Today, I’ll create my 500th post as a writer on Instagram. I guess it feels like a big deal because it is a big deal.
The year my now adult niece turned thirteen, she was allowed to join a rising social media platform called Facebook. So I joined, too, making sure my privacy settings were as tight as they could be. Mostly, I “liked” what my niece and everyone else did. A few times a year, I’d drum up enough courage to create my own post.
Several years later, I got more serious about building my writing career. At the time, marketing experts offered differing advice about social media. (They still do.) Some experts suggested writers use social media to increase exposure. Others insisted there was no need for writers to be on social media.
I dearly, dearly wanted to follow the advice of experts who said writers shouldn’t “waste” time on social media.
That option would have been much, much easier for me. But deep inside, I knew my reasons for not being on social media were based on fear. Fear of being known, fear of not being known. Fear of not devoting enough time, fear of spending too much time. And I didn’t like the idea of letting fear influence my decision.
But how was a highly introverted writer who treasures her privacy (and who wasn’t even published yet) supposed to “do” social media?
I started comfortably. Safely. Every week, I added a book review to my website, shared the link on social media, and hoped no one (and everyone) would notice. Between book reviews, if I thought of something my readers might be interested in, I’d post that, too. Even though my writer accounts were public, for a long time, my mom was the only person who consistently noticed or cared when I posted. (Sometimes, she’s still the only person.)
As my writing career grew, I experimented with tricks to help me enjoy social media. I discovered my followers like seeing fun quotes and photos of books I’m reading, so I added more of those. Once, when I unknowingly used the right hashtag at the right time, a four-second video of my dog went viral! (Well, viral relative to my other posts.) The first time I created an Instagram reel, I made it all about bungling through my first Instagram reel. Later, friends told me it inspired them to create their first reels.
I’ve learned to be okay when my posts are ignored—because it means my wonderful followers have more interesting stuff going on in their lives than my social media posts.
Fast forward to the summer of 2022, when my husband and I adopted a dog through a Seattle-based rescue group. Rosie had been found as a stray in rural Texas. Her injuries suggested she’d been used for the “sport” of wild hog hunting. The overcrowded rescue group in Texas transferred Rosie to Seattle, where she recovered with a foster family for three months before being adopted by us.
Right away, I began sharing about Rosie’s progress on social media.
I posted photos that showed Rosie’s distinctive physical scars in a complimentary light. I posted clips of Rosie learning to trust us, Rosie being curious, Rosie’s first Christmas in the Pacific Northwest. I wrote blog posts about life with a dog overcoming a traumatic past. Whenever I wrote about Rosie, I shared the link on social media.
And one day, someone from Rosie’s past recognized her.
Through social media, a woman named Toni contacted me. She and her husband had been Rosie’s first rescuers in Texas. They were four-wheeling in the woods near their home when they spotted two stray dogs. One dog, who they named Grace, came to them right away. But Rosie was too terrified—and too badly injured—to trust them. Day after day, Toni and her husband went back to the woods to coax Rosie. Close, closer.
Toni sent me photos of her first hours with Rosie. She sent me photos of Rosie’s recovery. A photo of Rosie on a fun outing in the all-terrain vehicle she was rescued in. A photo of their sad goodbye when Rosie left for Seattle.
I asked Toni if she knew how Rosie got her name. “We’ve always imagined someone who cared about her named her,” I said. And I learned Toni had named her. Toni had cared.
An angel named Toni had dreamed of a happily ever after for a lost dog, then saw the vision come true on social media.
Yes, it would be easier—and feel safer—to not be on social media. But being on social media invites my readers, and the rest of the world, to connect with me. It lets people know more about the woman behind the words. It invites readers into my joys, mistakes, heartaches, and successes. And it lets me share in theirs.
Maya Angelou said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
There is nothing normal about social media, my friend. It’s a contrived, confusing cosmos where people like you and me try to appear more [insert any ideal here] than we actually are. But I bet if you experiment with social media in a way that looks and sounds and feels like you being the real you, something amazing will come from it. When that happens, I hope you’ll let me know, because I’d love to celebrate with you.
(Want to learn how Rosie inspires a character in my Wren Island fiction series? Read “How a Dog Can Live Forever“.)