The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 21, 2023 - 4:50:58

What Would Tolkein Do?  Mixed Feelings about Self-Promotion

Devra Torres, Jan 21, 2014

I first joined Facebook to stalk (and I mean that benevolently) my college-bound daughter.   For this I endured some ribbing from her younger brothers and sisters, the usual targets of my anti-social-media tirades. My standard rant went something like this:

Children, beware the subtle snares of self-absorption!   They don't call it a web for nothing, you know!

Pity those poor wretches with nothing better to do than cultivate pseudo-relationships with virtual “friends”!  Whose self-worth is so puny that it craves the thrill of the little red notification flag!  Who’ve forgotten the feel of fresh air! Who inevitably come to a sad end because they can’t bear to be parted from their social media, not even while they’re barreling down I-94.

Mama might be joining facebook (I explained) but she is going to use it the way it ought to be used.  Like the stamp and envelope of yesteryear.  To converse with people she knows in real life, who want to converse with her--plus (like any good Jewish mother) to fulfill her God-given mission of benevolent daughter-stalking. 

Not for self-promotion,

not for moneygrubbing self-interest.

And not for sharing pictures of cats.

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Well, the other day, it happened.  I shared a photo of Louie.

As for the rest of my ideals, it’s been a mixed bag.  I connected first with people I knew, then with people I used to know, then with people I just wished I knew.  Now I can't remember what I had against renewed friendships and online-only ones.

And now that I'm writing and editing more, I'm having to reconsider my distaste for self-promotion.

But I don’t want to end up like this guy.

I prefer the Tolkein approach: he wrote The Hobbit for his own children.  His work became wildly popular, but not because of marketing strategy. It was just so good that the justice of the universe saw to it that his purity of intention was rewarded.

He didn’t strategize to create a “felt need” for hobbits or wizards,

to enhance Middle Earth's “brand,” or to generate buzz for the sequels.  He didn’t do any number of things that may be perfectly legitimate but somehow seem a little smarmy, a little philistine, a little egotistical. 

I suspect this is a lot easier to pull off if you write like Tolkein does.

But it's good to sort through your motives now and then. Social media pushes us all to play the roles of both marketer and product.  “We’re all advertisers now,” as one man commented when Facebook unveiled its "pay to promote" option.

So I've moved beyond daughter-stalking--but where to next?  What do you think?  Has social media been good for your character?  Are you a luddite-leaning purist, or an unmitigated fan?  Or somewhere in between? I'd like to know.