If you’re an interpreter or an aspiring interpreter, this month’s master class is for you! On November 15, I’m teaching How to prepare for (and pass!) an interpreting exam, a 90-minute webinar for anyone interested in creating a training plan for a court, conference, or medical exam. There’s also a bonus class this month: on November 16, I’m teaching Breaking into the book translation market for ProZ.com, but registration is open to anyone.
A participant in my online course alumni group recently asked what I thought was going to happen to Twitter/ X, which got me thinking about the changing social media landscape. So, let’s dive in: Where do I think that social media is headed?
In general, I’m someone who likes social media. I’m on Facebook and I enjoy using it to keep up with friends, plus it’s the main communication platform for the animal rescue group that my family volunteers for; I’m on Instagram for really no particular purpose except that I find it interesting. I mostly follow yoga and vegetarian cooking accounts, and I mostly post about travel and my foster cats. Like pretty much everyone else, I’m on LinkedIn, and I was, until recently, quite active on Twitter.
But, as tends to happen in the world, things are changing. I used to love Twitter as a “virtual watercooler,” and as a way to get real-time updates from news sites and local government entities (“Where is that smoke coming from?,” type of thing). When I met interesting people at conferences, I would typically connect with them on Twitter and possibly LinkedIn, but Twitter was my main social media outlet. That all changed in the last six months or so, and I noticed that the vast majority of my new Twitter followers appeared to be bots, or people with zero connection to translation or interpreting. I got fed up with this and decided to delete my Twitter accounts, which I did about a month ago. I hemmed and hawed about whether to just stop posting, but I decided I wanted nothing more to do with Twitter, and it’s actually been really liberating.
At the same time, I feel like Facebook, weirdly, is having a moment. I think that Facebook now (again, weirdly, considering some of Facebook’s history) seems like the more sedate, sane social media platform, and a lot more people seem to be using it for business. Believe it or not, I’m actually in the process of creating a business Facebook page to market my official document translation services.
The question is, with the downward slide on Twitter, (which, by various measures, has lost half to two-thirds of its value since the Elon Musk acquisition), what’s the alternative?? I actually asked this question on LinkedIn, and the answers were interesting. People said things like:
- There isn’t really an alternative; Twitter’s real-time, short-form content isn’t happening anywhere else
- Maybe try Threads, Bluesky, or Mastodon
- LinkedIn may become more Twitter-esque (people posting more frequently and including more lighthearted content) now that Twitter is X
- Smaller communities like Discord servers may become more active
- Even smaller communities like WhatsApp chat groups between you and a very specific group of colleagues may become more popular
Here’s my case for social media: despite all of its downsides and potential toxicity, social media is a really great way to stay connected. As a simple example on the personal side, when I ask people who aren’t on Facebook, “How do you stay in touch with peripheral friends: former coworkers, old neighbors, college roommates, etc.?” they mostly respond, “I don’t stay in touch with them.” And if you don’t want to stay in touch with those people, (or the professional equivalent: people you meet at conferences, people you work on projects with), no problem and you do you. I do enjoy those kinds of connections, and in a day and age where it’s become much less common to call someone just to talk, or to e-mail someone just to catch up, I enjoy that aspect of social media.
But, social media is undeniably changing, particularly with the Twitter-induced fragmentation. Here are a few phenomena I’ve observed lately:
- People seem a little fed up with the superficial nature of social media; it can seem hard or even odd to put your struggles as well as your successes out there, and places like Discord servers or smaller chat groups seem more conducive to this.
- My sense is that LinkedIn is gaining traction, but/and LinkedIn has never been truly welcoming to freelancers. Witness the fact that when you write someone a LinkedIn recommendation, there is no option for, “I worked with this person as a fellow freelancer,” and instead you’re presented with options like “We worked together in the same group,” or “I managed this person.”
- People with online businesses seem to be realizing that you don’t own your social media audience, and social media platforms are zero help if you get hacked, even if you have millions of followers. There are times when I feel a bit outdated because I mainly communicate with my Training for Translators audience through e-mail (currently 4,000 subscribers) and my blog (about 5,000 views a month). But then, I see debacles where people with (literally) millions of social media followers are hacked, or locked out of their accounts. Plus, the social media platform’s entire business model is that you have no way to contact your subscribers off-platform. This makes me even less inclined to cultivate a large following on social media.
I feel that we have yet to see a true successor to Twitter, and I really miss the community of translators and interpreters that once existed there. At the same time, I’m enjoying the more personal groups that I’ve started to be a part of, and I’m enjoying LinkedIn more, posting more often there, and posting some “not strictly business” things (I’ve started adding photos of my foster cats to my Training for Translators posts!).
If you have thoughts on the new social media landscape, feel free to add a comment!
Corinne McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!