3 Horrible Mistruths About Social Media That Drive Me Insane

Flickr / tq2cute

Flickr / tq2cute

This post really needs no introduction. Let’s just get to the rant, in my favored numbered list format.

  1. “Who cares what you had for lunch?” Your excuse for hating social media is that people talk about what they’re eating? You know what the problem is? You have boring friends with no personality. Find someone worthwhile to follow online, and if that person DOES talk about their lunch, I guarantee you’ll want to know about it.
  2. “It’s mindlessly narcissistic and ego-driven.” Are you only following celebrities, rappers, and politicians? Or those snobby popular kids from high school? Because the people I know on social media are relentlessly OTHER-focused, service-oriented, and humble. Otherwise, no one would follow them.
  3. “It’s a time waster.” Relationship building is a waste of time? Having a conversation and sharing information is a waste of time? OK, I admit, some people get sucked in and really DO waste their time, but just because some people can’t be self-disciplined doesn’t mean it’s a time waster. We’re grown ups. We can handle the responsibility of writing, working, AND being social, can’t we?

Join my rant and share your favorite mistruths in the comments.


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Posted in Digital Media.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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98 Comments on "3 Horrible Mistruths About Social Media That Drive Me Insane"

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Michael L. Martin Jr.
4 years 3 months ago
Hallelujah! I agree with this rant all the way. And I’m usually not a fan of rants, unless I’m doing the ranting. But there’s also a mistruth that comes from the opposite side of the spectrum that drives me insanely insane (okay, not really). I strongly dislike when extremists treat social media as if it’s the ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL.  Them: “If you’re not utilizing [insert social media thingy here] then you’re not serious about [life/your profession/saving The Shire from the evil clutches of Sauron. He’s a big meany pants!].” Me (staring blankly): “C’mon son.” From reading your posts,… Read more »
Ashley Ford
4 years 3 months ago

“People who are engaged in social media are poor communicators in person.”

This one has always perplexed me. Why would I magically have a sense of humor or be interesting via social media, if I hadn’t learned to be that way in my life away from the computer screen? If anything, my “real world” relationships have been enhanced by our use of social media. Even my professional relationships, especially in writing, have greatly benefited from social media. Some of them even began on blogs and twitter.

Bri Clark
4 years 3 months ago

 Ashley I’m glad to see this is true for you. However, I don’t think it’s the same for others. I was at an event recently and my fellow vendors were so invested in their FB and Twitter accounts via cell phone and internet they lost many leads. But I guess that could be a product of not being able to disconnect which would be entirely different. Thanks for the comment nonetheless.

Shawn Spjut
4 years 3 months ago

Bri and Ashley:
Is the misuse of social media a fault of the technology or the individuals who are using it. Though I find people who sit next to me at a party texting and interacting on the internet instead of ingaging in none technological conversations extrememly rude, I can’t blame the internet. I suspect these individual’s  were rude long before that.

Ashley Ford
4 years 3 months ago

I would say this is accurate. I am heavily engaged in social media, but aware there is a time and place for everything. Some people seem to miss that memo.

Patrick Allmond
4 years 3 months ago

You can’t really misuse something that has no rules and no defined purpose. Using it differently is not misusing. 

Laura
Laura
4 years 3 months ago

 I agree with Patrick in that you can’t misuse somethat that has no rules.

We are all responsible for our own actions so if someone is spending more time on social media than what allows them to function well in other areas of their lives then they have to learn to set boundaries. If one looked at them closely it would be more than likely that they had other areas without boundaries as well.

Katy Gathright
4 years 3 months ago

I agree as well. In fact, this is one of the greatest strengths of social media — room for creativity.

Leslie Einhaus
Leslie Einhaus
4 years 3 months ago

I had an uncle actually have his phone on and holding it up across from his face during (DURING!) my cousin’s wedding/exchanging of the vows in a church! The entire time! I was behind him and talk about distracting! I was in shock! He won’t be invited to my wedding or sans phone. If that is possible. For so many these days, it’s a tough thing to ask even for an hour! Sad. But I’m pretty bad myself. But I never had my phone out at that wedding or reception. 

Rorey Cathcart
Rorey Cathcart
4 years 3 months ago

I’m with you on this point Ashley. I don’t post endlessly on my FB so what I do post I try to make interesting and relevant to my friends and family. On twitter, since I use it professionally, I have found the 140 character limit really pushes me to refine the point I am trying to make and to drag out some of the dustier words in my vocabulary to say what I mean in that limited space. If anything, I’m communicating better now than before.

Jack W Perry
Jack W Perry
4 years 3 months ago

I agree with you on all points. I seldom follow celebrities because I don’t care what they had for lunch. But I get most of my industry news and headlines from Twitter and other social media outlets. It is so vast, that there are ways for everyone to use. Those that say it is a waste of time have their heads in the sand.

Jonathan Spencer
Jonathan Spencer
4 years 3 months ago

Thanks Jane. I need to tuck this away somewhere for the inevitable family get-together questions. They keep asking, so I suspect they know there’s a reason I use SM but so far I haven’t gotten through. Maybe this will help. On the other hand, I don’t really want to follow most of my relatives…

tmcgrevy
tmcgrevy
4 years 3 months ago

Thank you!  My son has a rare syndrome (Smith-Magenis Syndrome) that is very under-diagnosed.  We only know of 600 people in the world.  I talk to people in Canada, Mexico, UK, Australia…not to mention all 50 states.  Would never happen without social media!  Our small fundraiser in Ohio was attended by a family from Vietnam last year (REALLY)!  She joined my facebook page…

Shawn Spjut
4 years 3 months ago

tmcgrevy: I found a brother and nephew I hadn’t seen for ten years through FB. Though neither are very good at communicating, without FB I doublt I’d ever have found them. The social media is a wonderful tool for enabling us to connect to the world from our desk. How we choice to use that tool is up to us.

Rorey Cathcart
Rorey Cathcart
4 years 3 months ago

Shawn: this is my primary use for FB too. Without it I wouldn’t have any idea what is going on in the lives of my neices. We don’t chat, but I see their posts and they see mine so we have some tenuous connection that wouldn’t be there otherwise. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with some of my high school friends as well. I held off joining for years as one of those ‘waste of time’ people. Now I realize I’m the one that was wasting time I could have been connected to my family and friends.

Leslie Einhaus
Leslie Einhaus
4 years 3 months ago

I also use social media to connect with people that way, too! It’s wonderful. I have a rare genetic disorder called Schwannomatosis (also under-diagnosed) and Twitter and Facebook have helped connect me in a way that has been healing, educational, and supportive. I will admit in the beginning I followed maybe 25-30 celebs and I may follow 8-9 now if that. I use it primarily for professional reasons/networking as a professional writer/editor, connecting on the health and genetic disorder front, and chronic pain, in general. Those are the biggies. 

Leslie Einhaus
Leslie Einhaus
4 years 3 months ago

I also use social media to connect with people that way, too! It’s wonderful. I have a rare genetic disorder called Schwannomatosis (also under-diagnosed) and Twitter and Facebook have helped connect me in a way that has been healing, educational, and supportive. I will admit in the beginning I followed maybe 25-30 celebs and I may follow 8-9 now if that. I use it primarily for professional reasons/networking as a professional writer/editor, connecting on the health and genetic disorder front, and chronic pain, in general. Those are the biggies. 

Amber
4 years 2 months ago

Total sidenote: a blogger from my area put together a charity album (his kid has Smith-Magenis) for PRISMS. Social Media was huge in getting the word out about the album.

(Here is the link: http://www.dofunstuff.net/)

Amira Aly
Amira Aly
4 years 3 months ago

I really think that it’s just basically 

ClaudiaC
4 years 3 months ago

 I know a woman who has unoperable brain cancer. Her well educated, well researched, valid doctors told her it was from her cellphone.  I wish there was more anti-cell phone propaganda…

David Y.B. Kaufmann
David Y.B. Kaufmann
4 years 3 months ago

Like any other tool, social media is neutral. As a way of building relationships and learning, always learning, it’s invaluable. (Hey, I found your blog via a social media!)

BJ Muntain
BJ Muntain
4 years 3 months ago

Good ones! Another: You have to follow everyone who follows you or you’re doing it wrong.

This comes from the fallacy that the person with the most followers wins.

In reality, if you follow a lot of people whose tweets don’t interest you, you’re not going to enjoy social media anyway. After awhile, you’ll get bored and move on.

Social media isn’t about following or being followed. It’s about being *social* – interacting with people. It’s also about sharing – information, emotion, life.

/rant

Sam
Sam
4 years 3 months ago
Have to admit that I disagree completely with the premise, but I believe that all three items you list are basic truths and I thank you for enumerating them: 1. The “lunch” argument is meant to point out the general inanity of much SM content, specifically as it is thrown onto Twitter. Pick a random Twitter use that you think is “great” (don’t peek at their feed first, just pick the user). Now load that page and read the posts. See any that are inane like that? I’m sure you will. Some people don’t want to put that kind of… Read more »
Shawn Spjut
4 years 3 months ago
Sam: From a business perspective, is using SM to promote your product or authorship any different than what happens with TV, Radio, Mag. billboards or any of the other thousands of way human beings have found to connect what they offer to those who are looking to acquire? If anything, SM has allowed a vast number of individuals the opportunity to connect with other likeminded individuals in a manner that doesn’t cost us our first born child and allows us a greater audience than we had other wise. Do some abuse this? Yes. But then abuse comes in lots of disguises, even… Read more »
Karma W.
Karma W.
4 years 3 months ago
 Meh, meh, and meh. I shared this on FB and found much of this article nails general negative attitudes about many forms of SM beyond twitter, including facebook. Everyone who is on social media is NOT there to sell something. People who want to keep abreast with friends and topics at a glance, people who are chat-centric, people who express themselves better through the written word than in person, people (like me) who live rural and find SM an  actual (gasp!) social network–often utilize facebook and twitter accounts. Many of these people are selling nothing to nobody. As to your… Read more »
Rebekah Ruth
Rebekah Ruth
4 years 3 months ago

Absolutely love this response. Thanks…now I no longer feel the need to write one 🙂

Sam
Sam
4 years 3 months ago

You say you disagree with me, but in the same paragraph admit that SM is important to your career and income. That being true, how could it ever be possible that someone in your position would ever be able to agree in public with my original post? You couldn’t, and that’s my point.

Chris Clarke
4 years 2 months ago

If you can’t write something worth sharing in 140 characters, you probably can’t in more than 140 characters either.

None
None
4 years 2 months ago

Agree 100%. Original article title should be  TRUTHS, not MISTRUTHS. Especially the part about narcissism.

Steve Bichard
4 years 3 months ago

I was out for dinner last night and was asked why do I waste time on twitter.
‘ I have had a radio interview about my new novel, some great reviews and I am sure a few sales,’ was my answer. 

They still didn’t get it!

Mark Coppock
4 years 3 months ago

Thanks for this. I realized early that not liking social media because it’s inane/mindless/a waste of time is like saying you don’t like talking because *it’s* inane/mindless/a waste of time. 
Yes, the majority of both probably are. Yet we happily continue talking!

Elaine Lindsay
4 years 3 months ago
Love it!  Relationships are important to us both personally and in business.  Social Media is just one of the tools in the tool-chest that I use everyday.  Like any tool, there are different types or sizes and we can choose to  use one or more that work well for us.  I like having many options available to me.  I find social media a vital piece of the equation for Relationship Marketing today.  I also love the deeply divergent  conversations on all sorts of topics that are there for the enjoyment of all who choose to take part.  I am a Google+ enthusiast,… Read more »
Elissa Field
4 years 3 months ago
Well said, Jane!  I second the responder who said saying social media is a waste of time is like saying talking is a waste of time.  Surely, as with all communication tools, social media can be misused — but your post shares what I have observed about tools like Twitter: it is all in how you use it.  Finding the right people to follow makes all the difference in the world –which is no different than choosing which conversations you would engage in at an office.  Avoid the negative gossips, the bloated boasters, the bores.  Engage meaningfully with the colleagues… Read more »
Virginia Johnston-Dodds
Virginia Johnston-Dodds
4 years 3 months ago

I love social media, In the last year and a half I have reconnected with family members I had not heard from in years. Its helped me put my book out into the world. I found my publisher on line and now I can twitter about my book. So its only mindless to the mindless.

Me
Me
4 years 3 months ago

I think that a lot of people have trouble judging what’s sort of interesting and quirky and what should be kept private. I’ve seen way too many Facebook posts about people’s problems with CHILD SUPPORT and cheating/soon-to-be ex spouses, etc. And I’d rather not read a ton of posts that are so cryptic that they communicate NOTHING—which totally negates the point of social media! (Ok. Mini rant is over.)

Bri Clark
4 years 3 months ago

The basic point of social media is often lost. That point being the keyword “social.” We are a social society from telling stories via a camp fire to sharing reviews online word of mouth will forever be a constant among us. And with that constant comes information we may not be interested in. It’s our choice if we continue to share that fire. 

Jan O'Hara|Tartitude
4 years 3 months ago

“Virtual friends aren’t real friends, anyway.”

Seriously? Guess I imagined the donations for a colleague with an ill child, the facilitation with travel arrangements and accommodation. Guess I’ve been fooled when they’ve come to know more secrets than my own family, yet done all they could to facilitate my career.   

Anna Rose
Anna Rose
4 years 3 months ago

Once upon a time, that was the common world view of anyone someone knew online.

You would think that all these years later, with online friends meeting in real life, important, life-saving medical information being shared and helping people to live longer, healthier lives, and just getting back in touch with family and friends long thought lost would turn some of these nay-sayers around.

You make excellent points here, Jan.  Glad to hear the stuff about the very real humanity of those “virtual friends” where that child was concerned.

JosephRatliff
4 years 3 months ago

Cliche:  “Social media has no ROI”

Truth:  Really?  I’ve personally developed several key business relationships worth WAY more than time invested in social media.  Notice the word “developed” though… it’s not an overnight thing.

Just because we have the unlimited power to connect because of these tools doesn’t make process of connecting with another human being any faster.

 

Benjamin vogt
4 years 3 months ago

It is a time suck. Come one. It is. Not a bad one, but not a good one. Like watching TV or eating buckets of ice cream while naked in bed with your lover.

JosephRatliff
4 years 3 months ago

 A time suck made even better when it’s a “focused” time suck. 😉

Terri Lynn Coop
4 years 3 months ago
Pffft . . . to the haters. I am an over-50 childless woman living in a very small town. If you don’t have a flock of kids/grandkids or obsess over your church, there’s not a lot to talk about with my neighbors (the weather only goes so far). So, how is spending some morning coffee and evening time chatting with my diverse group of writer/geek friends all over the world a waste? Social media is one of the ways I am able to make the most of living in the middle of nowhere and enjoying it. Is is because I’m not… Read more »
Terri Lynn Coop
4 years 3 months ago

Exactly Jan. I have several “imaginery friends” that I turn to when I have a problem or something to brag about. How is it different from someone you keep in contact with by phone?

Shawn Spjut
4 years 3 months ago

Jane: Love it. Sounds like you actually interviewed my friends who stopped using FB and other social media. Maybe they had nothing of interest to say either!

ClaudiaC
4 years 3 months ago
I love your seriously – seriously? are you serious? Erm… I think we live in a narcissistic time filled with celebrity can mean reality star or Royal Shakespearean theater. So yes, there’s a lot of narcissism in social media. There’s a lot of psychopathy – which is a little more disturbing to me. And a lot of people talk about lunch. If they’re not talking about food, they’re often talking about sex, which is kind of yucky. And hell, I can waste time doing anything. There are people connecting, living, talking, chatting and laughing. In life, you find what you… Read more »
Karma W.
Karma W.
4 years 3 months ago

 Ha ha! I love “Narcissistic Foodies”. I think it should be a blog name, or hell, a band name! One of my top reasons for being on facebook is to follow foodie friends, and my own food posts have been among my most liked. Narcissistic foodies UNITE! 😉

Vanessa
Vanessa
4 years 3 months ago

Well said. 

LauraPepperWu
LauraPepperWu
4 years 3 months ago

Well said Jane. I think it’s ignorant for people to dismiss social media without fully understanding it, much like anything in life. A friend who used to laugh at me being on Twitter has recently understood it’s full potential and is making fantastic business connections and meeting them offline with amazing results. I’m so glad she has seen the light! 🙂

William Dalphin
4 years 3 months ago
I recently got a rather condescending remark from a friend after I posted about going grocery shopping and mentioned a few of the food items I’d purchased. I could understand their annoyance at reading something so inane, but I’ve been recently going on a health kick; exercising more and eating better, and as part of that I’ve tried to share some of the things I eat as a means to give others ideas for what they might want to purchase if they’re interested in going down the same road. I’ve been on the other end of this too though, recently… Read more »
Unveiled WIfe
4 years 3 months ago

Very good points! 

Caryl
Caryl
4 years 3 months ago

You go, girl!

Laura
Laura
4 years 3 months ago
I have to say I was not interested in Twitter until I got involved with it through Robert Lee Brewers April Platform Challenge. It has opened a new world to me. I really did think it was all about inane topics and self-absorbed people. I have been extremely pleased to say I have found otherwise and have made wonderful connections with people interested in the topic of my book as well as those who have gone before in the field of elder care. Following people like Jane, or Joel Friedlander, or others who tweet gems throughout the day is inspiring.… Read more »
Matthew Turner
4 years 3 months ago

Too true. I had my doubts back in the day, but my life is very social these days, and it certainly creates some possibilities. All in all, Social media is here to stay

and that’s no bad thing

Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

Amanda Socci
Amanda Socci
4 years 3 months ago
If I understand your article correctly, the items in bold are things that people say about social media, and the paragraphs go on to explain how the bolded items are mistruths and why you disagree, correct?  I believe that the bolded points are not necessarily mistruths, which indicates that the information is not accurate, but half truths, meaning that there is some truth to the statements. I am one of those people who is not interested in learning about what food products are consumed, or my all-time favorite “hello tweepland” or “good night tweepland.”  If all 600 people I followed… Read more »
Wayne Hastings
4 years 3 months ago

Jane, what a great rant. Thank you for being honest and redefining the value.

Ande Lyons
4 years 3 months ago

LOVE THIS POST!!! Thank you so much Jane for clarifying why I love to hang out at the TwitterVille Bar: always inspirational… always informative… always deeeelicious!

Cheers!

@AndeLyons

Amy Cutler Quale
4 years 3 months ago

Here here! I work with indie authors daily, and hearing these excuses to NOT market their books using social media is incredibly aggravating. Authors, especially, NEED to be on social media to market their books. It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing traditionally or not–unless you’re Stephen King, you are not going to attract your audience without embracing social media. And even Stephen King should do it.

Cynthia Morris
Cynthia Morris
4 years 3 months ago
Are people really still saying these things? It seems like responses from the early days of Twitter.  Also, I wonder about the kinds of people saying these things. Perhaps they’re not entrepreneurs or businesspeople who find these tools very useful. Perhaps they’re not of a generation who cares about these kind of things.  If they’re in business, and they’re that ostrich about SM, they could be served by an open-minded perspective re: trying new things.  I don’t hear a lot of this kind of talk.  What BLOWS ME AWAY is that everywhere I go, either here or in Europe, and… Read more »
Lee J Tyler
Lee J Tyler
4 years 3 months ago
Someone mentioned “tool” in a recent post. (Biting my lip here…) Which was going to be the crux of my argument in support of Jane’s rant. I have developed Twitter carefully to weed out the things I am not interested in. I take a few minutes each day to scan (Sam, look it up) the posts, click and deposit them in my doc files to read later and answer those posts that I wish to answer (as in walking down the hall and saying hello to some and not to others; it’s a communication device). Used correctly, it is highly beneficial; again… Read more »
Briellezbub
4 years 3 months ago

Good work Jane, one can only try–thanks for this. 
I think social media is in its ‘warm little pond’ phase. Every pond has its scum and every one sees their own breed as the one which ‘should’ dominate. Can’t control the beast. 

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The Doggie Door | Briellezbub's Tales
4 years 3 months ago

[…] Door’ after coming across Jane Friedman’s post on this very subject this morning called 3 Horrible Mistruths About Social Media That Drive Me Insane, (also, comments on FB) In her post, Jane takes issue with these trigger happy critics of social […]

Sara D'Spain
Sara D'Spain
4 years 3 months ago

Umm, my new goal is to spend more time on social media (yes, really!)  Writing is not my full time job, I don’t live in the world of agents and publishers and the latest wants/needs.  I follow blogs and tweets and updates and consider it “continuing education” like my teaching (career of 10 years) requires.

And my kids are cute, and say funny shit that other people love reading about…

runebug
4 years 3 months ago

I would just like to add “The people you meet on the internet aren’t real.”

Sandy Brehl
Sandy Brehl
4 years 3 months ago

#1. “I’m too old for that stuff.” Listen, if I’m not too old for this, no one is!
#2  “I’m no techie, so it would be too hard.” Listen again, please. If it’s not too hard for me, it’s not too hard for anyone.  

Just take it slow, lurk and learn, then be selective, and don’t fear “unfollowing” once you discover who’s who and what’s what. 
Great post, Jane.

DM Yates
DM Yates
4 years 3 months ago

Perfect, and so true.  

Khara House
Khara House
4 years 3 months ago
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this! So often I am plagued by the commentary of those who see social media as the thing that is “ruining society”–sure, it’s advancing simulacra, but it’s also expanding most people’s globes, and that, to me, is a wonderful thing. I love the fact that I can “meet up” and collaborate with writers near and far. And as a shy individual in person, I relish the ability to take time to think things through before saying them, which is a gift not often afforded me in day-to-day conversation when I’m expected to be… Read more »
Wordbeeps
Wordbeeps
4 years 3 months ago

Damnit, Jane! I love it when you e-rant. P.S. My wife just made pasta, she’s the best cook in the universe, and I thought I’d e-comment on your e-rant for no good reason at all. 

Anastasia
4 years 3 months ago

i love this counter to the *digital dualism* underneath much of social media hate (for those who get to know SM and conclude we’re now “alone together”): http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/04/23/sherry-turkles-chronic-digital-dualism-problem/

As the author David Banks writes at Cyborgology: ” I will gladly live in a world where Cape Cod tourists are distracted by Facebook updates if it means disadvantaged groups have tools to reach out and organize across geographic boundaries. Let the rich be alone together, the rest of us will find something to talk about.”

Bonnee
4 years 3 months ago

I think that pretty much covers it for me 🙂 Love the way your initial response to everything is ‘seriously?’ 

John R Tomlinson
4 years 3 months ago

Social media is just a tool, some people use it poorly in ways which are very annoying – and it’s ok to be annoyed by those things.

I agree that it is silly to dismiss the whole medium because of this, it would be like saying talking is a waste of time because some people talk rubbish.

Late Convert
Late Convert
4 years 3 months ago
You inspired me to commit to the blogsphere a recent rant I had to a guy who declared that all social media (and the internet in general) was taking civilisation down a one-way road to hell. He had locked away all his computers lest his children get their hands on them… I’m tired of hearing about how social media is destroying our kids. I think the contrary is true – that it’s creating a generation of people who are far more open in their communication with each other, who have access to support networks as never before and who are… Read more »
Valerie
4 years 3 months ago

AMEN. I cannot begin to count how many times I hear this crap, and I’m over convincing them otherwise.

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