit. I wouldn’t even think about getting onto Reddit, in fact. According to the Reddit terms of service:

You should not just start submitting your links – it will be unwelcome and may be removed as spam, or your account will be banned as spam.

You should submit from a variety of sources (a general rule of thumb is that 10% or less of your posting and conversation should link to your own content), talk to people in the comments (and not just on your own links), and generally be a good member of the community.

And furthermore:

It’s perfectly fine to be a redditor with a website, it’s not okay to be a website with a Reddit account.

But the thing is, I would be a website with a Reddit account. I know that. This is why I stay the heck off Reddit.

My ratio would be the exact opposite of what Reddit prescribes. About 90% of my links would be to my own content.

 




On social media, it’s all about links…and brief, snarky comments

Think about it from my perspective: Why would I want to post only “10% or less” of my own content, when I write content all day? When I have so much of it to post.

You egotistical bastard, you might counter. What, do you think you’re smarter than everyone else on the Internet? Or a better writer, maybe?

My answer to that is: I’m smarter than some, not as smart as others. The same goes for being a better writer.

But there is another way to look at this. I remember the pre-social media days, when “webrings” were the thing. A common complaint back then focused on websites that consisted only of links—with no original content. Often you would go from website to website, finding nothing but lists of links.

That was considered bad netiquette back then. But Reddit and Twitter are all about linking to content you haven’t created. A complete flipflop of the Internet ethos.

This doesn’t mean that Reddit and Twitter are bad, mind you. I also understand the deeper reasons for the draconian “ten percent rule” at Reddit. The platform’s members don’t want to be overwhelmed with “buy my x!” posts, which would be the inevitable result otherwise.

But this is also why I mostly stay off Twitter and Reddit, and other social media platforms that are all about linking to external sources.

 




And why wouldn’t I link to my own stuff?

The bulk of my time is spent creating my own content. That leaves me relatively little time to gather and curate content written by others.

And yes, there is an unabashedly selfish side to this, as well: After I’ve spent a few hours working on an essay or a short story, will my first impulse be to link to something a stranger wrote? Or an article from USA Today?

Hell, no. My first impulse will be to link to what I wrote. That’s only natural.

 




Curator or creator: know which one you are

But there is also an unselfish side to this. The Internet needs people to curate content, but it also needs people to produce content. If no one produces, then eventually there is nothing to curate.

The key is to know which one you are—a content curator or a content creator.

If you’re primarily a content curator, Twitter and Reddit are for you.

If you’re primarily a content creator, then you should probably stay off Twitter and Reddit. Your time would be better spent working on your own books and blog posts.

Give the curators something to find. They’ll find your stuff…eventually.


Paying for compliments in China

Well, this is unusual:

CNBC spoke to participants and even got involved in one of the groups — known a “kuakuaqun,” Mandarin for “praising groups” — to find out how they operate.

Users can search for the groups on Taobao, an e-commerce site run by China’s Alibaba. Several different groups are listed there with different pricing options, starting from around 35 yuan ($5.21).

Once you purchase a round of compliments on Taobao, the seller will contact you with an invitation to a group on WeChat. There, you will be showered with praise from various people.

Seriously? Stories like this make me glad that I’m something of an… antisocial curmudgeon. I won’t be giving Taobao any of my money anytime soon.

Podcasts, audiobooks gaining on Facebook

Here’s some good news: According to a recent study, podcast and audiobook consumption are up; Facebook usage is down.

Other highlights include:

More than half the US population now reports having used YouTube specifically for music in last week. This number is now 70% among 12-34-year-olds.

The study shows an estimated 15 million fewer users of Facebook than in the 2017 report. The declines are heavily concentrated among younger people.

That sounds about right. Aside from music, YouTube has mostly been reduced to adolescent humor and political rants (both of which have their place, mind you, but not in unlimited doses.) YouTube is a great place to watch the latest Def Leppard video. (Hey, I’m from the ’80s.)

As for Facebook: I use it to keep in touch with old high school friends. Beyond that, I can skip it. (And my younger cousins, all of whom were born since 2000, have zero interest in Facebook.)

On the other hand, I love podcasts, love audiobooks. I still prefer reading. But you can listen to podcasts and audiobooks when you’re on the go.

My new, old-school approach to the Internet

What the Internet has become….

 

Despite my general fondness for the twentieth century over the present one, I do—and always have—loved the Internet. I first dipped my toes into the online world in early 1998. I was immediately hooked.

That said, I have a distinct preference for the Internet the way it used to be—say, before 2004. Allow me to explain why.

 

In 2003, there was no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube. Nor was Wikipedia yet the cancer it has since become, the top result in most online searches.

Back then, the Internet was a vast sea of personal webpages. There were legions of Internet columnists, writing intelligently and at length from various points of view.

The Internet was “diverse”—in the best sense of that word.

 

What has happened since then?

The Internet declined in stages. Right around 2003, someone got the bright idea that everything posted online must have a comments section. According to this view, there was never a news story or essay written that could not be enhanced by the feculent ramblings of every anonymous fifteen year-old boy on the planet who can somehow finagle his way onto the Internet.

The enthusiasm of online comments sections has since waned, but comments sections have been overtaken by something even more pernicious: social media.

On a personal level, I appreciate Facebook as a means to keep in touch with my high school classmates, and some previously long-lost work colleagues from the 1990s. But as a means of rhetorical or literary expression, social media produces little but rants and snark. (Twitter is the worst offender in this regard.)

And let’s not forget video. Online video has been around since practically the beginning of the Web; but in 2002, when content was delivered in the form of video, it usually had a specific purpose. Today it is impossible to visit any news site without being bombarded by blaring, autoplaying videos. Often these videos are completely redundant recitations of the text written immediately below.

 

The net result of these shifts is that the Internet has progressively become shriller, louder, and stupider. Mindless videos have replaced thoughtful texts. (One of the more popular videos on YouTube features an orange-haired young man doing nothing but staring at a banana.) No one has time for anything that can’t be written or read in twenty seconds. Commentators who used to blog are now spending all of their time composing off-the-cuff, 280-character tweets.

The overemphasis on social media has also diminished the leverage of individual creators. Building one’s online presence on someone else’s platform is usually a Faustian bargain. As many YouTubers have discovered last year (when their accounts were suddenly demonetized), social media giants are free to change the rules at whim, and often will.

For a long time, writers were building their online platforms on Facebook, and achieving substantial organic reach. Then Facebook changed the rules, too, with the aim of maximizing ad revenues. Today, if you want your posts to be seen by more than a handful of the people who have “liked” your Facebook page, you’ll have to pay Mark Zuckerberg for every view and click.

 


 

Like I said, I miss the way things used to be. Back in the “good old days” of the Internet, I maintained several personal websites. These were hosted by a now defunct web hosting company called Interland, and created with a now discontinued web editing software program called FrontPage.

It was a lot of fun, because I was focusing on writing for an online audience, which was my reason for being on the Internet in the first place. That is, I’ve concluded, what writers should be doing online, and social media isn’t the ideal venue for that.

I wasn’t scrambling to upload YouTube videos, and then neurotically checking my view stats and “thumbs up” votes. I wasn’t arguing with that teenager from Belgrade, Serbia, who showed up in my comments section—because no website in 2002 had a comments section. I wasn’t worried about getting “likes” on Facebook posts, and following people I don’t know on Twitter.

Another bad thing about social media, from the writer’s perspective: Social media demands constant interaction. This is because social media also drives a compulsive quest for approval from the Internet masses. The resultant hamster routine is a major timesink, and counterproductive to the creative process.

I’m not suggesting that the creative person’s online presence should exist in a vacuum. Yes, of course, you should check your site’s stats at regular intervals. If you maintain a website with any ambitions at all, you should think about factors like SEO, site organization, and ease of navigation. You should also have an email address, posted online, whereby readers can get in touch with you.

But there is a vast difference between acknowledging that there is an audience on the other side of what you are doing, and the peripatetic, minute-by-minute interactivity of social media. You probably want to maintain a mailbox, a telephone, and a doorbell at your house. You probably don’t want to knock down the walls of that house, so that anyone can walk into what is left of your living room, at any hour of the day or night.

 

With all that in mind, I recently made the decision to stop devoting time to YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook (none of which I’d ever really liked), and to rededicate myself to building up a personal web presence (which I’ve enjoyed quite a bit in the past.)

This site, Edward Trimnell Books, is unabashedly rooted in the pre-2004 ethos of the Internet. Here you’ll find long-form opinion pieces, and long-form works of fiction. There are no like buttons, no comment sections, and there will be only the occasional online video. If you like my writing, if you find my opinions worthwhile, you’re welcome to hang around.

Everything posted here is completely free to read. There is no registration process, nor are you required to give me your email address.

 

My opinions are my own, and I’m unapologetic about them. I don’t go out of my way to offend anyone; but nor am I politically correct. I grew up in the 1980s, when plain and straightforward were the default modes of speaking. As a result, I say pretty much what I think today, without regard to speech codes, or what the pointy-headed nitwits on Vox and Huffington Post have deemed to be acceptable opinions—as of this week.

If you vehemently disagree with something I’ve written here, you’re free to email me or contact me on Facebook. (You can also feel free to contact me in those ways if you want to deliver praise, or express agreement with something you’ve read here.)

I’m reasonably responsive to concise and polite emails—even if you disagree with me. But as the above paragraphs hopefully make clear, I take the Seth Godin approach to comment sections. That is, I don’t have them, and I don’t believe in them. For me, writing is not a committee project.

 

 

That’s my new, old-school approach to the Internet. It won’t be to everyone’s liking. That’s okay. The Internet is a big place, and there are plenty of other options if this one isn’t your particular flavor.

But most of all, I promise the reader that no matter what, I will never subject you to a five-minute video of me watching a banana. Because even if the damn thing did get 2 million views, I just don’t see the point