Social Media is a Dystopian Wasteland
In one of my novel series (The Desolate Kingdom), the world has been changed, billions dead, the earth a dystopian desert. The few that are left are trying to eke out a living underground, while continually worrying about the “angels,” the winged forms that destroyed the world.
It is not hyperbole to say that on some days, this is what social media feels like. Not just as a writer, but as an empathetic human. The toxicity in most social media platforms has become a problem. Yes, you still get pictures of dogs and family and dinners, but the inevitability of a political post or meme filled with rage and bigotry and misogyny is, well, inevitable.
As a writer, the only way to approach this is to understand it. Like in any good adventure movie, when the heroes know they’re entering the jungle, they know that things are different. That wariness is the key to survival.
The same is true of social media.
I have a module in my course on writing a persuasive piece, and I discuss the difficulty of today’s tribalism and how that affects writers and what they say. But damn, that isn’t the half of it, is it? And how often do we see posts on twitter or Facebook or Instagram and just shake our heads?
I wrote The Last Angel (the first book in The Desolate Kingdom series) in 2014, and it was published two years later. And even back then, I had no idea what was coming. A number of things in my series ended up being predicative, but not purposely. Not like that.
Even now, it’s hard to fathom the hate and vitriol and ignorance splattering the online world. It’s crazy.
This does not affect some people, who simply continue with family posts and animal pics. But if you’re a writer? Someone who is supposed to pay attention? Oh, it affects you.
And in some cases, it can freeze you.
How can a writer make an impact on a society that has, in many ways, decided to be factless and nasty? How can writers make a difference when every major news media channel decides that conflict is better than truth? How can we impact people when clicks are more important than transparency?
My answer is… I don’t know.
What I do know is that it must be done.
The great experiment of social media, the one that is never talked about, is handing everyone a microphone. This is the first time in human history that has happened. And that experiment has failed.
That isn’t to say the previous record was perfect, because the choice of microphones in the past was largely handed to old, white straight men with a singular view of the world.
In other words, we’ve gone from bad to bad. And somewhere in that middle is you. The writer. The human. The caring spirit.
This is a writing blog, but maybe you’re a reader. Or maybe you’re just someone who cares.
Whatever the case, you are a witness to the new great imbalance. People hiding behind their keyboards with fake names and avatars to say astonishingly racist and bigoted things. And even for those who are younger, the disgust at what is seen and heard every day is astounding.
I would love to tell you that things are going to get better.
They are not.
And as writers, as people, we are now living in a new era, a burning, unrelenting desert.
Your voice is more important than ever.
I’m not talking about engaging with trolls or the truly despicable shit you see online.
I’m talking about creating weighted and thoughtful arguments that still carry weight, despite first impressions.
In The Last Angel, my hero, Kallie, encounters a number of members of the race that persecuted her and followed her to earth. They enrage her, many of them try to kill her, but she meets a few of their kind that are unlike the others. And she befriends them. We are all in the desert now. The best way to move forward is not an attempt to shift the masses, but to connect with those who share our understanding of humanity and want better. That is the goal of the writer. That is the goal for all of us.
Reminder: You can preview the first two modules of my writing course, How To Write In 90 Minutes for free, and if you put your email in the pop up, I can send you my free guide, 3 Tips To Improve Your Writing Immediately.