Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 21, 2022

5 Tips for Social Media Detox

by Lisa Norman

It seems like whenever I talk to folks about social media, someone brings up how toxic the environment is these days.

They're not wrong.

But there is a cure!

Take control of your social media platforms

I took a cooking class on how to use a knife. The teacher said one thing that stuck with me. "Remember, don't let the food tell you what to do. You're the one holding the knife."

In our social media experiences, it is easy to get swept up in the drama and carried away. We focus on numbers, quantity instead of quality.

We see the urgent, the surface level.

And social media becomes a danger zone that we avoid rather than the powerful marketing tool we need it to be.

Don't let the trolls define your social media presence. You're the one in charge. You're the one holding the metaphorical knife. Don't be afraid to use it!

Here are some techniques to detox your social media platform.

#1 - Create a Persona

Think about who you are as a writer. Think about who you want to be. If you were going to present in front of a large group of people, would you wear your sweat pants? Maybe you would. If that's your persona — no judgment from me!

But most people would dress up.

We don't see this as lying. This is just presenting our best public face.

Are you the same person when you go to a concert as you are sitting around watching Netflix? Yes. But you probably present yourself differently.

These are all variations on our persona.

As an author on social media, you want to present your best social media persona.

I knew an author who was known for hard-hitting, gritty adventure stories. These were not nice stories. He was not nice on social media. In real life, he was polite, kind, and helpful. But on social media, he was a total jerk.

Why did this work for him? Because his fans loved it. He had fun with it. This was the side of his personality that his fans wanted to see.

As a human being, he was both nice and a jerk. He wasn't lying when he was being nice, nor was he lying when he was being a jerk. He showed people the side of his personality that they wanted to see.

Who do your fans expect to see?

The reason they have these expectations is based on our style promise, the stories that we choose to write, and the author's voice that we use.

How does this help detox your social media?

It gives you space. This persona is like a suit of armor — or a business suit — that you put on before going into this public arena.

It can also keep you from making costly mistakes.

Think about your persona before you post.

For example, if you write sweet romance, your fans probably don't expect you to be posting triggering political comments.

#2 - Learn how the platforms work

Each platform has its own method for choosing who you follow and who can post to your feed.

Take a few minutes to learn how to:

  • follow — and unfollow — people
  • mute someone permanently or temporarily
  • delete a comment on a post
  • ban someone from posting to your feed
  • report someone for misconduct or if reporting is allowed

Then judiciously apply these new tools.

Example: a friend of mine got really worked up about a topic and started posting all over social media about it. This particular topic was triggering for me. It made me feel sick every time I saw it. I tried to talk to her privately, but she was adamant.

I didn't want to unfollow her. She's a friend. I wanted to see other things that were going on in her life. But that topic was toxic to my sanity.

So, I muted her for a couple of weeks. Then I unmuted her and checked. She'd moved on.

We stayed friends and I didn't have to see the toxic sludge.

#3 - Guard your space — for yourself and your fans

We're writers. Our fans are often coming to us to escape from reality.

We have a responsibility to make our space safe for them. We also have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to keep ourselves as sane as possible.

As creatives, our creative muse is a fragile creature. It doesn't take too much to damage that creativity. If we want to write, we need to protect our muse.

We need to know the available tools and we need to apply them.

#4 - Never feed the trolls

In social media, some people are just trolls. They ask for money. They spout nonsense or spew profanity, not because there is an actual problem but because they are trolls. This is what trolls do.

If you acknowledge them, they multiply. They bring their friends.

Ban them, delete them, ignore them. They'll get bored and go bother someone else.

#5 - Have fun with social media

I first learned telemarketing many years ago. My boss told me that when I was on the phone I should have a mirror in front of me. I needed to make sure I was smiling.

People are attracted to people who are having fun.

You can hear a smile even through a telephone or a mask.

You can tell if someone is having fun on social media.

People are attracted to fun.

If you take part in a toxic social media environment because you think you need to in order to sell books, guess what? It probably won't work. You won't be having fun.

A Cautionary Tale

We've all seen examples of toxic social media. I recently saw one person battle — and survive — a toxic moment on social media. With his permission, I'd like to show you what happened, what he did wrong, and how he course-corrected to come out on top.

I'm a big fan of a TikTok personality, "Old Trucker." He is a truck driver who has a cat named Popeye as his companion in the truck.

Here's one of his most popular videos:

The persona: Let's think about Trucker's persona: he's cheerful, and... it really is mostly about the cat. He covers other topics occasionally, and as I've gotten to know him over a few months of watching his videos, I've become interested in the house he's building, the routes he's driving, and of course... the cat.

What happened

A troll, possibly more than one, began impersonating him and trying to extort money from his fans and from him.

Compare the popular video above to this one:

Remember his persona. People want joy and cheerfulness from him. They don't want sad trucker. Look at that second video again. See how that toxicity has affected his presentation? It is painful to watch. There were other videos, even worse, but TikTok has removed them. Yes, you heard that right. TikTok deleted his videos, but not the troll's fake accounts.

A bunch of folks popped in and encouraged him to ignore the troll.

How the platform works: TikTok is much more likely to ban you for being aggressive to a troll than to ban the troll. He tried to report the troll, and TikTok retaliated against him for posting videos about the troll. But fans can report the troll as an impersonator.

Now, let's play a game. Can you tell the trucker from the trolls?

A Trucker and 2 toxic fake Trolls

The real Old Trucker has over 363 thousand followers. The fakes aren't even touching a fraction of his followers. In fact, it doesn't take much work to spot the real one. If you look at their profiles, they have fewer videos.

What he did wrong

He fed the troll. When a friend told him about the troll asking them for money, he didn't tell the friend to report it. He took action. He thought he could scare the troll into backing down.

The troll reported him for harassment and almost got Old Trucker kicked off TikTok.

Trucker wanted to protect his fans. But here's the thing: his fans are pretty smart people. They're not generally just going to give money to a random stranger. You see, Old Trucker doesn't ask for money. He just shares his joy and his cat.

How he course-corrected to come out on top

He realized that in order to protect his fans, he also needed to take care of himself. He found his joy.

His fans have rallied around and are sharing the information for him, reporting the fake.

Here's a more recent video:

On that video, someone tried to bait him into talking politics. Here's his response:

As you can see in previous videos. I keep my page free of politics. My page is not a political outlet.

Old Trucker - keeping his platform safe!

That is how you keep your social media safe for your fans. It is respectful and clear. If someone violates that policy, he can remove their comment and block them from posting on his stream. He’s learned how to use his tools.

And now we have more joyous, encouraging cat videos!

Very relaxed cat

Have you seen toxicity on social media? What can you do to protect yourself and your fans? Please bring your stories and any questions down to the comments!

* * * * * *

About Lisa

head shot of smiling Lisa Norman

Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.

Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, an indie publishing firm. She teaches for Lawson Writer's Academy.

Interested in learning more from Lisa? See her teaching schedule below.



Sad Troll Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

Old_Trucker's example used with permission. Cat image is a still from one of Trucker's videos. Now that's a happy, relaxed cat!

40 comments on “5 Tips for Social Media Detox”

  1. Thanks for this great post, Lisa, and for helping WITS get its new look!

    When social media isn't fun, I don't want to do it so I try to make it fun. But one thing I never ever do is give an inch to the trolls. The hide and delete buttons are the only sane options when people start getting mean.

    It's rare for us to get trolled here, but I work hard to either turn the haters to fans or ban them if they're too obnoxious. Because I know you will NEVER win the troll war. If you start fighting they just bring all their fellow troll friends. It's just better to exercise that handy "mark as spam" button and move on. We love our readers, so we like to set up a nice troll-free space for them.

    1. Don't out me at the source of the buggy transition! I'm already seeing so many things I want to fix!

      One of the beautiful things about a website is that we have more tools to keep that space beautiful and troll free! Akismet or CleanTalk do the heavy lifting for that task. You do such a great job with WITS!

    1. Oooh. That's a good question. Not an exact match for a tool, but useful, is haveibeenpwned.com. you can search for an email address is even a common password if you're still reusing those. (Hint: don't.) But a warning: these types of things are often being done by robots and the amount of data breaches lately mean almost everyone has some data on there.

      Another tool people sometimes forget is an ego search -- just Googling yourself. Those can be eye opening.

      I have a few other tricks. I'll share more in a follow up to this comment.

      1. Not exactly the tools you're looking for, but related:

        https://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx -- use this to enter a URL (like your domain name) and see if it is blacklisted. You can also check the IP of people who are posting comments on your website if you aren't sure if they're spam or not. (I use a tool that does this automatically, but if you ever question it, this is the manual route.)

        https://cleantalk.org/blacklists -- another similar tool that also accepts email addresses. If you check yourself and you show up, you know to follow up. This is the one I use most.

        A good trick to track down social media impersonators is to look for your profile picture using Google Image Search: https://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en
        The idea is that you should only find you or places that you've used that profile picture. If it shows up on a social media account that isn't you, you can look deeper. Be careful, though. A friend once thought he was being impersonated...turned out to be an account he'd forgotten he had!

    1. Thanks, Karen! To clarify, I used TikTok as the example here, but any platform will have their own rules and policies that may be unexpected. Have fun in your social media!

  2. Great points, Lisa!
    It's especially hard when extended family members become trolls. It's been a rough few years.

    I'm leaving Tiktoc alone for now. I can only do a good job of keeping track of a limited number of social media sites.

  3. Hi Lisa- I love the real-life example here. Also, LOVE his cat. I have noticed that negative posts in social media ebb and flow with the news cycle and the most trendy topic. If I mute someone it tends to be through that news cycle, then a retry. If they have moved on, great. If this is their new online persona, I need to take that proverbial knife and quietly cut the account away. On one note, I did do that once and got super nasty messages calling me some fairly aggressive terms, then that person also posted to his followers, calling me aggressive names. I should have reported him, but was worried about repercussions. Eventually, since he had few followers and less that were engaged, it all blew over. But what a lousy few days that was!

    One of my biggest problems with social media is not having good tools to manage the sheer volume, especially in the Twitterverse. I want to focus on positive accounts that engage and share, and see less of the feed from others there simply for the follows. Got any good social media management tools you like?

    1. What a great example, Miffie! True, not all trolls go quietly. But you said something important: he didn't have very many followers. As hard as it is to deal with negativity like that, you did the right thing: letting it blow over. You could also have blocked him so that you didn't SEE the comments he was making. Those are hard steps to take because we always wonder.

      You've probably heard the saying that there's no such thing as bad press. In our cancel culture world, that feels wrong. But if we can stay quiet, not engage, his actions may actually drive people to you.

      I worked with an author recently who was enduring a (not unexpected) storm. She was focused on the negativity aimed at her. I refocused her on her sales reports. Sure enough, she was selling better than ever.

      I've worked with other authors who have allowed negativity and hostility to overwhelm them, and the loss to their productivity is crushing.

      Some people ARE just trolls. They enjoy picking on people, especially online. That feels safe to them. They're bullies. Not worth our time and certainly not deserving of being allowed to destroy our gift to the world!

      Oooh - social media engagement tools! There are so many! The trick is to find one that YOU love. I use one called Publer to schedule posts. There are a number of Twitter Follow pruning tools out there. Search for "prune Twitter Follow" and you'll find some options. These tools tend to change frequently due to the constant updates on the different platforms. Most have a free and a paid version. Try the free version first to make sure that it works. Often the free version is enough to clean things up. I was looking for one I've used in the past, but it seems to be gone. Maybe some others can post ones they like in reply to this!

      I haven't replaced the one I was using as I tend to be more hands-on and less automated with my Twitter follows.

      For example, I may keep following someone who is quiet, but unfollow someone who annoys me. (grin) There used to be a really wonderful social media rank tool that has since gone away. The closest we have now is Skorr, and it doesn't work as well as the old one. The purpose of Skorr is to measure your rank on things like Twitter. One factor in your score is if you follow more people than follow you. It is a bit of a game to keep the numbers in balance. I admit to not spending as much time pruning as I probably should. I'm also quiet enough that I frequently get auto-pruned. LOL

      I'm a big believer in using your blog as the starting point and then sharing that out to social media, then engaging with the engagement ON that share. In other words, take one of your brilliant blog posts - they're all brilliant - and then share it to Twitter. DO NOT use the tools that share the entire thing. You want to just share the excerpt, the teaser to get people to click back to your blog and read the rest. Then, if people retweet or comment, engage with that post. Engage on your website if possible. That's where you are the safest.

      I don't spend much time reading through the general feed. When I do, I'm specifically looking for things that I find useful or encouraging, things that I can retweet, share, etc. Otherwise, you'll notice I seem pretty quiet on most platforms!

      I was teaching a young entrepreneur recently and we were talking about social media. I said, "If you need work, write a blog post, share it, then you can go wander around social media." We want to balance connecting with our fans with actually getting the writing done.

      You know the great thing about social media? The platforms are run by AI's that are desperate to get our attention. If someone posts something interesting and flags it to our attention, if a fan reaches out, if something cool happens... as long as you have your settings set right, that AI will let you know! That can help alleviate some of the fear of missing out!

  4. Great post, Lisa. I've been quiet on social media for the past year and have had an extraordinary number of "single" men following me. Some comment inappropriately on a post--things like, I think you're nice and want to get to know you better." I simply turn off those comments. I figure they can follow me if they want as long as they make appropriate to the post comments and don't harass me. Over time they get bored and disappear. Should I prune them out more quickly?

    1. I'd definitely block them if they get inappropriate. I'd be curious which platform this is on and what might be attracted them. For example, sometimes a seed comment can get on a website that will attract others... A link or other thing that bots are searching for.

  5. An idea for a future post for those of us, e.g., me, who watch shows like 60 minutes that warn of the Chinese government using Tiktok to steal our data (or something like that): How safe is Tiktok, really??

    1. Karen, the security experts I know avoid TikTok and tell their family and friends to as well. Then we look at which social media platform has the strongest influence on book sales these days... And as writers we have a dilemma. If course those same security folks tend to avoid other platforms as well. Several I know are comfortable on LinkedIn. Most seem comfortable on private websites. But TikTok is considered the riskiest.

        1. It is a touchy topic, Karen. The overall advice for writers these days lends towards being on TikTok. Then the security information - when out of context - can come across as exaggerated fearmongering. Is TikTok risky? Yes. But are there also security risks in other areas? Yes. As mentioned elsewhere, we've come to accept Alexa. Many people forget about Google as well. Android phones are absolutely listening. As humans, we need to decide what risks we are comfortable with... and those may range anywhere from engaging on TikTok and every other platform with disregard to the other extreme of living off-the-grid and wearing tin-foil hats. I have respect for people's choices WHEREVER they fall on that spectrum, because I think having a comfort level with the risks we accept is important. People have reasons for the choices they make.

          The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) put out by the European Union was more intended to reveal how much data businesses like Amazon, Google, and Facebook were collecting. And yes, nation states like China and others are collecting data as well. GDPR made it so that we could delete things off the internet, but only if we make a focused effort to do that.

          As a web developer, I occasionally see people exercising their right to be forgotten, and I respect those decisions, because people are moving further to the off-the-grid side of that spectrum. Why? They may have seen or experienced some of the ugliness that comes from being monitored all the time.

          I've actually been on TikTok for a while. I haven't used it to sell books much, more just wanting to understand the platform. I have to admit, it is one of my favorites. Interestingly enough, it is considered one of the more emotionally supportive environments. BUT - just like any platform - that all depends on who you follow and what you allow into your life.

          I have a few ultra-security conscious associates who work in industries that we don't talk about. One of those is very happy on Reddit but uses no other platforms. When asked about TikTok safety, the comment was something like, "TikTok, Facebook... if you want them spying on you, then have fun!"

          Data, your personal information, information on what you do, what you like, what catches your interest - is the most valuable commodity on the internet these days.

          1. Lisa- I'm so grateful for your thoughtful reply. Tiktok seems a little less scary now, though still intimidating. I'll keep an open mind and will see where that leads me. I still would love to see this in a separate post so I can share it with my writer networks!

            1. I'll think about it, Karen. (Pulls up Evernote, adds it to list of WITS article ideas...) I agree that we do need to talk about it. The problem is that some people confuse the topic with political issues and that's something I choose to stay away from.

              I eventually decided to check out TikTok and found it to be fun and welcoming. Note: I seldom post, but that's pretty much my norm. I have a good friend who posts. She freaked out when I started following her and it cracked me up. "You'll see the whole me! Not just the part I show you!" Yes, I was intrigued... and we had a long chat about just how "straight laced" she thought I was!!! I've found that TikTok and Twitter are my current favorites, the ones that can drag me away from work and take me down a rabbit hole.

              For me, I have less fear of anyone tracking me online for one solid reason: my information was released in the Equifax breach. Anyone who wants to know anything about me can find it all too quickly. Thanks to large companies releasing my data on a regular basis, I feel that I have very little privacy. As a result, I treat every phone call as spam.

              So for context... the opportunity to follow the latest trends in book marketing made TikTok worth the experiment for me. The sheer FUN of the thing is what kept me. Which does NOT mean I'm saying it is safe! Comparative risk...

              1. Life is a risk, right? It's all about finding where you're comfortable and knowing when to nudge yourself beyond your comfort zone. Thanks for this wonderful discussion, Lisa!

    2. Piper Bayard, who knows about these sorts of things, says that TikTok is one of the biggest tools China has for spying and influence in the U.S. She also won't talk about much when the Alexa is on. It's interesting to hang out with people who hang out with covert operatives.

      1. We've given in to Alexa, sadly. She's one of the family- kinda like the nosy aunt you love to hate. So maybe the Chinese gov knows everything about me already, but I'll avoid Tiktok for now.

  6. You need to differentiate the trolls from the bots. They are not one and the same.

    Trolls are real people.

    Bots are automated. Bots are run through algorithms.

    Botnets are a network of automated accounts.

    Avoid interacting with all and report both for spam.


    1. Very true. However there is a common ploy where humans are used to defeat anti-bot defences, leave a single approved post, and then the bots can pile on. If someone is having a lot of trouble with bots, sometimes you can find the seed and that stops them. Not always, but I've seen it work several times.

  7. This is great, Lisa! The thread has been very informative, too.

    One of the things that I struggle with is the intentionality of the social I'm using. I started with Instagram as a work thing but started posting clouds and whatnot. It was fun. Then I started writing and wasn't sure what to do with it. I followed a bunch of accounts for research and some for pleasure. In terms of my accounts I wonder: What do I want people to see? Who is that person? I'm thinking it's time to return to those questions and reflection.

    1. I have an advantage with you, Ami, because I know you! For you, they want to see fun and quirky. Clouds, birds, the unexpected. You also have a serious side and a romantic side. You'll probably feel more comfortable showing the serious, the romantic, and the unexpected. You followed those accounts for research: did you get what you needed? Maybe it is time to unfollow! Yes, even me. (grin) So you followed a bunch of writers - excellent. But now, you need to get on social media with READERS. A lot of writers start out like you: following writers, or agents. That's great. But when we're building our platform, we want readers. Remember in Jr. High when all of the girls hung out in a herd? (Is that still a thing?) Boys would say that it was hard to get to know one because... they were in a herd! Writers need to be out among readers. Western historical areas would be great for you. Anyplace where things are a little bit fun and unexpected. Bonus: these should be places that you actually enjoy hanging out. (glares meaningfully) You took my class, right? LOL Go find your fish friends! (Fish are friends, not food.)

      1. Lol. You know, I did unfollow a bunch of people. First, my Instagram list was out. of. control! Second, I was writing something else back then and those accounts, while interesting, no longer applied. Right now, I have a lot of horse, dog, and bird accounts on my feed. I just like animals, what can I say? I'm not sure that those accounts are my fishes, necessarily, but it's closer than all of the awful "follow trains" that I was guilted into participating in. I've finally unfollowed some of those people, too. I didn't have anything useful to contribute to their feeds and didn't enjoy them. Unfortunately, it seems most of them didn't follow the "rules" and unfollowed fairly quickly anyway, lol. Don't worry--it took 2 of those before I toughened up and politely declined.

        1. I think we've talked about "quality" of list vs "quantity" of list. A lot of folks don't realize that a big inactive list doesn't help you... and can even hurt. Good for you for declining (politely - could you be anything ELSE???). And let's think about those horse and other animal accounts that you love. IF one of those people picked up either of your books... let's say they don't know your writing, but they're going to try you. They come across your character, Jimmy. Jimmy is so sweet with the animals. All of the horse passages you write show that you love horses, you get them. Some of your horses are almost characters. This random horse lover is going to enjoy every scene with a horse or animal in it. That's a big part of your book! They're going to genuinely enjoy the story, even if it isn't in their genre. Why? Because the writing is good and you share a love of animals. I see nothing wrong with this scenario.

        2. Oh, and... you enjoy it. So you don't have to make yourself do it. You'll need to remind yourself to STOP it and get back to writing. This is GOOD social media. This is exactly what I'm going for with this article. This is a non-toxic social media situation...where you're having fun. That's the goal. Have fun, meet people. Connect with people. Be social. (grin)

          1. Lol. Yes. I decided long ago that life is too short to hang out with toxic strangers, especially since I'm "socially awkward on social." 😂 Thought provoking? Yes. Mean? No. Social is meant to be fun (in my mind).

            Regarding the quality vs. quantity, it's funny b/c that's how I roll in real life, so why wouldn't "social" be any different? The "follow trains" always sat sideways with me, anyway. If people did want to actually engage and did so with the people they followed and got to follow them then it'd be a slightly different story--which was why I was willing to try. No surprise that it didn't pan out that way. I found a handful I still engage with, but they are writers...

            I've absorbed your lessons--I just need to find the fish. Although you make a good point about the horse people. And Cole is a funny horse 😁😉

            1. Cole is a FANTASTIC, wonderful, funny horse. You've found your fish, my friend. You just need to finish the (searches for a f word to keep the alliteration going, decides best to give up on that...) second book! My husband and I have a rule about things that sort of sit sideways with us: if we get that weird gut feeling? We go with it our gut. Why? Better to miss out on something that might have been good than to get into something we knew better than to mess with! It was worth a try, and you're right... they could be SO good. They could be amazing experiences if everyone came to them with the same spirit. But like most giveaways, you want to be giving away something your FISH actually wants. You have excellent instincts. Go have fun swimming with the fishes!

  8. This is such a fun and happy ending for a all too common occurrance. I want to follow Old Trucker now, too!
    Thanks for the encouraging post on avoiding the toxic parts of social media.

    1. You'll enjoy him, Kris. And Popeye. I think he's off picking up a new cat at a shelter. I'm not sure if she'll travel with him or not. But it is fun! Enjoy!

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