Kool-Aid Man Syndrome | A Flavor Of Impostor Syndrome

Since the launch of this blog, I’ve written a few posts about my social media habits, particularly on Twitter.

While I do have a Facebook page and go back and forth about setting up an Instagram account on a regular basis, Twitter is where I tend to be most active.

However, I’m not as active as other writers.

In the past, I’ve talked about my feelings towards various methods of self-promotion on the platform like advertisements sent through automatic DMs and hashtags like #Writerlifts and my following practices, and in those posts I’ve alluded to a bit of hesitation on my part.

Even though I’m pretty vocal about being a writer, I have a surprisingly hard time talking about what I’m working on. This is in part because I want to avoid spoilers so friends and family can experience my books without being hindered by information I’ve let slip should they choose to read them once published or because I know there isn’t a lot I can say that will make sense about my stories without going too deep into those details.

I hesitate to talk about the broader scope of the publishing process or intricacies of it because my current understanding is minimal. As someone who has not yet taken that leap of faith into the dreaded query trenches, I don’t have much experience and can only speak about my conceptions or plans regarding the future of my projects or career.

With social media goes, this is something I deal with a lot, for the aforementioned reasons but others. There are times where I question how much significance my input has even when people ask for it—or wonder how much they really care about my opinion. A driving factor here is the fact that I’m unpublished as far as my fiction goes, which makes me feel underqualified to contribute to conversations on Twitter in almost all cases, even when it’s something as simple as “Tell me what your protagonist’s favorite color is.”

I worry about butting in where not wanted.

It’s not exactly imposter syndrome, but rather a sort of variation of it I’ve come to call Kool-Aid Man Syndrome.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is when you frequently doubt your abilities or believe you’re not good at something even though there is significant proof of competence, which can lead to a subconscious fear of being called a fraud.

One component of this is not feeling as though any compliments or awards you receive are not deserved.

This is something I find myself dealing with on a regular basis.

With something like comments from beta readers, I brush off positive notes and play down the praise, fixating on critiques. I tend to say this is because there is more to learn from negative feedback than someone telling you you’re doing something right, but I also wonder if this is a tinge of imposter syndrome.

Blog posts are another factor in this.

What Is Kool-Aid Man Syndrome?

As I’ve mentioned in the past, putting my work out there is something I’m still learning to be comfortable with. I have confidence in my stories and my characters but lack that same faith in myself.

While many of my feelings towards self-promotion relate to the way some users appear to prioritize boosting their follower count over who those followers are and interacting with them, as especially prevalent in #WriterLifts and the like, I also recognize they can be attributed to my own hesitation to join in on self-promotion threads because I really don’t have that much to promote right now.

All I have aside from this blog is a total of nearly-four novels in progress, most of which are still in dire need of work before I can feasibly think about taking the next steps towards publishing them.

In a thread of authors sharing their published works, dropping a link to a blog post of mine seems insignificant by comparison, so I start to feel as though it’s not as important or would waste the original poster’s time and contribute to the already-ongoing flood of notifications popping up as others participate.

This is not limited to #Writerlifts and other threads encouraging self-promotion, but even tweets in which someone asks for links to their followers’ blogs. While there might be a recently-uploaded post I’m proud of or am excited to share on my site, I hold back when it comes to comments on these tweets.

The problem is, it doesn’t stop there for me.

Even in a non-self-promotional setting, it can be challenging for me to jump into the conversation. Whether it’s someone asking a fun question about their followers’ writing projects (eg What is your favorite location in your WIP? or Which of your characters would you want to be shipwrecked with? Why?) or asking about the followers themselves (eg What was your favorite television show as a kid? or What are you hoping to achieve by the end of this year?), it’s not as easy for me to jump into the thread.

Responding to these tweets, especially when it’s posted by user I haven’t interacted with much or just started following, always makes me feel like I’m bursting into a room uninvited.

Hence my calling it Kool-Aid Man Syndrome.

For reference, see the GIF below.

Oh yeah! (Kool Aid Man) | Kool aid man, Kool aid, Hi gif

I think this might be tied into the nature of Twitter itself. While I keep my Facebook friends strictly limited to people I know IRL such as former classmates and family members, Twitter conducts itself differently.
Unless you have a specific setting turned on, anyone can follow you without you needing to approve it the way you accept Facebook friend requests. Since my Twitter account is under my pen name and serves as my main social media platform for writer-related activity, I opt to keep this privacy setting off because I know I will be eventually using it to promote my books.

I can say I’ve definitely made writer friends through Twitter, but there are so many I don’t know. I am aware this in part because I don’t interact as much as others and therefore don’t have frequent engagement, thus limited opportunity for connection.

In a recent post, I made mention of regularly participating in weekly writer chats on Twitter, which typically consist of about five questions with the interest of sparking conversation other than self-promotion, and that these appeal to me so much more than #Writerlifts.

One reason I like these threads that didn’t get a mention then is the consistency of them. While new faces are popping up every week, I have come to recognize many of the frequent participants and their projects, and I think some might recognize me as well. There’s a sense of community in these, like getting together at the local cafe to chat about our projects.

Since I “know” these individuals, and the thread invites me to do so, I’m more comfortable talking about my writing.

However, outside of these weekly virtual get-togethers, I’m more reserved.

I feel weird about dropping into the comments of tweets that show up in my feed because someone I follow liked it. Even if it’s a post genuinely asking for documentary recommendations on a specific topic, replying to these tweets feels like dropping by a friend-of-a-friend’s barbeque after your friend was tagged in a photo taken there. It may not be to that extreme, but it’s a similar principle.

Since I’m not following this poster and they are not following me, it kind of feels like I’m bursting through the door to jump in the conversation.

Like the Kool-Aid Man. Just smashing through the wall with a hearty OH YEAH!

Except where the Kool-Aid Man has juice and bravado, I have little to promote and a fear of crossing lines.

I’m hoping to be more active on Twitter and participate in more threads when I get closer to the querying phase. Overall, I think there is a balance to be maintained, posting and engaging enough to form those connections but not so often that it feels like I’m intruding or annoying the original poster by crowding their notifications.

I like to believe every writer had a boldness within them, even if it’s soft-spoken and not barging into the room like an anthropomorphic jug of fruity sugar-water. Building up that courage to put myself out there is not going to easy but, if done right, the rewards will be equally sweet.

Cheers!

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