By Colorado Review Social Media Manager and Associate Editor Margaret Browne
With the emergence of the Instagram poet, the rise of literary Twitter, and intensifying pressure to successfully brand one’s self as a writer and network online, the use of social media to an emerging writer is increasingly necessary and increasingly fraught—especially if you, like me, are not one who is naturally inclined towards online engagement.
When I first got an Instagram account, my username and bio didn’t include my name or any personal descriptors, and most of the people I followed online were people from around the world I didn’t know personally. There was a degree of anonymity that was liberating, and left me feeling uninhibited in terms of how I engaged and what content I shared. But as Instagram and other platforms became more widely used—social anxiety entered with social media. And, the choice to abstain from it has become more and more difficult as social media also became an essential part of marketing, brand management, and networking.
Cast in its most pessimistic light, social media is a self-serving promotional tool that enables our narcissism (nothing better than racking up a few likes on a carefully curated selfie) and creates echo chambers of like-minded communities—narrowing the scope of discourse and the range of voices that contribute to it. It creates a two-dimensional representation of a person, an organization, a product, that we’re in danger of valuing more than that which is represented.
But in a more optimistic light, social media allows us to be creative, to express ourselves, and to connect with a community—which becomes especially important if we feel isolation in, or lack of acceptance from, our current community, or if say, a global pandemic makes it too dangerous for us to connect face to face.
I started working in marketing before coming to graduate school, and I found that I came to appreciate social media in a whole new way. Because it’s not just about a carefully curated photo and a well-worded caption, it’s about what that content says about who you are, what you represent, and how well you know the people you’re speaking to.
Last summer, Colorado Review revisited its own mission, values, and services, and evaluated how that shapes everything we do, including our social media presence. And what excited me the most about this redevelopment was a new addition to our mission—to dynamically partner with writers. This meant finding new ways of connecting with and supporting both the writers we publish, and other members of our community. And this new focus on community reinvigorated my love of social media, and became the reason I asked if I could serve as our social media manager.
I get excited when I finally track down someone’s Instagram or Twitter account and get to tag them in a post, and it means that more people got to read their work, and are now able to seek them out, follow them, and continue supporting them. I love when I get to feature an emerging writer because as an emerging writer myself, I can imagine how exciting it would feel to have a literary journal feature my work on their platforms. To not only know that people are reading your work, but that for a moment you are shoulder to shoulder with other writers you admire, housed in the same place for a moment in time. It’s a wonderful feeling to be a part of that experience for another person, and to share in their sense of accomplishment. I love when people repost our stories and I get to write back to them, and a rapport develops. When sharing book reviews, I get to see reviewers, many of them emerging writers, connecting with writers whose work they admire—in tagging them, I get to see them, for a moment, connect. And I get so excited when I see retweets and shares, because it means more people are reading beautiful words, supporting one another as writers, and communing briefly as a community—albeit a digital one.
During Poetry Month, it’s been incredibly gratifying, because so much of the content being shared has no ask—both on our page and on the pages we engage with, there’s a lot of just the sharing of poems. And as “cheesy” as #ShelterInPoems can seem to my cynical mind, there’s really something affirming about seeing so many different voices, so many different words, being shared right now—with the intent being to share with others this miraculously crafted body of words that in some way opened you. In these moments, we get to see all of these writers’ names and words, and feel the gratitude of being one voice within a chorus of many voices that celebrate the work of words. It’s humbling and, for me, deeply affirming of why I’ve entered into this community and into the work of writing poems.
When I graduate, I won’t be managing our social media platforms anymore, and I realize—I’m going to miss it. While it can be tedious to keep a post schedule, to hunt down profile names for tags, to resize and edit photos, I really love connecting with people on the scale that I get to as “Colorado Review.” So, it might be time to start connecting more as myself, an individual reaching across the digital field towards the community I strive to be a part of.
Margaret Browne is a third-year poetry MFA Candidate at Colorado State University. She is an associate editor and the social media manager at Colorado Review.