With the evolution of technology has come the evolution of communication and the rules surrounding it. Gone are the days of snail mail and telegrams. We can send messages in an instant to almost anywhere in the world. Never before has the world felt so large!
And yet… it continues to feel so, so small.
One of the biggest marvels of recent history has been the arrival of social media. We post pictures of our accomplishments and show everyone our best selves. Or break down over whatever it is that upsets us. The world is our oyster in that regard. And for writers, never before has there been such a way to cultivate relationships with our readers – and even other writers. And we don’t have to leave our house to do it!
It is undeniable that social media has changed society’s functionality throughout the years. Never before has our means of communication and the standards by which we communicated shifted so fast. When the internet came, it came with a bang. And what’s next? Who knows.
But, a lot of social media subculture saturates our experiences and attempts to dictate how we behave in such a new, strange world. And sometimes it’s… weird. Hashtags, follow lists, character limits, all the rules and nuances that make up our experiences and tell us how to behave.
Some of them are more extreme than others.
I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of years now and have been privy to some of these weird behaviors. Just the other day, I had an… interesting discussion over whether or not follow-backs on twitter are an absolute necessity. My stance on the issue is thusly: I am not entitled to be followed by anyone, regardless of the circumstances, and likewise no one is entitled to me following them. It’s easy in this day and age to be consumed with the need for followers – the need for numbers.
But on the inverse, the person I discussed with insisted that if you fail to follow people just because they followed you, you’re not at all interested in community. And it puzzled me quite a lot. Do I not routinely scour the #WritingCommunity for posts to engage in? Do I not retweet posts that interests me and share my thoughts on questions, much like the question that led to this discussion? Is that not enough to build a community?
I would say that it is. As I’ve mentioned, people nowadays are so obsessed with numbers, and I get it. I do. Without high follow counts, how do you know or expect people to find and buy and like your work? But the problem is conflating any of it with what being in a community means. Community just means having a group of people with a/some characteristics in common. In the writing community, that means we are writers. There is no expectation for follows, no demand you click a little heart – although it is greatly encouraged. All it means is that, hey, I’m a writer, and you’re a writer, too, so why don’t we talk?
I view follows (and likes and such) thusly: do I like the content you produce? Would I like to see more of it? Do our interests align? If the answer to these is yes, then I’ll follow you. And even if it’s no, it doesn’t mean I won’t have discussions with you.
Perhaps I have an odd stance on this, though. Do you feel the same or different? Let me know your stance on the matter down below!