• Emily Lackey
  • The Art of Submission: How to Make Social Media Work for You
The Art of Submission: How to Make Social Media Work for You
Written by
Emily Lackey
July 2015
Written by
Emily Lackey
July 2015

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the things in my life that bring me joy. Consider it an aftereffect of all of this talk about The Life-Changing Power of Tidying Up. I haven’t read it, but I have had it explained to me, which may as well be the same thing when it comes to a book about cleaning, because, really, who wants to read 200+ pages of that?


Not me.


Still, it seems very much in line with a lot of what anyone who has spent more than six months in therapy will recognize as a thorough dose of self-care, something we should ask about everything in our lives: Is this thing bringing me joy?


The other day I had a morning full of joy. I went to a coffee shop in town. I did a little work. I made a friend. I wrote five hundred words. I read. I workshopped a friend’s story. And somewhere in all of this I started to come alive again.


Oh, this again. This life that I love. There you are. Nice to see you again.


And then, in the afternoon, I went onto Facebook and saw that a friend had been published, saw the outpouring of support for and shares of her work, saw the praise and congratulations, and instead of being happy, I thought about every single time I haven’t felt supported in the same way.


As if likes and shares have become the way I receive love these days.


I’m a narcissistic jerk, I know.


And then I spiraled. I wormholed my way through a countless number of famous authors’ Facebook pages and took everything that they had accomplished and saw it as everything I hadn’t.


All of this from a Facebook post. All of this from this social media thing that is supposed to connect us and help us to support each other. This is fucked up, I thought, and then spent the next twelve hours trying to come up with any kind of joy that Facebook brings to my life. I polled my friends. I texted my fellow writers. And do you know what they all said?




“Do it.”


“It’s bullshit anyway.”


No one could come up with one good reason to stay. And so I did it. Reader, I quit Facebook. I deleted the account that I have cultivated since I was a sophomore in college, before there were pictures or walls or anything other than who you were and where you went to school. And then I went to Twitter and unfollowed over a hundred journals and websites and authors who have only make me feel like shit about how little I am writing, how infrequently I am submitting, how few residencies I’m attending.


And do you know what happened? My Twitter feed turned readable. My morning isn’t spent lost on links that I don’t want to read and updates that make me feel like I’m not ever going to be enough. Now, I read through 24 hours of tweets in a few minutes. Now, I see what my friends are tweeting. Now, I look at the house in Salem, MA that Elizabeth McCracken wants to buy not because I feel like I should but because I love Elizabeth McCracken and real estate.


By paring my social media down to people I actually wanted to hear from, I have been able to participate more.


It feels very much like a closet that I’ve cleaned out, putting the size six jeans I’ve been holding onto since college and the pencil skirts I’ve never worn and the high heels that hurt my feet into a bag for Goodwill. I am finally able to find things that fit again.


Oh, hello, basic white T-shirt and boyfriend jeans. Hello, maroon flats I forgot about until now. Hello, nude bras that I don’t fall halfway out of.




Nice to see you again. 

Let's be friends

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  • M Hakikah Shamsiden

    It was only in cleaning out my inbox that I found this gem.  I too have pared down my twitter and Facebook accounts. Now the benefits of both are there to see because my page isn't cluttered with ads and links I'll never read. I can finally see Isabelle Allende and Junot Diaz' pages.  People I'm genuinely interested in can now be seen on my feed. I am not leaving social media.  Just disconnecting all the noise on the line. 

  • Jane Hanser

    I have never and will never have a FaceBook account. Privacy issues alone are enough to frighten me and say "HALT." There are plenty of social media sites, and then there's just plain conservative blogging, of which I love WordPress.com because bloggers can easily reblog other posts they find of interest, and if my book, loved as it is, isn't going to become the overnight sensation without FB, I am certain it isn't going to be the overnight sensation with FB.

    Jane Hanser

  • Dana Alexander Writing

    Very well said, Zetta!  Thank you.

  • Zetta Brown

    For the last several years, authors have been inundated with articles, seminars, blog posts, etc. saying "If you're a real-true-serious-professional author, you must do A-B-C-X-Y-Z."

    I have heard authors say, "If you're not on Facebook, you're not a real author."

    Really? There were authors before Facebook existed and will be should Facebook cease to exist, which is probably unlikely.

    Now that time has passed and thousands of writers have done A-B-C-X-Y-Z, many have come to analyze their results and discover that A-B-C-X-Y-Z does NOT work for them, but perhaps A-C-Z does or only X does.

    I don't see the point in criticizing someone's personal reason to stop using a certain social network or how they alter it to suit their needs or why they won't use it at all. To me it comes across as shaming someone for not doing what everyone else is "supposed" to be doing.

    Emily's personal experience simply provides another perspective to all the hype. Others will feel the same way she does, others won't, some will fall in the middle.

    To each, her own.

  • Juliana Lightle

    Kelly, exactly my sentiments on this topic.  Thanks for posting this.  

  • Wow, this post generated so much negativity.  In the 30+ years I've been networking, I've learned one thing:  I get out what I put in.  

    If I avoided all interactions that led me to feeling inadequate (Emily's reason for leaving Facebook), I'd be living on an off-the-grid mountaintop somewhere!  Yes, of course, news of friends' published books make me confront that mine isn't even finished yet, but that's not their fault -- and it's not the fault of the avenue from where I learn that news (whether it be from Facebook, someone's blog, an email blast or a carrier pigeon -- the messenger is not the culprit).

    I'm all for simplifying.  And I'm all for figuring out which tools work for me.  I give myself permission not to use them all if I can't figure them out.  And I give myself permission not to figure them out.  But, we live in an extraordinary age where we can connect to a vast number of people who are hungry for what we have to offer.  I'm not throwing away a tool because I can't find it in me that day to celebrate a friend's or an acquaintance's success.  

    Emily could have just as easily gone on FB that contented afternoon and rejoiced at her friend's success -- and imagine herself in that place.  She could have perused her favorite authors' FB pages and learned what they did to engage with their readers.  She could have gotten excited and inspired.  She could have chosen to feed her soul.  She could have chosen to use FB (or any other "messenger") to ask for the support she needs, or to provide the kind of support she'd like to receive -- or to engage honestly and sincerely with fellow writers who at some point have more likely than not felt exactly as she did.

    On the other hand, she did make her Twitter interactions work for her, demonstrating that it's not the messenger, it's the person interpreting the messages.

    I love SheWrites because I learn how to make these new tools work for me.  Looking forward to more posts like that!

    Kelly Hayes-Raitt

    Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq! ...And a pre-publication discount!
  • Kristen Caven

    I am ready to do this... to clean out my friends. I am ready to go back to my OWN definition of Friend, and keep those people in my stream. I like having the second category of "people I barely know except on Facebook," because people are different on FB, but in general I will stick to my rule of "have I ever seen your actual face?" and "have I seen you in person in the past year?"

  • Gerry Miller

    My daughter just made the same decision about FB. She recently graduated with her MSW (at age 50) and she also cleaned out her closet!  I shared your blog with her and I want to continue to read your posts here at She Writes!

  • Marcia Riley

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Pamela.  I was told that twitter is a "MUST USE" for authors...(sigh)  I'm still struggling to learn FB and LinkedIn, so adding another social media task was not on the priority list.

    Connected by the written word,

    Marcia/USA-Atlanta, GA

  • Piper McDermot

    An excellent post, thank you!  Your reasoning, the need to create an environment that serves you best as a human being first rather than just the persona of 'writer', makes complete sense.  I'm at a different stage, though - I've barely stepped onto the submissions treadmill, and have yet to publish anything, so for me the much-touted lore of 'build a platform' still holds some power over my choices when it comes to social media.

    What I have found is that on Facebook I only intereact on a regular basis with members of two or three writers' groups where there has been real and connection, and where we can talk about more than just our books, or (their) successes. I hear you about the celebratory post, though - I do get that feeling occasionally! But for now, it's okay - I'm trying to learn from those people and see what's working or not working for them.  There is often talk there - complaining, really - about how FB only shows your posts to a limited number of people.  Excellent, I say - because this mysterious FB algorithm learns to show me the posts of people I have had 'real' interaction with, so I can focus my time and attention on them.  I can see the day coming soon, however, when my friends-closet is going to experience a major tidy-up - and no more 'friends' without some direct interaction first!

    Twitter...even more in need of an urgent  spring-clean.  My live feed has become a nightmare. I guess social media has become something of a necessary evil - we're told we must have it, and use it, but I think your post proves that there comes a time when we must shape it, and definitel prune it, to our own needs, rather than being sucked into the bottomless pit pit of posts and all our fellow pit-dwellers screaming louder and louder to be heard above the noise.

  • Crystal Mary Lindsey

    I think as a young person - all should be out working, studying, improving themselves, socialising with family and friends and enjoying life... and remembering the creator who gave to the choices to do what you do. Life can be negative, but its how you look at it. Being thankful for all things is what makes you plow on and make something of yourself. I speak from experience. I didn't get a chance when I was young. Then at fifty I turned my life around by getting an education and improving my lot. Many people have done better than me, but I don't care about that, and I am happy for them. I have done my best and I have been an example, that its not what or where you come from that counts, but where you are going. FB is great for those who are home-fast and have no life.  

  • Mary Kennedy Eastham

    I was going through some tough stuff so  I got off FB last year around Christmas. I don't miss it at all. I'm actually living my life, no posts to show-off the great times I'm having and no more in-my-face 'like me like-me like=me' stuff for others.My writing is soaring. I'm almost finished with my third book, I'm writing Guest blog posts regularly and just more at peace in the world. FB is not real. Friends are people who stick by you through EVERYTHING they're not strangers on a social media site. I feel sad for the 20-smoethings. They're ruled by devices - I swear they have sex while still being on their iPhones!!! Live life in the moment with the ones you love. Thats what will make you feel most fulfilled in the end...

  • Dana Alexander Writing

    Excellent reply/post Pamela!  :)

  • S. Ramos O\'Briant

    I joined FB because a couple of friends with whom I no longer speak said it was fun. When my book came out in '12 FB and Twitter became primary targets. My first friend selection were writers from Zoetrope whom I'd met online in short story forums there. Many of them have also had novels, chapbooks, ss collections published. They accepted my friend request but our contact has been limited. However, the support and response I got from fans of my novel has been very good and I number some of them as friends I've never met. It's a new world. Twitter, on the other hand, is harder for me to evaluate. I don't spend a lot of time there and I've never had a personal exchange w/anyone.

  • diedre Knight

    This was so refreshing! It's wonderful to know that I am not such an outcast for being so choosy (or shy). I keep only a smattering of friends (mostly family) on facebook and diligently work on my blog because "it's the thing to do".  And I still manage to feel like I'm walking a rickety wooden bridge to where everyone else has gone. What if I don't like it there? What if the place I have in mind is better? Back off that old bridge, that's what! Just as you have done, Emily. Bravo!

  • Lisa Thomson

    Great point of view, Emily. Thanks for sharing this! I hardly go on facebook except for my book fan page (which is really enjoyable) but I get this. I GET it and I love your comparison of social media clean up to cleaning out your closet. Fantastic reminder about keeping only what brings us joy :)

  • Dana Alexander Writing

    I LOVE this post, Emily!  And I second Ms. Kelli McCracken's reply.  I waited so long to join Facebook because something about it felt toxic.  But because that is the road we, as authors, are advised to take to develop our "platform", I did.  I had decided I would post positive, funny, or inspiring posts. I wouldn't allow myself to get dragged down by the large number of negative posts and the many unhappy people on FB.  I made a handful of true "friends", and for that Facebook was a good thing.  Yet none of that makes up for the time suck that FB is that pulls me away from writing, my family - the real values in life. All the time, effort, and some money that went into Facebook certainly has not contributed to more book sales, for sure. For me, it turned out to be nothing more than hype - "Do this because it's what you need to do to succeed."  No, it isn't.  In fact, I've had more success and serious interest from people on LinkedIn (including a supportive comment to me on this subject from a managing editor with Haymarket media) and more positive experiences on Twitter.  To the point made by the publishers that social media is necessary for success, I agree it helps your visibility.  But it's how one chooses to use social media and where to put the investment that pays off.  On that note, I too have considered deleting my FB account.  Instead, I decided to control how much time I spend on FB - maybe once a week, and put my efforts where I've seen success from it.  I commend you, as others here have done, for doing what feels best for you. I wouldn't be surprised if you heard others saying they had followed your choice to do the same.

  • Pamela Risdon

    Thanks Emily for your post. I'll go one further, quit your twitter feed too. You don't need it. If you want to know what people are up to, send them an email. What's wrong with the phone? Or is it that we can't dedicate the time to connect anymore other than a short sentence of praise or acknowledgment through these social media sources? We've all drank the cool aide. It's exactly what the organizers at FB and Twitter want from us, to be so dependent and needy of what they have to offer that we don't feel confident enough to maintain relationships without them.

    I understand some folks have family or friends across the world and I'll take exception to those folks. But for the day in day out activity of reaching out, there's got to be a better way. Esp. if your sensitive to the grandiose outpouring of other peoples accolades. I quit for a few reasons. One being that the founder of FB started this entire monster from the negative energy and maniacal need to burn an-ex girlfriend who dumped him. I just personally feel there's so many other things we all can be doing to better our lives, connect with our loved ones, or just nurture our creativity than staring at a screen of avatars and their so called lusty lives.

  • Diana Blair Revell

    The definitive test is to ask (and answer): Does this feed me and help me along my journey? Participating in social media is definitely a uniquely personal choice. 

  • Kelli McCracken

    While I haven't quit Facebook, I do a regular cleansing of my friend's list. I highly recommend it. I used to add any author that sent a friend request, but I've found that many are playing the 'numbers' game to grow their social media accounts. I'm more interested in getting to know other authors, not increase my numbers. I've become extremely selective in which friend requests I approve (quality over quantity). I understand where you are coming from in regards to logging on and seeing everyone else's success. As writers, we're hardest on ourselves, so when we're not succeeding as much as our peers, it's easy to think we're failures. Not true. You know the old adage 'you only fail if you quit'. Each of us grow and create differently. I remind myself of this when I feel down. My advice to any author is not to let the success of others make you bitter. Believe me, I've been down that road, and it nearly made me quit writing. Then I realized that no one could make me feel bad about myself or my choices without my permission. I keep myself busy enough with writing projects, graphics, etc, that I don't go on Facebook as often, but I do sign on and keep posting. I applaud you, not for quitting Facebook, but for doing what's best for you.

  • Sue Y Wang

    Love it. A good purging. I was just schooling my teenager who woke up with a Gameboy in his hand (not kidding) on how much video games eats up his waking moments. Facebook and other social media does the same thing. I would sit down intending to check out a few things, and hours can go by. It's like a brain/time-eating virus. I do like keeping touch with old friends though. For me it's cutting back 50% -I think that's my strategy. Thank you for this.

  • Emily Lackey

    "...you're seeing less of what you'd like to see and more of what they think you should."

    Great point, Zetta! I always forget about that when I'm reading the feed. 

  • Joan Z. Rough

    I'm not the biggest social media lover in the world.  I can find it a time suck and often boring. I've often thought of quitting Facebook and Twitter but whenever I get ready to do so, I come across something inspiring and decide to hang on for just a bit longer.  

    Looking  for support outside of ourselves is difficult enough without trying to milk it from social media.  It always feels nice to have someone tell us we're doing a great job, but we also need to know deep down inside that we are enough and that should Facebook or Twitter close down tomorrow, we'll live without it. There are benefits to be reaped from social media if we look beyond the need to gather support so that we can feel good about ourselves. Keeping in touch with family and friends, learning something new about the way the world operates, and becoming aware of how we can help to keep our world working to everyone's advantage are but a few.  

  • Emily Lackey

    Kelly, I'm so glad Facebook has provided such amazing nourishment in your life, your career, and your travels! All those opportunities sound absolutely incredible!

    I think it's like most things in life, and that is completely individual. For me—someone who doesn't have a book to sell, is still largely in the generative stages of her writing career, and has a hearty little group of writer friends who keep in touch via email and phone—it was definitely the right move for me. 

  • Emily Lackey

    Laura, I love this: "Amazing how much authenticity and inner authority rise to the surface when there isn't a constant barrage of external comparisons." YES, YES, YES. I feel the same every time I unplug.