It's Been a While...
Updated: Aug 21, 2022
It’s been a long while since we spoke last, so I thought I’d drop into your inbox and say hello.
“Where in the heck have you been J.M? You left social media without saying goodbye.”
This is true. I’m sure that by now, most of you who followed me on Instagram have pondered that question or explored different theories regarding my sudden departure. Apologies for leaving you in the dark but after spending four years submersed in IG as author J.M. Buckler, I realized wife, mother, daughter, and friend Jennifer Buckler had become a separate identity.
“That’s weird. How did that happen?”
Good question. Life as an author is a tricky beast. Creating new worlds and characters is an immersive experience. While writing, I live and breathe each protagonist and villain. I plot scenes and develop dialogue all day and night, even as I dream. When I go to dinner with friends, celebrate holidays with family, or attend my son’s games, only part of my heart and mind are present. The other half is always itching to sit at my desk and write. It’s an obsession, an addiction I don’t want to quit. Imagine taking a hit of a potent drug. That’s what happens when I’m writing a new book. Sitting at the computer is the needle, the creative juice that surges into my brain is the drug. I’m sure this sounds crazy to most but a few of my fellow creative minds will understand the nature of the beast.
“But I'm an author. I don’t have that problem. I can write for a few minutes every day and forget about it.”
Good for you. Unfortunately, I’m not wired that way. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. Writing part-time doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried. I’m sitting at my computer for twelve hours a day or I’m out and about plotting internally. The creative tap won’t close once it’s opened.
So what happens when you add social media to the mix? This combination is a recipe for disaster. If I wasn’t sitting at the computer writing, I was on Instagram, “connecting” with fellow writers, “engaging” with readers, posting content “applicable” to my niche, “dissecting” the algorithm, answering DMs, dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s. The list was a mile long. The quotations are important because they show how one becomes a slave to the soul sucking platform.
“But you didn’t have to spend that much time on social media.”
You’re right but I didn’t get the book sales and popularity I had on Instagram by casually checking my feed. I worked the system harder than anyone I knew. I played the game well and in return Instagram awarded me with views and shares which lead to book sales. A lot of book sales. Opportunities with financial profit fell into my lap, free books from publishers arrived at my doorstep, my writer consultation schedule stayed booked, my speaker fee for public appearances went up. As a micro influencer, the opportunities were limitless. Until they weren’t.
Everything changed in April 2021. Those who followed me on Instagram saw what happened. The attack came of nowhere, blindsiding me like a knife to the back. The bizarre experience was one of the most challenging seasons in my life. Did it suck? Absolutely, but I grew in unimaginable ways. Growing pains can linger, and PTSD is a frustrating after affect I deal with daily. But even though my professional life got turned upside down, my reputation tarnished, my writing career paused, and my emotional stability challenged, I’m still grateful for the experience. The mob opened my eyes to the toxicity surfacing on social media. They showed me their true moral colors and distorted realities. In a matter of months, I watched the fun and uplifting book community turn into a pack of rabid cannibalistic wolves, eating anyone who disagreed with their twisted views. The amount of hate that seeped from the platform was palpable. I stood my ground and lost thousands of followers because people bought the lies that frothed from the wolves' mouths. It became an uphill battle. I had worked so hard to publish and market a trilogy about the human condition only to watch Instagram, the company who showered me with views and praise, take it all away. Shadow banned from every post, blocked from stories, blocked from lives, their dirty games never stopped.
Eventually, I thought “What’s the point? Why am I investing time in a platform who promotes a disagreeable agenda? Why am I adding fuel to the fire? Why am I always feeling under the weather? Why am I always anxious?"
These burning questions finally made me say aloud, “Enough is enough.” But once the courage to leave social media sparked, the justifications for staying smothered the flame.
“What about your readers? Won’t they miss you? What about the people who supported you during the attacks? What about your book sales? What about the new trilogy? You’ve already written 3/4 of the book. How will you ever market it if you’re not on Instagram or Booktok. What about the money you invested in props for bookish photos? The money you invested in your first trilogy. What about the financial opportunities for influencer gigs?”
These justifications swirled around in my mind for months before finally admitting to myself the deeper truth of what leaving social media meant to me.
“Who am I if I leave social media?”
Yep. My identity had become author J.M. Buckler. I’m sure a few brows raised after reading that sentence.
“Does she suffer from multiple personality disorder?”
No. But creating two identities had become a necessity, a way to compartmentalize my mind. J.M. Buckler had become the tougher, braver, darker side of my personality. The morally gray characters and villains I created bled over. My alter ego allowed me to slip into an unbreakable suit of armor. “Uh oh, don’t get J.M. mad,” was an ongoing joke in our family.
J.M. Buckler’s life was a lot cooler than Jennifer Buckler’s. Though I always spoke truths about the writing process, I played the game. I became the bookstagrammer people wanted to follow. Why? Users have a bad habit of scripting their social media accounts.
See if you can answer these questions honestly: Have you ever posted a selfie when you wake up in the morning without makeup or filters? Have you ever posted a family picture that isn’t to your liking? Would you be comfortable with a stranger grabbing your phone and posting a random picture? Have you ever compared yourself to your friends accounts? Have you judged them with thoughts like…”Wow, she gained a lot of weight. She has done way too much Botox. Oh my. He hasn’t aged well. How did he go bald at thirty? OMG she had another kid? Oh snap, they got a divorce. I wish I had her easy going life. I wish I was as successful as he is. She’s so pretty. I wish I had hair like that. I wish I had her flawless skin. He has so many followers, and from doing what? How does she get so many likes? Ew..how did they end up together. Why does he always post political stuff? Good Lord, she’s trying way too hard. She’s too skinny. He’s really changed over the years. How does she juggle a career and mom life?”
If you answered yes, then congratulations, you’re human. Judging others comes naturally. After doing some soul searching, I realized it’s impossible to hop on social media and ignore the likability factor. We want to be liked. We want people to see our selfies, our families, our friends, and think,
“Gosh, he/she really has their shit together.”
Acceptance from our friends and family is what we crave. And for those of us with public accounts, we desire the acceptance of strangers.
It’s quite comical if you think about it. We take a picture or video, add a filter, then post it hoping to get a pseudo-sense of satisfaction when someone gives us a like or a positive comment. But what happens when you get a negative comment or the trolls coming knocking? Why are the hundreds of positive comments suddenly lost and forgotten? That’s a simple question to answer. Insecurities. One rude comment can trigger a plethora of negative emotions. These emotions arise because you feel attacked. And the only reason you feel attacked is because you struggle with insecurities. Now add hundreds or thousands of negative comments and DMs. You can see why some many teens take their lives because of cyber bullying. Users of social media are people with lived experiences. Some people have thick skin, others don’t. But even the toughest skinned folks get worn out by social media. We hold the power. Why do we give it away to others so easily?
“If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up miserable,” or “Don’t read the comments,” are good advice but not practical for the untrained user of social media. Do you remember why you joined social media? You wanted to connect with friends, right? That is only partially true. Are your genuine friends not in the contacts list on your cellphone? Can you not just share pics via text? Why do you need to post status updates and pictures with people you barely knew in HS on Facebook? The answer is simple. We love showing off our life to friends, family, and strangers.
“Oh, she’s just bitter after everything that happened.”
I work on my bitterness daily but like I mentioned above, this experience really opened my eyes to our intention of connecting with others. What are we lacking in our real lives that makes us seek the approval of strangers? What void are we trying to fill? Why do we keep justifying the reasons to stay on social media? How did we become so obsessed with checking our phones? Why is everyone addicted to watching strangers’ lives unfold on Tiktok? Why are we obsessed with the political and social drama? Why do we love the rumor mill?
One word: drama. We are addicted to the drama.
Now, social media has allowed me to make some loyal friends but how did I attract those friends? Was the attraction based on my scripted lie or the real me? That is a question all social media users should ask themselves. What is your intention of positing on FB, Twitter, TikTok, or IG? Likeability, acceptance, popularity, influencer potential? Or do you just like showing off you and your family?
“Listen, Jenn. It’s how I connect. I’m not like you, I can walk away from it and not let it bother me,” or “It’s easier to just post a picture on social media rather than send a group text to friends and family. I can ignore the political drama. I don’t judge others so stop judging me.”
If these thoughts are crossing your mind then perhaps I hit a nerve, and sometimes a good bleed out is necessary for personal growth. I bled out for a good year. Please note, I’m not condemning anyone’s choice to stay active on social media. I simply wanted to pose a few questions to get you thinking. What is your intention for staying active on social media? Are you a social justice warrior, a freedom fighter, a wannabe influencer? Is your account for business?
"Everyone is on social media, Jenn. It's how I market my business."
Trust me, I get it, but what happens if you get canceled? What if a review bomb mob attacks your business with fake reviews. Do you have a back up marketing plan? If not, get one ASAP.
And if you're the family man/lady who loves showing off their kiddos, ask yourself this...
"Is this bringing me joy or am I posting to cultivate an altered reality?" A reality that doesn't exist.
Don't forget, I left social media after my drama had settled down, not at the height of all the BS.
Life early this year was back to normal but staying active on Instagram felt like a waste of time. Everything had become toxic. The political, COVID-19, and social justice post were overly dramatic. Everyone was a victim. Cancel culture had gotten way out of hand. Fake news popped up non-stop. The rumor mill buzzed like a swarm of angry bees. Advertisements became more bizarre. The publishing industry was making a mockery out of themselves, and hate speech had become the norm. You couldn’t casually scroll FB or IG without seeing something from the radical left or radical right. Honestly, for me, social media life became boring and uninspiring. I had zero desire to support the platform.
So, in March of this year I deactivated all of my accounts, and you know what? My health took a drastic turn for the better. I started living life outside of social media; I took pictures for my personal collection rather than for the archive of “post coming soon”. My anxiety lessened. When I wanted to read a book, I read it. I no longer had pressure from publishers. I laughed more. I re-connected with my family.
Now remember, social media and writing had become addictions for me so this detox wasn’t easy. I struggled with the internal battle in my mind. Pressing the deactivate account button was the hardest part but once I set my intention, everything fell into place. After over sharing my life with tens of thousands of followers for four years, being a ghost felt nice. It still does.
I worried so much about my book sales before I left. Would they stop after I vanished? Was money the only thing keeping me on social media? Toward the end, it was. Chasing money never ends well, so that’s when I took the plunge. But before I left, I had to accept another truth: I had published a successful trilogy that would always be available for readers to enjoy regardless of my presence or lack of on Instagram.
“So what happened? Did you loose sales?”
I did. Leaving social media had a tremendous impact on book sales. But above I said, “I had to accept that I had published a successful trilogy that would always be available for readers to enjoy regardless of my presence or lack of on Instagram.” Would always be available, is the key phrase. I never said, would always have high sales. I didn’t leave social media giving myself false promises. I left with a sound and practical mind. The intention behind my author account on IG was to promote my books and connect with readers. Instagram allowed me to do both. Leaving took my marketing tools away so sales dropped.
“Doesn’t that bother you? You worked so hard for those sales.”
At first, yes. My alter ego, still bitter from the mob attacks, kept squawking at me like an angry crow. “Fight back you coward! Get those sales. Do whatever it takes.”
Thankfully, I believe in the power of prayer so the Lord helped ease my overactive mind. That part of my journey was in the past. I had to stop dwelling on the negativity. It was time to move on. So I did.
“What are you up to now?”
Enjoying life! Spending time with my beautiful family, working a part-time gig, reading a ton of books (Manga is my new jam!), hanging out with friends, attending events for TheKey2Free, going on vacations, etc.
We sold the RV and are now living in a home in the Austin area. Emerson starts a new private school in September, Justin is still working sub-sea construction, and the three of us have become gym rats.
"Are you writing?"
No, though now and then I glance at my unfinished manuscript for Glimpse of Time and make a few edits. Opening that Word document is a bittersweet experience. There are a lot of mental barriers I must overcome before I try publishing a new series.
Bravo if you read this far! I hope you are all doing well and loving live. My email is always open.
Take care and God bless,