For Tom Matlack, social media got in the way of being a good man.
“So you’ve abandoned social media.
Are you writing a book?
Working for the CIA?
Creating a new world order?
Or just spending time with the family and keeping a low profile.
Inquisitive minds want to know…”
—a recent email in my inbox
I truly believe the way to get attention as a writer in the modern world is via social media. We’ve built The Good Men Project around the idea. We have nearly three hundred evangelists who contribute content. Our Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and StumbleUpon efforts are organized and powerful. Lisa, our CEO and visionary, sends out weekly emails to our contributors and holds frequent social media conference calls to help folks build out their own person platforms as a part of our greater mission to spark a national conversation about manhood.
All this stuff is critically important to a modern media brand, whether you are running for president or selling diapers.
But I’ve hit the wall. I just can’t do it anymore. Since August, I have completely unplugged from the social media-sphere.
I’m begging you. Please blog, tweet, like, and comment profusely on that statement.
Just don’t ask me to do the same.
It all started well and good. I hit 10,000 Twitter followers within a few weeks. I spent a lot of time on Facebook, finding famous people to friend, using a standard intro about the GMP mission and why it’s important. I focused on the media, infiltrating several hundred NYT reporters.
The first sign of trouble was when Facebook shut down my account because I had gathered several thousand friends too quickly. I blew past the warnings, and before I knew it, I had to start over from scratch. No worries. I was more selective this time, friending just the VIPs I already had formed relationships with. Then, working out from there.
I also built a robust contact Rolodex of several thousand people, from Op-Ed editors who actually published my stuff somewhat regularly to magazine editors and a few famous actors.
“Spamming” really wasn’t a word that I acknowledged. If I was interested in something, you must be too, and I would tell you about it via email, Twitter, and Facebook. I was nothing if not relentless in my social media tactics.
On vacation I would always promise to put down my social media obsession. But it never worked for more than a few days. Soon, I was back on, promoting just as hard as before.
Then something clicked. I realized that the medium had overtaken the message. And that same medium had begun to eat away at my very person and the people I care most about.
I am not passing judgment on anyone else. I know many people feel social media allows them to communicate and become closer to family and friends. I am just speaking for my experience and myself here. I realized this was a dead-end, something that was consuming me in a way that clouded my ability to think and write and love the way I aspired to do.
Maybe the Google Plus circles are the answer. But I am really not willing to take that chance. Maybe if I hadn’t befriended thousands of strangers, things would have worked out differently. But communicating via Facebook and Twitter with people I have never met began to eat away at me. And I started to get a lot of creepy messages from people who pretended to know things about me that they really didn’t.
So I shut it all down. My Facebook and Twitter accounts still exist for the greater good of the GMP, but I no longer know the passwords. Someone else posts my columns there. I have gone back to the days of communicating face to face with the people I care about most.
I’ve been riding my bike more, thinking more, writing without considering the social media impact, spending more time sprawled across my daughter’s bed talking about what it’s like to be 17 in this day and age. I’ve been reading books (OK, the one about the creation of ESPN but still…). I’ve been really trying to grapple with prison and pensions, education and income distribution, poverty and race. My ideas may be insane, but they aren’t formed with 60-character limits in mind.
The biggest change since I put down social media is that I am more relaxed. Before, I felt this relentless pressure to check, update, and comment on my various streams. I was spending hours every day, keeping up and expanding my empire. And to what end? Did it really make the world a better place? Did it help me love and think more clearly?
For this man, aspiring to be good it got in the way. It was a distraction. It cluttered my already very cluttered brain with bits and bites of information and connections that didn’t advance my cause or my humanity.
But that’s just me.
Feel free to share this piece on Facebook, like it on Reddit, and tweet a pithy headline and link. I won’t condemn you for it. Really.
(So, I sort of lied. After three months off, I am back on Twitter once in a while. I’m just dipping my toe in the water to see if I can control my urge to emerge myself completely. So far so good on that front. So if you want to connect with me there, it’s @tmatlack.)