In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy discuss their own attitudes to social media, seeking solutions that suit their situations and personalities.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this episode:
- How we each feel about social media
- What we’d like to be different
- Ideas for one another on what to try
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Find us on your favourite podcast player and at Gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, How do we feel about Social Media? I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my books, blogs and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I live in south-east Queensland. I was a former early childhood educator. I have four adult children and I write romance under the pen name Alison Joy. And you can find all my information on alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years I’ve been using my theology degree to inform my teaching and preaching and more recently, my writing and blogging. You can find out more about me at donitabundy.com.
Belinda Pollard: Our topic today, the next in our Author Platform Series, where we’re going to discuss and troubleshoot our attitudes to social media because we have some attitudes. Just wait listeners! We have attitudes!
So, the three of us are going to share how we think and what we feel about it and then hopefully, with God’s help, help one another to work out how to confront and overcome some of these challenges.
Donita, would you like to be guinea pig number one? What is your attitude? How do you feel about social media and what would you like to be different?
Donita Bundy: Thanks, Belinda. Well, on the social scale I sit off the end of raging introvert. I do not really engage well. “She does not play well with social media!” For me, it’s like taking really horrible tasting medicine or paying taxes! It’s a necessary evil to create an author platform. I acknowledge the need for it, but I would rather not do it. If I could pay anyone to do any one job for me, it would be this but even though I’m not that bad. So I realise social media is about being social and interacting with others.
So, I challenge myself to sit down for 10 minutes a day and engage, unless I’m having a day off, and then if it’s a holiday or I’m taking a day off, I don’t even think about it. Yes, I don’t really enjoy social media, at all!
Belinda Pollard: I’m getting that message even though you were quite subtle with it! Alison, you’re an introvert too, do you feel the same way?
Alison Joy: I’m not as anti-social media as Donita is. I’m in between both of you. Probably leaning towards the antisocial end. Yes. I don’t enjoy interacting with people face to face, so I find that social media is a way to keep people at a distance. And I can interact on my own terms, and I can do as much or as little as I want. Having said that, if you want an author platform obviously you have to create a little community.
And for me, because I have myself and my author, I have a penname, so I have two personas. I have two lots of social media. My personal one is just basically Facebook and Instagram and my author one is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a few of the others. So, while there’s similarities between the two, I would probably share more on my personal one because they’re private and I know the people who are on there. Whereas the other one is public and open for anybody to see because if you want to sell books, obviously you have to have a public profile.
So, they would be two different things. So, it’s switching between the two of them and figuring out how much to engage on them.
Donita Bundy: What about you, Belinda? Where do you sit on the scale?
Belinda Pollard: Well, I’m the raving extrovert in the room! I’m an extrovert who works from home alone and so social media has been a gift for me. I’ve been on social media for 10 years and I have found it to be a gift to be able to still connect with people, to have a sense of that collegiate thing that you get when you are working in an office with other people who are all working towards the same thing.
I have found, for example, some of the editor’s forums on Facebook have been good for me because we can go in there and we can discuss the sorts of things that only an editor would care about, and it’s like you’re talking around the water cooler as you would in an office. I’ve found connecting with people on Twitter particularly because there’s a lot of writers on Twitter and that’s where I’ve connected with a lot with other writers. So, I’ve found that great.
My problem, my hazard, is ending up spending too much time on social media because I love it in the social sense, and I also love it because I’m a curious person. Not just a bit of a “curious person” but I’m actually curious! That’s one of the reasons I became a journalist in the first place, I think, I just love finding out about things and about people.
And I’ve found it really good to be able to go onto Twitter, for example, where people are often having writing conversations and I can be down the rabbit hole for hours looking at all of these different things. Now, there’s good things from that because I’ve learnt stuff that I wouldn’t have known any other way, but I can end up down there for too long and not be doing the other stuff that needs to be done.
So, I have that FOMO thing happening – fear of missing out – that can lead me there. I also have shiny object syndrome! A lot of stuff going on here!
But I need to work out how to protect my time and also my mental health because Twitter, particularly, which has been a great forum for writers, has become a bit toxic in the last five years. It’s become a much more cruel place. A lack of grace and forgiveness towards other people often being shown there. People piling on to attack. That didn’t used to happen when I was first on Twitter.
There’s a range of things here that I’m dealing with. We’re all dealing with different things, but I guess we all want the same thing. We want some good outcomes for a modest amount of effort and to be able to protect our time. Does that sound true?
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Alison Joy: Yes. I like poking around on social media but as you said it’s just so easy to go down the rabbit hole. It’s good to see what’s happening. What else is out there. But then you got to limit it. It’s basically you need a strategy where you can get in and get out, I guess.
Belinda Pollard: Yes. I think I probably have a bit of a problem with that in one sense because – and here’s my inner extrovert rabbiting on – but because when I meet with a person in person or if I have an intentional meeting with someone whether it’s in person or online, a lot of it’s online over the past year with the pandemic, but I don’t take a “get in and get out” approach. I take a “let’s connect and talk” approach.
Donita Bundy: But that’s different, Belinda. For me, completely different. A face to face, whether that’s a Zoom or in person, for me, I feel is completely different to social media. I totally agree about the connect when you’re having a Zoom, when you’re having a coffee, when you’re meeting personally like we’re meeting here on this particular Zoom, this is a connection and a get to know you. I find that that is a world away from social media. I agree with you 100% on that but for me social media and this kind of interaction are worlds apart.
Belinda Pollard: I think for me they’re not as far apart as they are for you. I think I have had some real genuine engagements on social media. For example, conversations that have moved off into private messaging when someone is going through a hard time. And those are people that I don’t know in any other way than on social media. Those types of conversations have happened for me on Instagram, they’ve happened on Twitter, they’ve happened on Facebook. So, I guess I see there is a potential for ministry.
Donita Bundy: Would you say the depth of that connection you have on social media, whether you know the person personally or not, is all dependent on how much you are prepared to reach out. It sounds like the more you’re prepared to reach out to the unknown is the more likelihood of you creating a connection which will then develop into that closer personal messaging and things like that. So, it possibly comes back down to your intent when you get on social media. Would you agree with that, do you think?
Belinda Pollard: Possibly. It may be that I just naturally attract these conversations. I really don’t know. I don’t know that I go to social media thinking: I’m going to have some deep conversations today.
Donita Bundy: What about you, Alison? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve gone on, and you’ve said you like to control that interaction and that’s one thing you like about social media, have you found yourself developing a strong connection with someone you haven’t met face to face through social media?
Alison Joy: No. No, I haven’t. Not at all. That’s because Belinda’s the extrovert so she would naturally be seeking those things whereas I wouldn’t be seeking them.
Sometimes in my personal people I follow on, say, Facebook or Instagram, I can learn about them from their posts so if I see them in person, I can have conversation starters because I’ve seen stuff that they’ve posted and I can ask them about things. So, for me, that’s a good conversation starter in that respect but actually engaging with somebody that I only know through social media, no, I haven’t. Not yet. No.
Donita Bundy: I’m wondering if that’s actually the basis of it. Whereas Alison and I sit further down the introverted line, when we come to social media, I don’t know about you, Alison, but I feel that I’m actually quite guarded because I don’t particularly want to be there so I’m only giving a certain amount of myself. So, here are some nice pictures and things like that.
Whereas Belinda, as you said, you work in an office by yourself, and you find that there’s that collegiate connection that you’re looking for. So, maybe that’s part of what we get out of social media is more in line with what we’re prepared to give to social media.
So, for me, it’s a chore and I’m lucky to create a couple of connections. I’ll say a few things on that person’s post and they’ll say it back to me but I’m not the kind of person that will look for those deep connections on social media. So, perhaps, that might be part of what’s behind whether we can connect as deeply or not.
Belinda Pollard: It’s interesting because when I think of most of the people that I’ve had these deeper connections with, I would think that 90% of them are introverts. So, that’s quite interesting.
I have a sense that the fact that we use it different ways is fine. I don’t think that you should be trying to use social media the way that I use it or that I should be trying to use it the way you use it.
Alison Joy: Or don’t use it!
Belinda Pollard: I think we need to be ourselves and to find a thing that works for us. I think that one of the things that has motivated me regarding social media is that I’ve made connections that have been both personally valuable to me and also valuable for my career. I have connected with people and we have collaborated on business projects or creative projects. I’ve been invited to speak at places because we’ve connected on social media. There’s been a whole bunch of those types of things. I’ve also built traffic to my blogs via sharing and having plugins that regularly share my blog posts on social media.
So, those have been things that have really motivated me to see the value in it and to look and explore for more opportunities. In 10 years on social media if I was getting nothing back from it, I wouldn’t have continued, and maybe the key is for each of us, whoever we are, our different personalities, the different things that God has called us to do, that we need to be praying about that and saying, “Lord, this opportunity exists but I don’t know what you want me to do with it.” Is it an opportunity for me or is it for someone else? Is it something that you want me to do something with? And if so, please show me what.”
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: I think the best way forward for all of us, including me trying to get off social media and not be on it too much.
Alison Joy: Donita, you’ve found some benefit from social media, haven’t you?
Donita Bundy: Yes, absolutely, because when I first started, as I’ve said before, I was given six months to create a website, start a blog, do public speaking, get a social media following and all the other things that I was required to do to get the support of an agent.
So, I went from no social media because I’ve come from a background where I was kind of hounded by people on social media when I worked in ministry and it got to the point where I was trying to get out of ministry because I had a newborn and a toddler and I couldn’t stay in ministry.
So, I was doing education online post-grad and so I could only study at night and I’d moved away from ministry and every time I got online and I went to look on Facebook, well-meaning, lovely people would just keep saying, “Oh, hi. How you going?” and, “What’s happening in church this week?” And I found that I couldn’t escape and I was burning out and so I associated Facebook with this constantly being hounded and I couldn’t get away and have a break, as an introvert, which I needed.
So, when I came into this and this agent said, “You’re going to have to get on and have social media,” I had panic attacks about getting back on but I really wanted to write and I saw this as a necessary thing. I started from scratch and I started building and pursuing Instagram because I loved taking photographs. As a result of that I don’t have a mega following, I didn’t get the agent, but my skills of photography have increased. And so, I also have been following and constantly learning but where I go is I do my own Google search. I don’t necessarily go online to find that information.
As a result, I’ve learnt a lot about Photoshop and all the Creative Cloud kind of stuff and as a result of that I’ve got some book cover design jobs. I was asked to do photography for a couple of websites and that’s been broadening. I do my own book covers and I’ve designed my own website and do all my own photography and all of that came about from needing to build a platform.
So, I don’t have heaps of followers. I stopped chasing numbers and I started just pursuing my love of photography which is why I’m on Instagram and I’m still on Instagram because I just love the photography.
So, I have had a great outcome and I have more confidence in people not attacking me on social media, well-meaning or not. I feel safe on social media. It’s just not something I enjoy pursuing. But absolutely, Alison, I’ve had some incredible outcomes and I really am grateful for what social media has provided me with in broadening my income potential and also my interests. I’ve developed a lot of that.
What about you? What sort of outcomes have you had from social media, Alison?
Alison Joy: I was just thinking, I haven’t had a great deal. I’m like you, I love photos and obviously do a lot of photography myself so I have had some photography jobs that have come about because people have seen what I’ve been posting on Facebook. But that, again, is my personal stuff not my author platform so it’s a different thing altogether.
My author platform is a lot different so I haven’t done as much with it as I probably should have and that’s something I need to work on. But it’s a matter of who are you going to be on this platform? What are you going post? How you’re going to present yourself. Even though I still said there’s not much difference, I not a totally Jekyll and Hyde. I’m not a totally different person.
Belinda Pollard: It’s a different version of you. Yes. It’s like the person that you are with your dog or cat versus the person you are if you went to visit the Queen versus the person you are at work. It’s all you but it’s just difference modalities of Alison.
Alison Joy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: I get that. Wow! There’s a lot going on here. There are some amazing opportunities out there, I think. I’m an optimist. I always think there’s something out there.
Donita Bundy: It’s about how we come to social media and what we’re looking for it to achieve. So, when I first started social media intentionally, my initial goal was to gain this huge following. I wasn’t really interested in gaining people and connections and new friends and whatever. My primary goal to get this agent, to write this book, was to get as many followers as possible and it was a chore and I hated it. But over time when I got the confidence to let go of that and just look at what social media could do for me, it changes the way that you see it and the way you come to it.
I’m still an introvert and I think the older I’m getting the more introverted I’m becoming. I live in the bush on the side of a mountain and so that says a lot! But I have enjoyed some of the possibilities that have come up because of it and I do enjoy being able to see some things but for me it’s very different. What I want out of social media will be very different to what you both are wanting.
So, yes, we do want to develop our platform. We do want people to see and be aware of what we’re doing but still, I think, we do that in a different way and I think we’re seeking different things and all of these things are fine. Like you’ve said, it’s about as we develop as wordsmiths and we develop in confidence in who we are and what our voice is and going to be and who our audience is. I think the secret is using social media as a tool and not being a slave to it.
For me, I know we’re all dealing with whether we don’t like it or do like it a bit too much as we’ve been talking about, it’s that discipline of, “It’s an important tool. I need to use it.” So, for me I’m going to make a point of being disciplined and sitting down for my 10 minutes a day or whatever and interacting and following people and speaking with them but it’s not the be all and end all and it’s not about numbers and it’s not about what I initially was told it was about.
It’s about me expressing myself and sharing my work and what I have to offer to a wider audience. And when I see it that way, it’s not so intimidating and it’s not quite so horrible but it’s still not at the top of my, “I can’t wait to get into that job,” list.
Belinda Pollard: I would think that for you, as an introvert, to be trying to make a million close friends it’s going to be too draining anyway. So, it’s not good. You’re not energised by that.
Donita Bundy: No.
Belinda Pollard: It’s not what you were designed for. It’s not what God built you for.
Donita Bundy: No.
Belinda Pollard: And he built each one of us. You were sharing with me this morning that the word you were thinking about was eclectic. He brings together this collection of very interesting and unique and different people and we’ve all got different abilities and different things, different strengths that we lean towards.
I’ve just been thinking about a couple of the things that you were talking about, Donita. The fact that that literary agent told you, you had to go out and build up a huge following on social media.
Now, I actually have questions about that in my own mind because I think that’s not necessarily the way that social media works. It’s much better to have a small, highly-engaged following is something that I’ve observed over the last few years particularly. A small highly engaged following is much more likely to build, to pay more attention when you publish a book, to go and buy the book and therefore raise it in the algorithms on Amazon etc where all the rest of your potential readership will find it because it’s raised in the search results.
So, that’s actually quite different to some of the things that I’m seeing authors being told. Now, some of our people listening out there on the podcast who are wanting to be traditionally published are going to have this pressure to build numbers and that is difficult. It’s difficult. But I would say that that idea of a smaller more engaged following has actually got more value.
I think for us as Gracewriters, for all of us as Gracewriters, being involved on social media in all our different forms that we write, all our different goals, all our different target readerships, our different ministries, I feel as though the thing that we need to be doing is actually being more intentional about social media instead of just going with it, going with the flow, doing what everybody says.
God knows social media. God knows the readers that He has for us out there or the other different connections, the collaborations that are out there for us. The opportunities that he wants to lead us towards to get His message, His gracenotes, into the hearts and minds of various different people.
Whether that’s millions or thousands or hundreds or tens, however many it is that He has for us. And I think one of the challenges that I’m going to set for myself is to pray, even if it’s just an arrow prayer, each time I log onto social media for the next week. And just say, “God, what is it that you want me to do on here. Who is it that you want me to connect with or who do you want to connect with me? Open the right doors. Close the wrong ones. Keep us focused on you.”
Sound like a challenge that you might like to try, as well.
Donita Bundy: Yes. It won’t be too long a prayer because it’ll go longer than the time I’m actually on social media! But I’d much rather just sit and pray than get on social media. But, yes, it’s a challenge and one worth taking. Not only discipline in praying how long we’re on there, short or long, but how we interact and who we interact with is also something that we should be considering. Absolutely.
Belinda Pollard: Any last thoughts, Alison?
Alison Joy: Yes. You’ve just got to find your own way and what works for Belinda and what works for Donita may not work for me. I think it’s quality over quantity in terms of how you interact, how often you interact, who you interact with. You’re just going to have to muddle around until you find what works for you. That’s the same in everything, in every aspect of this journey that we’re all on for writing. It’s just another thing that we should be doing and it’s just figuring out how to make it work for us.
Belinda Pollard: Creative muddling, quality over quantity and God’s purposes and direction in whatever it is that we do.
How about I pray for the Gracewriters and for us.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the opportunities that are presented by social media. We thank you that you have a plan and you have ways that you can use these particular platforms and possibilities for your purposes and for your glory. And we pray that you will guide us, each one of us. Help us to be more intentional, to be open to your leading and to be more at peace about this stuff. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thank you, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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