To Share or not to Share: a writer’s dilemma

I’ve been reflecting on the concept of ‘sharing’ lately. I don’t mean the act of publishing something – like a blog post. I mean after it’s out there, proactively promoting it – via social media or any other means, in order to get more eyes on it.

I think this train of thought was partly inspired by my relatively recent venture into the world of Instagram – and my struggle to understand the purpose of that platform, and the value of it. Despite the positives possible in it, largely, it feels like a vehicle for vanity and superficial competition…fluff, in other words.

But my thinking isn’t confined to simply Instagram.

My critical thoughts – the negatives I perceive from these platforms – came out in the recent piece entitled “Attention Please”.

Staying relevant

And with it being Hajj season now, and my having tons of Hajj-related content I’ve written over the years, I felt this slight pull of wanting to be ‘relevant’…wanting to put something out that would catch onto the current wave of Hajj-related interest in the world.

But I have nothing new to say. Not this year, at least.

In the years since we got back, I’ve exhausted all I have to say, and the memories are faded to the point where I can’t even remember the feelings much anymore.

I could, of course, simply recycle one of my old pieces – which are still very much relevant now.

But I resisted the urge to do so. What I did recycle was simply a visual summary which I compiled last year, because I felt that it was a good opportunity to share that with people of other faiths who have followed this blog in the last year and didn’t see it back then.

But that post was not my content. Not my writing. I didn’t want to even try to write anything new about Hajj right now – because it would feel forced.

I feel like – over the years – much of my best writing has never been written for an audience. It was always just me writing what I needed to. It was for me. I wasn’t trying to convey anything to anyone. I was just writing what needed expression.

And because of that, I think, it was sincere.

And that’s something I feel is under such tremendous threat when it comes to the attention-seeking pull of social media platforms. But – for the most part – I’ve never chased after attention via those mechanisms.

I’ve never needed anyone’s recognition – because this output was never for them.

If someone took benefit, Alhamdullilah – wonderful. And if they expressed that to me via a comment or a message, even better – because I got to know that those words had an impact.

But that was as far as it went.

I was always reluctant to share my stuff on social media – Facebook being the primary platform available to me, and later WhatsApp. But always with very specifically-chosen people (because those platforms allow such granular control).

I’ve done it a lot more in the last couple of years, but still not as much as perhaps others do when they put something out.

I feel like with these platforms, there’s always this constant pressure – even if it be subtle – to post things. To reach people.

And I don’t want to feel that. I don’t want that to be the focus.

I want to be – as I have been all these years since I’ve had my blog – simply doing what I do, without feeling the need to broadcast or publicise it.

People talk about how – if you’ve produced something good, why wouldn’t you want people to read /see it? How will it have an impact if nobody knows about it?

And while I certainly see the logic in that argument, there’s still an instinct in me that says: “No. I’m not here to seek attention. What is meant to reach certain people will reach them.”

The hidden reality

You see, in this world of media and communication technology, everything is measured. Statistics tell us how many people we reached; where they’re from; engagement with our content; etc.

So the logic is that the more you publicise something, the greater the chance it’ll reach more people. And the more people it reaches, the greater the chance of it benefiting a larger audience.

But that’s how it looks on the surface.

There’s a deeper reality which we cannot see. An underbelly that we do not understand. An unseen world that we have no access to – yet that’s the realm in which the real impact occurs.

Whether something actually influences the reader / viewer is only in the control of the Almighty – Who controls the hearts.

You could have 200 views and dozens of ‘likes’ – but it could amount to zero impact. Social media moves fast. Content is refreshed literally all the time. Often, a ‘Like’ / star / heart is nothing more than an acknowledgement that your content has been seen – or partially seen. But your reader likely moves onto something else, and what you put out didn’t impact them.

Sometimes it does. But, I would venture to say, most times it does not.

Keeping it real

And so for me, there’s no point at all to chasing statistics. What’s more important is to ensure that my own intention is pure. That I’m writing / producing something with sincerity. And if it’s meant for others, that my message comes from the heart – whether I’m trying to encourage, call to action, or inspire others.

An old saying tells us that what comes from the heart goes to the heart.

And that, really, needs to be the basis of what I do – when it’s written for an audience, at least.

When I do share or broadcast things, I want to do so because I genuinely feel that the content will make a positive impact on others.

And, honestly, that has become more difficult since I started using more social platforms. Because – as I said – there’s this force within them that pulls you to always be posting stuff, and always be looking for attention. At least, that’s the energy I feel a lot of the time on these platforms.

Maybe it’s different for you.

The extreme reaction would be to simply abandon them all and go back to the beginning – return to basics. This blog would simply exist on its own, and I would never again spread anything via social media or instant messaging tools.

The other option would be to attempt to find balance: focus mainly on what I’ve always loved to do (writing and photography…though recently, custom graphics have been added to the repertoire), and then be very selective when it comes to publicising things.

That’s a more difficult route, but it may be the middle ground I’m looking for.

Either way, it’s something I’ll need to figure out and struggle through.

And I hope – by the end of it – the new status quo will be one wherein I retain the essence of why I publish what I publish.

Your thoughts?

What about you guys? What are your thoughts on publicising your writing / output via these platforms? Do you do it? Do you feel insincere or negative energy when you do?

14 thoughts on “To Share or not to Share: a writer’s dilemma

  1. Well written and interesting essay. I have to say that sometimes I just want to write a blog post just to get it out of my system. But that’s only partly true, because if all I wanted to do was just write it, I would keep it in a Word file and let it sit there for nobody else’s eyes to see. Sometimes I do that, but only when I think it’s just not worthy of publication. So I’ll post it on my website for subscribers to see. And then I usually link it on FB or another social media outlet, because deep down I suppose I do want as many eyeballs as possible to see it. I guess as a writer, I need an audience. That’s probably the case with most if not all writers. I wonder how many great books never got read because the writers decided they just wanted to do it for themselves and nobody else. There might be a few, but not many.

    • Thanks for your input. My next question then, is that does that act of self-promotion make you feel insincere in any way? Does it make you feel like you are somehow corrupting your original intention in writing it – because you’re now advertising?

      • Not insincere, because I sincerely want people to read what I write. The problem comes when I start thinking about what my audience might want to read. Then I start watering down the content, making it more suitable for a wider readership, which makes it less honest. I suppose we all need to just write for ourselves from time to time, with nobody else reading it. To me, that’s the only way to really ensure the honesty and integrity of the piece.

    • You make a good point about writing needing an audience (journaling is another matter). I like to say that I write for an imagined audience, which is a bit of a soliloquy.

  2. I’ve been battling with the same issues – I started instagram cos it’s a platform that more people use compared to WordPress – but I have to be really really careful not to get caught up with the likes/followers (or lack of them) as that takes away from the sincerity of the words.

    • Your stuff on Instagram is amazing, and if that’s what works for you – to make an impact – then great. And yes – it is critical to watch ourselves constantly so that we don’t lose sincerity and turn the act of writing / producing into something for show.

  3. Social media can influence your style of writing as well, and sometimes there is a constant pressure for keeping up. Which makes you off track from your feelings and writing becomes mechanical. There is a sense of competition. While it can be a great tool for encouragement it can also, fool you in believing in some other motive. Finding the right balance may help, but we should never forget, we write for ourselves rather than someone else. So its okay if only handful of people read at least they will get the true essence. Well written! 👏

  4. I resonate with what you’ve written very much! For 90% of my blogging duration, I’ve kept it private in the sense I told no one I knew in real life that I blogged. Back in 2002, blogging was a very obscure thing. I’ve also for the most part stayed off social media. When I did join around 2015 and then started promoting my blog on my FB page a year later, I noticed that I was writing for the likes. Then a year or so after that, I didn’t like what my writing was turning into. So I deleted it all. I’m still on LinkedIn, but I’ve stopped posting because it’s the same stuff on there, too. I’ve had to accept that my readership and comments will be low. There was a time I felt like maybe I should delete my blog. But I think it’s because I forgot why I started blogging in the first place. I blog for myself and maybe some person out there will stumble upon my blog and like what I have to say. Blogging for myself may not have an impact on others, but it certainly has an impact for myself. Yet, I have my days where I’m like, “Why didn’t anyone comment?” I only comment on posts where I feel like I have something to add, so I guess it goes both ways. Regardless, I’ve made peace with the way my blog is. I like it, so that’s what matters, right?

    “Whether something actually influences the reader / viewer is only in the control of the Almighty – Who controls the hearts.” That’s a great reflection and reminder. And you’re so right, it’s all about intention.

  5. I can certainly relate to what you are saying here. Being quite new to blogging, my focus had been on content rather than numbers. I love your quote “what comes from the heart goes to the heart” – that’s beautiful. It’s a crazy world out there in social media, but if we stay true to ourselves then we won’t go wrong.

    • I think your reason for writing is so crucial. And it’s important to revisit that from time to time.

      I guess there’s also a distinction between genuine blogging and the deluge of commercial and’, lifestyle’ bloggers – the latter being all about stats because that impacts their income…whereas for us, it’s not at all a commercial venture.

  6. Thank you for this.
    Specially this. 😦

    I feel like – over the years – much of my best writing has never been written for an audience. It was always just me writing what I needed to. It was for me. I wasn’t trying to convey anything to anyone. I was just writing what needed expression.

    And because of that, I think, it was sincere.

  7. Alhamdulillah beautifully written. I can relate a lot to it. I’ve been blogging now for the past two years. Initially I also shared my posts on Facebook. But after a couple of posts- oohs and aaahs I somehow was not comfortable sharing them on Facebook in my normal wall though my account has strict privacy controls in place. However I am comfortable sharing them in closed writer groups on FB. Somehow the audience is different. Writers somehow though i know them not, feel like kindred souls. Bearing in mind that I’ve been a FB user for more than a decade now.

    Anyways with Instagram it’s another scenario altogether. I can totally resonate with your thoughts. Our intentions somehow can get shoved under the carpet while we go with the flow and all those hashtags. Recently I’ve had an awakening of sorts. Another post perhaps of the benefit in remaining unknown in these periods of fitnah that have made me re-think my position on sharing in social media.

    A beautiful post. May Allah benefit you & those who read it benefit from it.

  8. I appreciate your views. As a writer, my first allegiance is to myself and my craft. I want to experience and grow from my writing journey. While I regularly post on WP, I don’t do any kind of self-marketing on any other sites.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s