I’m hardly the first person to have had the idea: I’m going to shut down my Twitter account.
I’m probably not the first to have decided to delete Facebook, Foursquare, Blippy, Google Buzz, LinkedIn or Delicious either. I may be the only person this year to have deleted my Friendfeed account, but only because I’m probably the only person this year to remember that he has a Friendfeed account.
No, I would hardly be the first person to decide to embark on a Social Shutdown (as Blippy’s Philip Kaplan termed it) having grown tired of the relentless look-at-me-ism of the Status Update Generation. And I wouldn’t be the first to realise that there’s more to life than feeding the insatiable blood-eating plant of social media – imagine Audrey II in Little Shop Of Horrors – just to keep the fifteen people who care appraised of my every move.
But that’s not why I’m doing it. Quite the opposite in fact: I may be the first person to decide to close down most of my social media accounts for purely narcissistic reasons.
Well. This might be news to people who only know me via Twitter, or who assume I write these columns just for the good of my health – but I actually get paid to do this shit. Specifically, I get paid no small amount of money to write about myself: or about technology, or whatever takes my fancy, as seen through the lens of my own experiences. Twice a week I do this for TechCrunch. Less regularly I do it for my publisher: my second memoir-style book, about my adventures living in hotels, will be published in a couple of months.
Narcissism, then, is my stock in trade. The moment people stop being interested in what I do, or what I think about things, then I have no career.
For that reason, I have embraced social media wholeheartedly. I’ve looked at bona fide celebrities of the age – Lady Gaga, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber – and I’ve admired how they used Twitter and Facebook and Myspace and the rest to connect directly with the people who buy their music, their DVD’s, their whatever it is Justin Bieber produces. I’ve understood that if I want to build – and keep – an audience, then I have to do the same. I have to tweet every meal, photograph every date, create a fanpage on Facebook (actually, I could never quite bring myself to do that one) and I even have to share my credit card purchases on Blippy.
My publisher understood this too: as I was finishing my last book, they sent me a cheque to encourage me to bulk out my blog and create a social media strategy: safe in the knowledge that any increased awareness of my life would, by extension, lead to increased awareness of my book. It sort-of worked too: it was the blog that got me my most recent gig at the Guardian, which in turn lead to me writing for TechCrunch, where I take obvious delight in plugging the book at every possible juncture. Score one for social media.
As I shared more, though, I started to notice a funny thing happening. Rather than people becoming more fascinated by my life; the exact opposite occurred. “I loved your book, so I started following you on Twitter” people would tell me at parties. And then their expression would change: “your real life isn’t as interesting as you sound in print.”
“No shit”, I’d feel like replying. That last book took me a year to write and spanned almost ten years of my life, distilled down into just shy of 300 pages. Included were the drunken fuck-ups, the disastrous relationships, the business failures, the nights in prison cells, but consciously edited out were the boring parts: what I had for dinner on any given day, the uneventful dates, the minor successes and occasional parking tickets.
Whatever the excuse, though, the result is the same: people who enjoy my day-job writing are inevitably disappointed by the humdrum reality of my actual life, as laid bare by social media.
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