Tag Archives: Social Media

We Need More Response Posts

Woman sitting on edge of white concrete stairs and looking at her laptop.I started blogging back in the early 2000s when most of the bloggers I knew used Blogspot. One of the things I miss the most from that era are response posts.

If you don’t know what a response post is, here’s an example of how this sort of thing works.

Finley: Here are seven reasons why Picard is the best Star Trek captain of them all. 

Rory: The other day I read Finley’s post about why Picard is the best Star Trek captain of them all. Here’s a link to their post for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. While I agree with most of their points, today I wanted to talk about why Captain Sisqo was an even better example of top-notch Star Trek leadership. 

That is, Rory noticed something in Finley’s original post that made them decide to write a response to it in order to dig more deeply into the topic of which Star Trek captain is the best of them all or to explain where their opinion differed from what Finley thinks about that universe.

Just like WordPress today, some blogging platforms back then had notification systems that would let the original blogger(s) know someone had linked to their work. Other bloggers could read both of these posts and then write their own replies about which captain they thought was the best. Sometimes this sparked conversations that lasted for weeks or months and took place over many different sites as new people added in their opinions and the original participants replied again to clarify their point of view or ask a question.

I’ve seen echoes of this phenomenon on occasional Tumblr posts, but I’m not seeing it happen in the blogosphere much at all these days. If someone strongly agrees or disagrees with a post, they tend to create Twitter threads or leave a comment instead. 

Comment sections and Twitter threads are fun, but I prefer blog posts for discussions like these for a few different reasons.

Longevity

 It’s been my experience that responses last longer and are easier to find if they’re turned into a blog post. Few people scroll months or years back into someone else’s Twitter stream, and I’ve had experiences in the past where old comments on my various blogs disappeared with site updates. 

Blog posts have a way of sticking around on the Internet for years after their publication date. Occasionally, I still find references to posts that went “viral” in the blogosphere many years ago.

In addition, one of the first things I do when I discover a new blog is to poke around their archives and see what they were talking about months or years ago. There can be posts there that I’ll then share with the people I know who are interested in comparing Star Trek captains, for example.

More In-Depth Discussions

There are many things I appreciate about social media, but it’s hard to fit complex ideas or discussions into a few 280-character tweets. The beautiful thing about the blogosphere is how much more room there is in a blog post to add subtley to your point of view. 

A tweet might only have room to mention one or two things you loved about Jean Luc Picard. In a blog post, you could mention everything you admired about him, compare it to the strengths and weaknesses of other captains, and respond to someone who had complained earlier about how silly is it for him to specify every single time that he wants his Earl Grey tea to be hot when that’s something that the replicators on the Enterprise really should be able to assume based on that captain’s long history of drinking hot tea.

Any Trekkie who stumbled across this hypothetical response post could share it on social media and ignite an entirely new round of discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of all of the Star Trek captains.

Community Building

Image of legs of people standing in a circle and pointing their toes to each other. Yes, communities can and absolutely do exist on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites.

One of the biggest differences between building an online community on social media and in the blogosphere lies in how easy it is to keep up with everyone. I’ll take a step back from my Star Trek analogy for a moment to discuss something serious that actually happened in one of my social circles recently.

Without giving away too many identifying details, a friend of mine recently went through something difficult. They talked about it on social media, but because of the time of day they shared them as well as some of the silly marketing gimmicks on that site I – along with many other friends of theirs – never saw their updates. 

It wasn’t until they shared another status update talking about how lonely they felt that most of us realized something was wrong. Had this been a blog post on my RSS feed instead, I would have seen and responded to it within a day or so of it being published. 

I Want to Write More Response Posts

As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.” While that phrase was originally coined to describe far more pressing issues than this one, I think I’m going to start shuffling my editorial calendar around on this blog a bit to allow for occasional response posts.

Maybe they’ll come back into fashion again if more bloggers realize just how useful they can be. If you write something thought-provoking, your post just might be the one I pick! 

For those of you who have experience with them, what do you think of response posts? Are you also interested in bringing this style of blog post back? 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books I Discovered on Social Media

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

This week’s prompt had me doing some digging! The books I’m about to talk about come from many genres because I hang out with all sorts of writers. I discovered all of these books on Twitter, and I follow and interact with all of the authors often there.

I could have easily made this list much longer, but I tried to keep it short and sweet with a representative sample of books six of my buddies have written. A lot of them are Indie reads, so it’s great to give them more exposure.

Storytellers: A Novel by Bjørn Larssen.

I mentioned this friend of mine in a previous Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge post. He recently released a historical novel about a man who rescues an injured stranger and, as a result of that decision, slowly begins to uncover all sorts of secrets in his community.

I’ve really been enjoying the tiny bit of this book I’ve read so far, but everything I want to say about it might give you all spoilers. There is so much more going on in the plot than what the blurb reveals…in a good way!

The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews.

Mimi is a lovely person. It’s always interesting to read her tweets and blog posts about her new historical romances, although I must confess that I haven’t had the time to read any of them quite yet.

How to Best Optimize Blog Posts for SEO by Rachel Thompson

Search engine optimization is something I’ve been trying to get better at this year. This has been quite the informative little booklet so far.

The Lady of Dawnzantium: A Trace & Mikhail Story by Berthold Gambrel

Technically, this is a short story instead of a novel. It’s a humorous take on the sci-fi trope of exploring a faraway planet and discovering an alien there. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

The Letters by Satya Robyn.

This is another book written by a friend that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. I will be changing that soon! The story is about a woman who moves to a new home after a divorce and begins to receive some unusual letters from a young, pregnant woman that had been written fifty years previously. It seems to be a blend of women’s fiction and a mystery. Those two genres are always interesting to mix together.

Duality: Poems, Essays, and Reflections by Shykia Bell.

I snapped up a copy of this collection of poems and essays less than twelve hours ago. I can’t wait to read it!

Blogging Advice: Social Media and Networking

This is the fourth instalment of the series on blogging that  Ruth Feiertag asked me to write late last year. Scroll to the bottom of this post to read about how to begin a blog, how to brainstorm ideas for it, and where to find visual images that won’t violate any copyright laws.

Now that you’ve gotten your site set up and have some posts published on it, how do you find readers?

Today I’m going to be discussing some strategies for attracting new those readers, connecting with likeminded fellow bloggers, and getting the word out about your site that I’ve found useful.

It all begins with how you behave online and what kind of reputation you’ve built up. The Internet can feel like an anonymous and impossibly large place sometimes, but it’s been my experience that word can travel very quickly about how someone behaves on it. Anything you write or share as an update could go viral at a moment’s notice, so be mindful of that when you’re deciding how to present yourself online just like you do in real life.

Play the Long Game

None of the tips I’m sharing today are going to turn you into a fabulously wealthy, world-renown blogger or writer overnight. It takes time and effort to build up a loyal following, and no one is guaranteed success in three easy steps or anything like that. Just like many other things in life, there is no shortcut here. Anyone who tells you otherwise may very well be trying to sell you something.

Be Generous

No matter what strategies you decide to use to hopefully attract new readers to your site, be generous with your time and attention when you stumble across things that resonate with you.

For example, if I read a blog post that I really love, I’m going to leave a comment on it telling the blogger how much I appreciated that post if their site allows comments. I will probably tweet or retweet it, and I might even send links to it to a few friends or relatives who are interested in the topic it discusses if they’re not on Twitter.

Not every post I like receives all of these different types of attention, of course, but I do regularly promote the things that bring me joy without any expectation of reciprocation.

In my experience, people can tell the difference between you sharing something because you feel obligated to update your feed X number of times a day (and are hoping to get similar signal boosts from others yourself) and you sharing something that you genuinely loved without attaching any strings to it.

Be the second kind of person online. Speaking of social media…

Social Media

No, you don’t have simultaneously maintain Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Youtube, Tumblr, Reddit, and Instagram accounts. The thought of that is exhausting!

Pick one or two of them instead, and focus on getting to know those sites as well as possible. Ideally, they should be places where you and people you know already spend time.

The culture of a (generally) anonymous, teen and twenty-something site like Reddit is completely different from somewhere like Facebook where the audience tends to be older and everyone is expected to use their real name. I can’t tell you which social media site(s) to choose. So much depends on what you’re writing about and where your audience is located.

What I can tell you is that Twitter is what works best for me. The hashtags on that site make it easy to connect with potential friends who are also into underwater basket weaving (or whatever your passions are in life), and I enjoy the fast-paced conversations that happen there.

Once you’ve chosen a site or two to follow, begin sharing updates about your life. I like to see at least two-thirds of the tweets I read from any given account be non-promotional in nature. That is, don’t endlessly tweet links to your website, book, or product. Instead:

  • Tell a funny story about something that happened to you recently
  • Ask a thought-provoking question and discuss it with anyone who responds
  • Reply to other people’s status updates
  • Share a quote, picture, or meme
  • Talk about something you’re struggling with (or doing well at)

In short, treat social media like a dinner party, not a sales pitch. Of course you can and should occasionally share links to your site, but those updates should be the garnish instead of the main course. I generally tend to mute or unfollow people whose accounts feel like never-ending advertisements.

How Often to Tweet

Some of the people I follow on Twitter post new tweets multiple times an hour from morning to night. Others might pop in once a week, once a month, or less.

In general, I think it’s best to tweet at least one new, non-promotional thing every day if you can. For example, your tweets for a week might look something like this:

  • Monday: Post a link to your new blog post for #MondayBlogs* and retweet other participants, too.
  • Tuesday: Ask your followers an open-ended question and reply to their responses.
  • Wednesday: Tell an amusing story about your dog running around in the backyard and trying to catch falling snowflakes during that big snowstorm last night. You’ll get bonus points from all of the animal lovers if you include a picture, too!
  • Thursday: Share a thought-provoking quote.
  • Friday: Talk about one of your hobbies or interests, especially if it’s somehow related to your blog’s subject matter.
  • Saturday: Grab a post from your archives and share it on #ArchiveDay.*
  • Sunday: Start a conversation with your followers about how everyone’s weekends went. Did you or they do anything interesting during it?

*I’ll talk more about these hashtags in the next section of this post.

Any retweets you want to share can be interspersed between these snapshots of your everyday life.

This doesn’t mean that you should spend twelve hours a day on social media. I know many people who set strict limits on how long they spend on Twitter and similar sites. After their 10 or 15 (or fill-in-the-blank) minutes are up for social media time, they close those windows or apps and get back to writing and other work.

One of the downsides of social media is that individual tweets tend to only attract an audience for a short period of time. By tweeting and retweeting regularly, you’ll begin to build rapport with the other people you meet there as they see you pop up over and over again on their timelines.

How to find new people to follow on Twitter might be worthy of its own post, so I won’t say anything else about it today.

Recurring Hashtags to Follow

Some of the hashtags I use are meant to be tweeted only on specific days of the week. If you’re able to spend a bit more time on Twitter sometimes, I’d recommend checking out one or more of the following hashtags.

#MondayBlogs

Rachel Thompson created this hashtag in 2012. Use this hashtag to share links to your blog posts on Mondays. You can use a current post or something from your archives, just don’t share anything that is pornographic or a promotion for your books. Be sure to retweet other participants as well!  Click on the link above for more information about this hashtag and the woman who came up with it.

#ArchiveDay

I believe that #ArchiveDay was originally created in late 2010 or early 2011 by Rosh Sillars so that he and other bloggers could share links from their archives and attract new readers. It wasn’t associated with any particular day in the beginning so far as I’ve been able to determine, but  for the past few years it has become a Saturday tradition for many of us. This is the least well-known hashtag I’m sharing today, but I love the idea of digging through your old posts and introducing them to new audiences. I hope it will become more popular in the future.

#SundayBlogShare

This hashtag was created in 2014 by Suzie81. As of April 2018, she is no longer participating in it, but I still see people using it to share old and new posts every Sunday. To the best of my knowledge, any posts that don’t include pornographic content are welcomed to be tagged with this hashtag.

If you only have time for one of these events, I’d recommend going with #MondayBlogs due to it’s large, active, and diverse population. Definitely don’t feel obliged to participate in all three of these hashtags every week unless you truly want to.

Leave Relevant Comments on Other Sites (and Allow Comments on Your Own)

Let’s say that last week you wrote a post about how to keep sharks from getting tangled up in your underwater basket weaving supplies. Today you noticed someone on Twitter sharing a post on their struggles with the same problem. You love their writing style and really want to connect with them.

This is the perfect opportunity to comment on their post to discuss what worked for you and, if their comment system allows for it, share a link to your post on the topic.

Relevant is the key word here. I definitely don’t share links to my blog posts in the body of every single comment I leave. In fact, most of the time my responses have nothing at all to do with what’s on my site and everything to do with reacting to whatever it is the other person is blogging about that day.

Many bloggers appreciate comments, especially when they know that you’re genuinely interested in who they are and what they’re talking about. If they’re interested in learning more about who you are, they’ll click on the website link that’s included in most commenting systems.

By allowing comments on your site, you’ll give your readers a chance to do the same for you.

Linkup Parties

A Linkup Party is a special type of blog post that is created specifically for people to leave links to their sites in the bodies of their comments. Some of them have specific themes (e.g. share a link to something you wrote on the topic of history, or it might be a linkup for LGBT+ bloggers only). Others are open to all participants.

Generally, the host will ask you to give a brief summary of your site, share a link to a post, and then visit other posts in the comment section of that post. Be sure to follow any additional instructions they give you and check out the other sites, too. You might find some that are right up your alley!

Blog Hops

Finally, we come to blog hops. A blog hop is a weekly prompt that a group of bloggers all write posts about. The site that created the blog hop will provide a space for you to share a link to your response and click on links to the responses of other participants as well.

If you can think of a topic, there is almost certainly a blog hop for it somewhere. That directory I just linked to is just one of many out there.

Top Ten Tuesday and the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge are the two I participate it. They’ve brought quite a few new readers to my site over the last month or so since I first began doing them.

How many of these strategies have you tried? Ruth and anyone else who would like to chime in, what other questions do you have about blogging?

Additional reading:

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Blogging Advice: Finding and Using Visual Images for Your Site

Not Everything Deserves a Response

There have been references to the argumentative nature of the Internet for as long as I’ve been aware of such a thing, much less an active participant in it.

Without giving away my age, I was around back when people got into never-ending arguments on message boards about topics that ranged from the serious to the downright silly.

For those of you who don’t remember those halcyon days,  message board discussions sometimes went something like this:

 

Thread title: Dogs Are Great

Anne: Here’s a humorous story about my dog not realizing that it’s Daylight Savings Time and waking me up an hour early for breakfast. I really wanted to sleep in, but he was so excited to spend time with me that I ended up getting out of bed early. Aren’t dogs the best?

Bernard: Oh, so you must hate cats then.

Anne: Wait, what?

Bernard: Obviously, everyone who loves dogs also hates cats. If you didn’t feel that way, you would have included cats in the beginning of this thread since they also like to ignore Daylight Savings Time.

Charlie: Yeah, what Bernard said. You really should have thought this rude thread through before posting it for these fourteen reasons that I will now list in exhaustive detail.

Diego: Well, I agree with Anne. Cats are the worst pets that have ever existed for these fifteen rebuttals to Charlie that I’ll now list in exhaustive detail.

Anne: ………..

Depending on how Anne responded once she realized that her innocuous thread about the joys of dogs had immediately been hijacked to argue about whether dogs or cats are the superior pet, this thread could go on for multiple pages and many days.

It didn’t matter what the original purpose of the message board was. I saw it play out on every one I ever visited. Maybe these kinds of arguments are an inescapable part of human nature in general.

At any rate, this pattern of behaviour carried over to social media as soon as such a thing existed. It’s shown no sign of of stopping since then.

No, this isn’t going to be a rant against social media or the Internet in general. Like many other tools, they can be used in all sorts of constructive or destructive ways depending on the intentions of the person behind the screen.

What I did want to talk about today is why not responding is sometimes the best possible thing you can do when someone online – or offline, for that matter – is determined to argue with you no matter what you say or do.

It Takes Two to Argue

I was originally going say that it’s impossible to argue with yourself, but I have seen a few examples of people so determined to win a debate that the lack of an opponent doesn’t do much to stop them.

Still, most arguments require at least two people to sustain them. If one person simply refuses to play the game, it becomes much more difficult for the other one to keep pressing their points. I don’t personally find any fulfillment in debating, but I’ve noticed that many people who do get a thrill out of any response you give them.

It’s not necessarily about the merit of the arguments themselves, it’s about the act of getting the other side to respond in any way.

Nobody’s Mind Will Change

There is nothing Anne can do to convince Bernard that her original post was intended to be lighthearted and happy. He is so determined to drag his own feelings about dogs and cats into every interaction he has that he’ll probably never stop.

Likewise, Bernard will never convince Anne that cats are better than dogs. That wasn’t why she originally signed up for this message board or started that thread. She has no interest in arguing with a stranger on the Internet on a topic she already has an opinion on, and there’s nothing Bernard can say or do to change that.

You’re Not the Cause or the Solution

A certain percentage of people have urges to do things like stir up conflict, always be right, or push their opinions onto everyone they meet regardless of the social context.

Nobody that I’ve known has ever learned to examine the reasons why they behave the way they do based on a conversation with a stranger. If or when they decide to work on changing those parts of themselves, they’ll seek out help on their own terms.

But you didn’t cause their behaviour and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. They are who they are just like you are who you are.

I Choose Peace

There’s something liberating about choosing not respond to everyone who wants to debate. The Bernards of the world obviously have the freedom to rant about cats and dogs as much as they wish, but they’ll soon learn that I’m not someone who will jump into fruitless arguments with them.

There are plenty of other folks on the Internet who are willing to do that, and I wish them well with their virtual battles.

How do you decide what you will and won’t respond to online?

Remaining Mindful on Social Media

Social media is a double-edged sword. On the positive side, I’ve met a lot of incredible people on Twitter and other sites that I never would have otherwise crossed paths with. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make friends from so many different parts of the world. They’ve opened my eyes to everything from social customs to tasty snacks that I would have probably never heard of if I hadn’t decided to sign up for accounts on those sites.

However, there are times when I’ve grow tired of the argumentative and dramatic cultures that have arisen on these platforms. There’s something about typing words out on keyboard that removes some people’s filters. They have the urge to say things online that most folks would never say out loud in front of everyone.

Some of my friends who are also interested in mindfulness have reduced their time spent on social media because of this. Honestly, I don’t blame them. I’ve cut back certain aspects of my social media usage, too. The gap between what these sites could be and what they actually are is simply too big to ignore in certain cases.

With that being said, something interesting has been happening to me on the various social media sites I use now that I’ve been practicing mindfulness regularly for a while.

For one, I’ve started to become hyper-aware of how I feel before, during, and after I use each one of these sites. When a particular leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world goes off on yet another prejudiced, incoherent rant online, my timelines fill up with people arguing over, joking about, and attempting to decipher what that person was really trying to say.

It’s not my place to tell others how to react to the things he says, of course. That’s not what this post is about at all.

What I am talking about is focusing on that moment when my body and mind begin to react to what I’m seeing or hearing. I feel conflicting needs to always know what terrible thing he’s planning to do next while simultaneously wanting a long, quiet break from all of that foolishness. It’s difficult at times to know when to lean in for more information and when to pull back and watch cute animal videos or take a walk instead.

This isn’t even to mention all of the other destructive things happening on various social media sites: mass outrage over something someone said or did; harassment; bullying; doxxing; pictures and stories about things that either never actually happened or that are so heavily edited it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on in them.

Filtering

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t always have to be something that comes from within. There is definitely something to be said for learning how to focus in a noisy or distracting environment, of course, but there is also value in filtering out certain types of stimuli when such things are possible.

To give you another example of what I’m talking about, Ontario is having a provincial election today. (If you live here, go vote as soon as you finish reading this post!)

Many of my friends from this province have been talking about election issues and which party they think they’ll be supporting this time around.

I’ve been playing around with my filters during this election cycle. Sometimes I want to follow every hashtag and account related to the four major parties in Ontario. On other days, I only want the highlights or maybe even nothing at all. I decided who I’m voting for so long ago that there’s really no need for me to continue entertaining the various options.

Saying No

Sometimes saying no to certain hashtags, websites, groups, or users is the best possible response to something that is such contradictory mixture of helpful and harmful content.

I used to have a harder time letting go of stuff that

One of the beautiful things I’ve learned through the practice of mindfulness is how to say “no, thanks” without making a value judgement on a particular thing.

I’m not saying that everyone should mute that hashtag or stop visiting that site. If others find them useful, good for them.

They’re simply not things that work for me right now, anymore, or ever again.

Trimming the Excess

Yes, this means that I’m visiting fewer social media sites than I used to.

I’m no Luddite, but I do see the value in trimming away the things in life that no longer bring you joy. Why balance four or five accounts if they pull you out of what is happening at this very moment and make you worry about what might happen in all of the moments to come?

This isn’t something that makes sense to me, especially for ordinary people who aren’t celebrities or public figures. Again, this isn’t a guide on how everyone should live. I don’t judge others for updating Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, and a half-dozen other accounts every day.

Some people are content doing that.

It’s simply not something that brings peace to my life, however.

Respond

What have your experiences with the various social media sites been like? How do you remain mindful while using them?

Related posts:

What Twitter Taught Me About Mindfulness.

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Mindfulness and Meditation

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How Social Media Is Changing the Rules About Spoilers

Those of you who have been following me for years might remember my post from 2014 about hating spoilers. Since then I’ve been paying attention to how social media – especially Twitter – has been changing the rules about if, whether, and when it’s okay to share spoilers. It was especially interesting to see how… Read More

What Twitter Can Teach You About Mindfulness

Something fascinating has been happening to me recently on Twitter. Social media definitely isn’t the first place I’d expect to grow more mindful, but I’ve been learning more about what it means to live in the moment when I use this particular site for several different reasons. Reason #1: The Case of the Missing Tweets Every once in… Read More