Catholic or Depression? What Does Twitter Want?

The whole realm of social media baffles me. More precisely, I’m struggling to figure out communicating about my writing via social media – especially Twitter – and feeling forced to “pick a lane” on the information superhighway.

Am I a Catholic writer? Or am I a “mental health activist,” as someone recently labeled me?

I’d like to be a Catholic man with clinical depression who sometimes writes about spiritual subjects and sometimes writes about mental illness and sometimes writes simply about life. I think there’s enough to satisfy folks who are interested in one, the other or both.

Like just about every writer, I want people to read my efforts. If I wanted to write solely for myself, I could do that. But I write monthly for the St. Louis Review newspaper/website, I contribute frequently to several Catholic websites, and I write for my personal site. When I was a sportswriter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I didn’t bother with trying to attract readers. I wrote, someone else at the newspaper advertised and marketed, and if people wanted to read about my subject, they would do that.

For the Post, I was in a select group of experts on my writing subjects: Cardinals baseball, St. Louis University basketball, St. Louis high school sports, whatever. That’s not the case in cyberspace. There is so much out there on essentially any subject a person could imagine. Knowing my subject and writing well – those aren’t enough if people aren’t aware that, first, I have written something and, second, it’s something they might want to read.

So the product is, at most, half the necessary work. It also happens to be the only half in which I have training (journalism degree) and experience (23 years as a professional newspaper writer, eight as a blogger).

Facebook makes sense to me, though that doesn’t mean I have mastered its use. My personal FB page has nearly 1,500 “friends.” I am the first to acknowledge that I haven’t personally met a good portion of those people. Although I do know more than half, many in that group are people who have read something I wrote and wanted to stay informed about future blog posts. Some appreciated my thoughts on mental illness, others are Catholics who found my spiritual writing resonating with them.

I let people on Facebook know when I have written something new. Even then, the reports I receive tell me actual readership is a relatively small percentage of my “friends.” I’m willing to accept the low readership numbers are in large part a reflection on my work, upon which I will improve. I have a hunch improved marketing could help, though, and I have the evidence of vastly increased numbers when I have taken advantage of paid Facebook advertising a few times.

Twitter is a newer arena for me, and I have found it to be more challenging. It is much more difficult to attract Twitter followers than Facebook friends. But there is a pattern to those followers that intrigues me – and makes me wonder how to respond:

When I write something about my Catholic faith or the spiritual life and tweet about it, I pick up several new Twitter followers. Their profiles usually indicate faith in Jesus, often including the #Catholic hashtag. I also lose several followers, presumably because they don’t want to read something about the spiritual life.

When I write something about my depression or mental illness and tweet about it, I pick up other new followers. The profiles of those people almost always indicate an interest in mental illness, with hashtags such as #sicknotweak, #imnotashamed, #depression or #bipolar. After a few blog posts like that, a few followers drop away as well.

The editor of the St. Louis Review once wrote a column about this kind of phenomenon. His tweets might relate to content in the Review, weekly publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, or they might be personal tweets about his family and his love of the outdoors and hunting. The number of his followers tends to ebb and flow, similar to mine – although the amount of followers for @mikeeisenbath pales in comparison to the number of folks who follow @TeakPhillips!

So what’s a writer and tweeter to do?

Do I focus on writing about just one subject? I’m considering it. Do I open an additional Twitter account, then use one for spiritual posts and the other for those about mental illness?

I really would welcome feedback.

Posted in Confronting Depression, Your Fellow Pilgrim Tagged with: , , , ,
8 comments on “Catholic or Depression? What Does Twitter Want?
  1. Celeste says:

    Interesting dilemma. My gut reaction is that you should be who you are. People are not one dimensional. Your Catholic faith and your struggle with depression are two facets of who you are. Knowing those two things about you makes you seem real and genuine. The twitter-verse is very fickle. I wouldn’t worry about losing followers if your numbers are increasing. That being said, I am not in the marketing business. Someone with more knowledge about that area may have better advice.

  2. Pam says:

    Keep doing what you have been doing ! You are so good on both subject matters . Let the readers pick what they want to read unless you need to focus only on one area to make it easier on you .

  3. Vicki says:

    Mike,I appreciate your genuine concern. My feeling/advice is to listen to the Holy Spirit. Your gift is multifaceted and to close one door for the other will never give you peace. In my profession, as a sculptor of religious figures, I can only listen to the Holy Spirit and if I choose to open the door to the reflections of others I lose my way. I know that the reason for my work is to glorify Him. Those that look and study my pieces get whatever the Lord has planned for them. I am the vessel and you are the vessel. Numbers don’t matter but your content does. Just put your sprit driven words out there and then let go and let God.

  4. Kimberly says:

    I agree with Pam. Just do your thing and let the readers decide. Personally, I like the “realness” of your musings. Don’t change a thing.

  5. Mark says:

    what attracted me to your writings is that you are catholic and struggle with mental illness like I do…..I always felt that if I was a good catholic that I would be spared hardships but thru your writings I see that is not always the case…….you should continue as is….also twitter is useless in my opinion……prefer facebook or email

  6. Joyce says:

    As someone who is also Catholic and who deals with depression from time to time, I find that the words of John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Some Definite Service”, really speak to me:

    You are fulfilling something of your purpose by using your God-given talent for writing, reaching out to others.
    God bless.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Mike your a great journalist, a great Catholic,the Lord has gifted you with both of these. As others have said let the holy Spirit direct. your writing.
    Sometimes your to reach just one person and other times a whole group.
    When ever you write you always reach someone that the Good Lord wants you to reach.
    You are truly Blessed
    God Bless

  8. Larry Boldt says:

    Mike. As others have said you need to be your true self. You cannot control who reads your writings. The Internet allows us the opportunity to reach people in a way that in the past was not possible. What we don’t see is how something you wrote affected others and how they passed it on to someone else.

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Mike & Donna Eisenbath

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