Quitting the Clock App
Even though I’m losing a marketing strategy, leaving TikTok was easier than I thought.
Yesterday I did something I was not sure I had the strength to do. I quit the “clock app.”
I joined TikTok a little over a year ago, mostly just to find out the hype around BookTok. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed. There are so many accounts on there of people who are passionate about books, plus plenty of authors like me. The way readers will boost the books they love, driving them into unheard of success is unreal.
Case in point, Colleen Hoover, who is an incredible author I love that started around the same time I did and definitely has seen more success than I have. But it wasn’t until one of her books went viral on TikTok that her books really took off. Now she has multiple books on the NY Times Best Seller list, and is the kind of Cinderella story most of us authors dream of happening.
This is the magic of TikTok. All it takes is one viral video, and it can change your life.
And this is the truth about TikTok—most people are striving for viral success, but only a select few will achieve it…and most of it is due to luck.
When I released For the Birds last year, TikTok was one of my best marketing tools. While I never reached viral status, I had a few videos that struck a nerve. I’d notice an uptick in sales with each video that went well, so I changed my marketing strategy by posting every single day. The formula worked so well, I was able to turn off all paid advertising and actually make a profit.
But this strategy also led to major burnout. After months of doing this, I was sick and tired of the content I was creating. I was spending most of my time coming up with content ideas, creating videos, and humming stupid songs that were on repeat on the clock app. I was spending so much time on this app, I was losing motivation for things like, I don’t know, WRITING. Plus, I felt so completely out of place among a bunch of people so much younger than me, and I felt fake as I succumbed to creating the same stupid videos as everyone else in an effort to be noticed.
And then there was content consumption… If you’re going to create on a platform, you have to understand the platform—which means you need to scroll other people’s content to see what’s doing well so that you can emulate that and also do well.
At least, that’s what I told myself. Instead, I would open the app, and then three hours later…
In November, I took a break from posting daily as I focused, once again, on my writing. And the break was everything I needed. My head suddenly felt clear. I got over the initial FOMO and felt like I had my own brain again. Thoughts came easier. My depression eased up, as did my habit of comparing my journey to those of other authors. I no longer cared about going viral or getting attention or checking the app multiple times an hour to see how my views were stacking up.
I enjoyed this break so much, I sort of continued it after the month was through. I still went on it from time to time. I still posted, but only once every few weeks just to test the waters.
I also noticed that every time I went on it, those same restless feelings would rear up. I’d see people creating brilliant content, and felt like I needed to up my game. I’d see other authors go viral with their book video, and I’d feel like a failure because I’d given up too soon.
What if the next video is the one?
Spoiler alert: it never was.
Most of all, I just felt completely out of control when I opened up TikTok. The constant stream of videos made it hard to close out of. The pressure I felt to add to the noise so I could “fit in.” The icky feeling I had as I scrolled, knowing that this wasn’t healthy.
The way I felt like a fucking robot, like I didn’t even have control over just closing the app and walking away.
The past few weeks, the US government has taken a massive stand against TikTok, saying they are a national security threat. Our country is closer than ever to a national ban. Normally I would be against a ban like this, claiming it’s an authoritarian move in a country that is built on freedom. When our last president began the conversation of a TikTok ban, I was vehemently against it.
But now, my feelings have changed. I see how easily influenced our society is by things that go viral on TikTok. We’re all singing the same songs, dancing the same dance moves, repeating the same memes. What if a certain agenda is placed in the viral stream? How will our thoughts be shaped? Our interests?
How much power do the creators of TikTok have in shaping society?
(and while I believe none of our data is safe as long as we’re attached to a technology tether, i.e. smartphone, TikTok’s collection of user data is really freaky when you think of the implications)
My daughter, Summer, came over yesterday so we could work on her taxes, and we got on the topic of the TikTok ban. I admitted the relief I felt over this ban—how, if it gets banned, it takes the choice away from me to quit the app. And she surprised me when she said she felt the same.
“Why don’t we do it now, then?” she asked.
And for a moment, I hesitated. I thought of the influencers I discovered on this app, whose videos I enjoy watching. I thought of the one viral video that inspired the idea behind one of my upcoming novels. I thought about how I’m releasing a book in as little as two months, and TikTok was going to be my major marketing strategy once again.
And then I thought about my mental health, and how that trumps any reason for staying on the app.
At the same time, we deleted our accounts. Then removed the app from our phones.
And you know what I felt? Weightless. No exaggeration. The burden of this app was lifted from my body, and I suddenly felt free.
Yes, I am going to need to restructure my marketing plan for my next book. But this is a less stressful idea than I thought. I’m more struck by how much less pressure I feel to create the next viral video (and then plummet into darkness when I repeatedly fail). And I’m looking forward to using creativity around my content instead of imitating what everyone else is doing.
Most of all, I feel empowered. The ban may or may not come. But instead of waiting for the choice to be made for me, I took my own stand. I fought the addiction. And I won.
What I’m writing
Still writing Sunset Bay, and I’ve made major progress. I finished self-editing Masquerade Mistake (book 1). I finished the rough draft of Naked Coffee Guy (book 2). And I have Savior Complex (book 3) completely plotted.
And I have received feedback from my first beta reader for Masquerade Mistake.
Ok, it’s my daughter. But still, she was my first reader and also knows how important honest feedback is (since she also writes books). It just makes me that much more excited about releasing this book.
What I’m listening to
Concert season is coming! Back in 2019, Shawn and I experienced a year of concerts when we treated ourselves to a bunch of huge concerts from our favorite bands. It was extravagant, and definitely pricey, and I felt a little guilty about spending so much on experiences when there was once a time I couldn’t afford to put food in my cabinet.
And then 2020 happened, and the music stopped. I was never more grateful for our year of concerts, and I realized just how valuable experiences really are.
This week, two bands I love released tickets to their upcoming tour. This August, I am going to see Sigur Ros with my daughter and one of my dearest friends. And in October, Shawn and I are going to see Hozier.
On Hozier, I would like to take this moment to say, fuck Ticketmaster, and fuck the people who planned the tour. When I bought tickets for Sigur Ros, there were three opportunities for presales, and they seemed pretty foolproof so that fans were the ones who got tickets. I was in and out with tickets in minutes. For Hozier, there were NO presales for loyal fans. The tickets sold out in less than 8 minutes, even though I joined the queue 20 minutes early, then waited forever for my turn only to be turned away. And within minutes, tickets were on sale through third parties. Thanks scalpers.
I hesitated to purchase third party tickets because it’s just rewarding bad behavior. But this is a bucket list concert, and who knows when it will happen again. We were lucky. We got tickets for just a small fraction above original price. In other cities, they were going for $2,000.
Something needs to change.
What I’m obsessed with
Ok, so you know the whole post above about deleting TikTok? One good thing that came out of TikTok this week were the multiple videos on the Taylor Swift “Eras” tour. So many of us who wanted to go, could not (thanks Ticketmaster). So seeing all the videos from those who scored tickets has been a really great alternative. On TikTok, some members are streaming live as the concert goes on. And I know that, in almost every circumstance, this is stealing from artists by giving non-paying fans a peek at something that should be exclusive. However, Taylor Swift is nothing if not loyal to her fans, as well as generous. I believe she would be in full support of Swifties sharing the love via social media of this sold out tour.
I don’t just write rambling blog posts, I also write novels. Find them all here.
I think you've made a wise decision to delete your TikTok account. I only have one stupid post as my SIL challenged me to eat cinnamon straight from the spoon. Wow was I stupid! Now I've realized that watching content is a waste of time. But I enjoy watching some older folks show wisdom of cooking etc. So now only occasionally pop on. I think all social media and apps have ways of content getting into the wrong hands but unless we omit all online subscriptions, taking chances and being careful is what we can control.
Probably not going to be able to ban TikTok. For good or bad, I’m glad our First Amendment protects our right to create and disseminate information of every sort and description.