In response to my last post about phases of being quieter online
, two people (one on Blogger, one on LiveJournal) commented about feeling guilty when they withdraw from social media. The second time someone mentioned guilt, I decided I want to say more on this subject.
Why should anyone feel guilty for stepping back? I wondered. After all, blogs and Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are all optional; most of us are not paid to do them and make no promises about when we'll post. Nobody's going to die over whether we post or not. (OK, if you see a tornado coming and tweet about it, you might save someone's life. But that's an exception!)
But entering the online world is entering a community. Most of us interact with a core group regularly, as well as with whomever else clicks on by. We have a horror of being thought of as the writer who became "too good" for her old blog buddies once she signed a book contract. We hate the idea of losing touch with friends once we tie the knot or have a baby. We don't want to disappear when we change jobs.
We like our friends and don't want to lose touch with them.
There's also the fact that sometimes when people disappear, it's because they've had a crisis, and we know people may worry. I can think of one writer I used to see on LiveJournal. Our relationship was at the "acquaintance" level, and many people migrated from LJ to other platforms, so it wasn't until I heard of her untimely death (from another social-media site) that I remembered her and realized I hadn't heard anything about her in a long while. It made me wonder about all the other people I used to see online but don't anymore. I assumed most of them just got tired of blogging or moved over to Facebook, and I know some of them went back to school or got new jobs or simply got so swamped by book promotion that they stepped back from the blogosphere--but now I wonder. Are they okay? I may never know.
So in one sense, I understand the desire to explain our absences from social media. And I think it's a nice idea to say, "I'm going offline for a while" if that's what we're doing. But I don't think we owe anyone an explanation. I don't think we have to justify our absences. Although I've been disappointed when my favorite bloggers stopped posting, I don't believe they owed me anything. They put up a bunch of free content that I enjoyed; we had some fun interactions; how can I complain about that?
Most of all, I don't think social media should have to be a chore. I do think it's important for writers to have at least one place online where readers can find them if they want, one place that provides a bio and author photo and a list of their books. But that can be a single page and doesn't have to be updated too often. Beyond that, it's all icing on the cake. It's about having fun and connecting with people, and if we're not getting that fun and connection here, or if we simply need to focus attention elsewhere, it's natural to step away. The Social Media Police will not come after us. :-)