Business Musings: Social Media And Time (A Process Blog)

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I ended up with an issue after last week’s post on the controversy surrounding The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It was not the issue I expected.

I even sent an email to a friend about that original issue, which did not materialize. What I said to them was, “I’m going to lose a lot of backers on this one.”

I did not lose any backer—at least so far. In fact, the number of supportive emails, posts, and in-person comments has been somewhat overwhelming. I did not expect it. Thank you.

I did expect people to demand details, though, and some did. In fact, a few told me it was my “obligation” to “name and shame” the people involved. Since I got that a few times, let me say this.

  1. I named Gordon. That was relevant.
  2. This is an exceedingly painful part of my past which occurred in a world that no longer exists. In fact, most of the publishing community that Gordon and his ilk effectively poisoned against me are gone. The publishing companies have vanished or, in the case of Tor, have become imprints. The people who repeated and acted on the lies are either out of the business entirely or are dead. In other words, the details might matter on a historical level, but on a day-to-day level for people who are in the field now, such as it is, the details matter not at all.
  3. What part of the word “microaggressions” did you folks not understand? That means these acts were weekly if not daily occurrences and in many cases quite small, noticeable to me, my friends, and the people in the industry who understood with a wink-wink nod-nod.
  4. In other words, what good would dragging up all that pain do me? Or do the almost non-existent sf field? It would do no good at all. So it ain’t gonna happen. Unless, someday, I decide to write my own history of the field.

So what is the unexpected issue that I mentioned above? Well, it’s not really an issue. It’s a problem in my own head.

Dozens—literally dozens—of you very kind people offered me a Bluesky code so that I can join that social media site. The first few people were on my Patreon page. I refused two of the codes, because I’m on the fence. The third offered to let me hang onto their code while I made my decision.

I’m still thinking.

But that offer allowed me to answer the remaining people who have contacted me since last week to truthfully tell them I’m still thinking about this. I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

A confluence of events hit at the same time as last week’s post. We started a Kickstarter for my latest Diving novel, Ivory Trees. I have a standalone novella that’s a different version of a section of the new Diving book in Asimov’s Science Fiction. And, I am part of a space opera Storybundle (that will end within a few hours of this post going live).

Back when the Storybundle began, I found myself writing a letter to the wonderful writers in the bundle in which I apologized for the fact that I no longer had the promotional reach that I used to have. When I left Twitter about a year ago now as it was clear that Musk wasn’t going to quit pissing on the platform, remaking it into a hateful space, I lost a decade’s worth of followers, carefully curated.

I could change the direction of a Kickstarter with one well-placed tweet. I could add a lot of value to a Storybundle by promoting it more than once on Twitter.

I also enjoyed Twitter…until the last few years. I relied on it during Covid to give me real-time news that I wasn’t getting from the regular media. But the hateful rhetoric had racheted up and I found myself blocking or muting a lot of people, including people I knew. I was uncomfortable long before Musk’s takeover. In some ways, that horrid man gave me an excuse to leave.

What I found is that I have more time on my hands. Sure, I use some of it to read curated journalism from a variety of sources. But mostly, I spend less time online and a lot more time doing other things.

I have known, though, that I’m sacrificing some things. From real-time news, such as what was happening on the ground in Maui during the fires, to being able to promote my work to, yes, seeing some really fun videos or comments made by friends, I sometimes still feel the lack of Twitter. I also miss a place to make a one-and-done comment on something in my life, something I want to say and then forget about.

Sometimes that one-and-done would get retweeted and often it would be ignored, but it scratched a commentary itch that I didn’t have otherwise.

I joined a couple of sites at friends’ recommendations and found myself either annoyed at the needless complexity (Mastodon) or the utter irrelevance (cripes, I can’t even remember the name of the startup!). And I didn’t like the time it was taking. I was tempted—I’m still tempted—by TikTok, but I’m afraid of the timesink.

I took one look at Threads’ terms of service and fled. I’ve done that with a number of sites.

And, did I mention, that I’m liking the extra time?

But I really feel the inability to promote on anything but my own sites (and Facebook, whose crappiness I feel grandfathered into). So I’m trying to figure out what to do, what I have to sacrifice to do it, and whether it’s worth doing at all.

The website redesign is mostly done and waiting on me to finish things. So there’s that. And there are a few other things that I want to try.

But I am on the fence, and that confluence of events pointed it all out to me yet again. I’m impressed by the people who sent me Bluesky codes. There are some dear friends on the platform and some old friends as well. There are readers who very kindly and politely offered me a way in, and a lot of people who had great ideas to share.

I also researched it and it seems like a place that I might like. It sounds the most Twitter-like. I haven’t gone onto it yet, though, so I don’t know.

My time has become truncated with the start of September. I’m back in school in a relatively easy but interesting class. That takes about four hours out of my week. (I had budgeted ten, so that’s a nice gain of six hours.) After the summer teeth debacle, I have to rebuild my exercise, which I’m doing in characteristic fashion by deciding to do a virtual triathlon at the end of October. Which means I must add biking and swimming to my daily runs and my weekly Pilates.

The racing season will start at the end of the month, and I’m looking forward to that. And I have season theater tickets and, and, and!!! Playoff tickets for the WNBA, since the World Champion Las Vegas Aces are favored. (I wanted the tickets anyway. The Aces games are fun.)

Plus people are coming to town as in damn near everyone we know, and I have some reading to do, and I have other projects to finish.

All of this in addition to finishing a big arc in the Fey series that we will market in early 2024. (Crap. That means having some extra social media sites might help.) I have more to finish with Diving. I have some standalone short stories promised for anthologies. I want to keep up on the news for this weekly blog.

And I’ve rediscovered how to lose myself in other people’s fiction, so I’m reading more. What I find myself giving up more and more are movies. I can watch them online at any point. It’s the stuff that I can’t see online, like theater and basketball, that’s taking up my entertainment time.

Maybe I should just give up sleeping.

Anyway, if you’re all up for it, I’d love to see what you folks think of social media in 2023. Leave a note in the comments. You might help me jump off that fence.

And thanks again, everyone, for all of the support.

*****

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“Business Musings: Social Media and Time (A Process Blog),” copyright © 2023 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / ti_to_tito.

11 thoughts on “Business Musings: Social Media And Time (A Process Blog)

  1. It’s interesting, and a little validating, to see a few people sharing my opinion of social media. I’d given up on Twitter seven years ago, but kept my account active for a literal handful of people I followed. When Musk took over, I was essentially locked out. When I tried to log in, my username and password were recognized, but I need an OTP they would allegedly e-mail to me. I never received the e-mails because of the mass firings and the changes to software. That solved any problem of dealing with that particular service.

    However, I’ve also been staying off social media because the constant negativity and manufactured drama affected my mental health and my manners toward other people. So I made the choice to stay off of practically everything over the last few years.

    The only reason I still use Facebook is to stay in touch with one of my cover artists. E-mails between our respective nations are often blocked because we send each other too many inspirational links for ideas.

    And Kris, I totally understand letting go of a painful period in your life. While cleaning out my office recently, I found the notes I took with me to meet with an attorney over some extreme workplace harassment I experienced 30 years ago. I took great glee in running those notes through the shredder because those people didn’t stop me then, and they can’t stop me now. You’re a damn strong woman, and I admire you for that!

  2. My criteria for social networking have changed since I started Twitter all those years ago.

    Twitter had been my go-to for ten years. When Musk bought it, I realized I had committed the “Kindle Select Mistake” but with social media. I’d been exclusive on a platform I did not control. So I stepped back and considered what I wanted my social media future to be.

    A social media platform needs competent web design and a clean user interface (where Mastodon falls down, check back about 2025-2026). Beyond that, a social media platform has two key ingredients: the moderation, and the feed algorithm. Moderation makes the platform safe for marginalized communities. The feed algorithm sets the flavor of your experience.

    I want a platform with moderation that makes it comfortable for PoC, queer folks, the disabled, and others. I want my feed to be chronological and contain only what I select.

    Bluesky is using AI for their moderation. They don’t stop people from attacking you: they stop you from seeing the attacks on you. That’s a horrid design that, even if it worked, encourages increasing levels of abuse against people who are unaware of the threats against them. (I don’t enjoy getting death threats, but I’d prefer to know they’re happening as opposed to wandering around ignorant.) And, as with everything AI, it *looks* like it works–but it doesn’t quite.

    The Meta family is as horrid as always, but they actually have moderation and you can force a chronological timeline on Facebook.

    The other part, for me, is that time spent building a network on any of these platforms can be taken from me at any time. Some angry billionaire can wreck it.

    I’ve chosen Mastodon. Because whatever network I build there cannot be taken away from me.

    Rather than sign up for an account on someone else’s server, I pay about $15/month for my own server, https://io.mwl.io. In your place, I would pay that fee and have someone set up, say, mastodon.wmgpublishing.com just so people know where to find your stuff there. That network’s been around more than ten years, it’s legit.

    People are working hard on the Masto interface and building moderation tools to give a more consistent experience. I would tell regular folks to check back there about 2025-2026.

    Having said all that: I, too, am considering Bluesky–but only for promotion. I’m not building a business on someone else’s land ever again. Which means I probably shouldn’t do Bluesky, because nobody likes promo-only accounts.

  3. Thank you for the update! I haven’t gotten onto the Blue Sky yet, but I’m on Spoutible. It’s…not bad. The format is similar to Twitter and since people requested more journalists, they are apparently joining. It’s still pretty light in terms of content, though. I’m following the war in Ukraine a good bit and not being on Twitter means I see the relevant Ukrainian links in news articles. My current time sink is the Apple news app, ISW, and planning a fundraiser anthology to raise money for the so-called “spider boots,” which help save legs when a mine blows up under a person. The idea is to adopt a unit, AND adopt a village. Outfitting a few people with spider boots would help with the demining of civilian areas.
    As for Spoutible, I am going make a book announcement or two on it, see hat happens.

  4. Your post is timely. After years of contemplating this option, I recently left social media (except for posting at my blog, which is connected into a blog network). I’m very nervous about the professional implications of doing this, but I’m exploring alternative ways to connect with readers and colleagues: reading blogs via RSS feeds, communicating by e-mail, and submitting my titles to *other* people who have social media accounts.

    I don’t hate social media. I’ve gained at lot of good from it over the years. But at this point in life, its effects on me are much more negative than positive.

    For me, giving up social media is proving to be a tremendous weight off my shoulders. And as you say, it frees up a lot of time for valuable activities. In my case, that includes more time spent with family and friends, and more time spent writing stories. WIBBOW, as you taught us long ago.

  5. I too am waiting on an invite to Bluesky. I like Threads but I don’t love it. I’ve found a few kind & supportive writing communities through TikTok. I’ve also found people that genuinely support indie authors. However, TT at times is very frustrating when it comes to reach. Still, it feels like TT gives you the best chance of being found by people who are interested in what you create and finding people who like what you like.

    I’ve been posting on Substack, both with my own thoughts on indie publishing and about my books. I know a few authors who have given up on email newsletters and gone to Substack. It feels like a place where you can say more to your audience but also be discovered by those not in your audience, if that makes sense.

  6. Bluesky is very, very, like *parts* of old Twitter. It’s where all the SF writers who aren’t technically-minded, and some who are, have ended up (the technical ones are on Mastodon, either instead or as well), and it seems to be where a fair few of the romance writers are, too. It’s fun, vibrant, and full of jokes and a sense of community.
    But it’s missing some of the things you miss about Twitter. In particular it’s absolutely *not* a place for real-time news, and is unlikely ever to be. The site’s initial userbase was *very* queer, and that meant that with a small number of exceptions, most of the journalists and media people who tried the site quickly got chased off because of the sheer number of transphobes in their midst. There was a whole thing of prominent journalists and columnists posting a single post there, getting thousands of responses calling them a TERF, and then deleting their account and running back to Musk’s site complaining they’d been “cancelled”.
    It’s the best drop-in replacement for the fun community part of Twitter, it’ll probably be the best replacement for it for book promotion eventually (though not yet — everyone on there is a reader, but there’s not as many people as were on Twitter, it only just hit a million users yesterday) but it’s not a replacement for the news part of Twitter’s function. But on the other hand that means it’s much less stressful than Twitter became.

  7. I find social media to be a waste of time. I don’t miss it at all. I find my blog and newsletter better when it comes to promotion. These sites have no ads, no senseless drama, and direct me right to my readers. I can find out what newsy stuff is going on from podcasts that I listen to while doing chores or exercising. I don’t need the social media sites to keep up with current events.

  8. I’ve been seeing articles about a trend (of some size, no idea) of people moving to private spaces where they can control their community and not deal with the abuse and drama. I’m sure it depends on the demographic. Not everyone, even younger ones, are into TikTok and influencers.

    They can join a community that is narrowly-defined to fit their interests and not a general public square. Like a particular Discord server. Or the forums on MangaDex. Or a private SubReddit. That sort of thing.

    Those are purely for community; self-promotion will get you kicked out of those spaces immediately.

    So, perhaps the question is where social media is going over the next few years vs. where it is now. May or may not be worth the time to start building a following that is aimed at promotion if the landscape is fracturing.

    Personally, I haven’t been on it for years and don’t plan to start. But I know I’m an outlier.

  9. Social media. Like you Twitter was important to me during the 2016-2022 era. And then Musk came along and i’ve been looking elsewhere. I’m reasonably active on FB for author purposes and so my alumni can find me. But Twitter…. I’m still there, actually. I promised I would stay as long as Black twitter stayed. The Black women and men I follow are still there, still have interesting things to say. And in some ways I think they’re getting less harassment than they did during the bros roaming the place and ganging up on women to get them banned from the site.

    But a year ago, my main Twitter account got hacked, and I never got it back. Twitter support sucks. So my new account slowly acquires the people I used to engage with. Some of them are big names now — i knew them when we were all starting out — and I’m not recognized. And it’s OK. It’s probably better for my emotional health not to be as addicted to outrage as Twitter promotes.

    I’m on Threads. It’s boring, but OK. A lot of the journalism sources I follow(ed) on Twitter are going there. But it feels forced, and a bit boring. A lot like IG, but with words. I’m on IG, post a meme or book announcement occasionally. I had hopes for Spoutible, but I don’t go there. Like you I found Mastadon perplexing, and Post keeps sending me messages, but I can’t remember why I signed up. I assume I did? I post book videos on TikTok, but I’ve never gotten hooked on it as a user. In part, I’m sound sensitive these days, a part of the chronic pain syndrome I struggle with, and so I’d rather read than hear my news and commentary.

    Some of the publishing people I follow on FB have moved to Circle, but there’s not enough traffic there to make it a place I go. I check in now and then.

    I keep hoping the real world will open back up and I won’t need online sources to feel connected to the world, but there’s another covid surge coming. Ashland is struggling because the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is struggling. And because smoke kept up locked down for much of August.

    So, I wouldn’t mind a new Twitter like place. Maybe Blueskies, although I haven’t pursued a code for it. Or maybe I’ll continue to live in the various make-believe worlds I’ve created, and like the groundhog, poke my nose up occasionally to see if winter has passed.

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