The Pure Heart and Pure Superficiality of Social Media

I Heart Social Media

One of the classes I’m teaching at CCM requires me to study up on the history and practice of public relations.

I’m not exactly a stranger to the profession. I worked for a major media company that has always employed publicists. I’ve written press releases. I count publicists and PR folks among my friends, right? Etc.

But the more I study public relations, the more it feels like propaganda.

And the more I study it, the more it feels like social media is an arm of public relations.

I know social media is supposed to be (at heart) about conversation + connection, but haven’t I used it to build my own public image? To build the image or story that benefits my career and future?

Don’t I advise writers to do the same? To use it as a form of public relations?

On the other hand, it’s a very personal and immediate form of “public” relations.

When you have an all-worlds-collide method in your online life, as I do, then you have all kinds of relationships that mix at every moment—because I really hate to segment. I like to think everything can co-exist harmoniously, since I enjoy transparency, honesty, authenticity. (Though perhaps even that is manufactured?)

But … when it’s all-access, all-the-time, it’s not the strangers (or the public) who present the challenge.

It’s the personal connections. Their presence sticks—throughout the ups and downs of the relationship—unless we forcibly break the bond. Go cold turkey. Disappear.

Social media makes the dissolution of relationships much harder to bear than ever before.

These special people (or those who you would like to un-special, at least until you don’t care any more): They stay in your line of sight.

It’s like picking at a scab, seeing if it will hurt, again and again and again. It encourages phantom connection, and emphasizes the pain of disconnect, when you don’t have the intimate backstory behind an update written for thousands.

Posted in Friendship, Life Philosophy, Love, Work-Life.

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 publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

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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You nailed this one right on the spot!


Interesting observations. I think social media works the same way as any form of communication: Editing is the key to building a compelling persona.