For awhile now, I’ve been contemplating giving up Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, or at least curtailing the time I spend on it. I started participating in these platforms because I wanted to stay in touch with friends, and I’ve done that. I’ve reconnected with childhood friends, my friends from college and my time as a military wife. I’ve also remained connected to others I’ve met more recently, especially my writer friends. I’ve joined quite a few online groups to connect with other writers through Facebook and on Twitter, too. Writing is such a solitary occupation (especially when you practice it in a rural setting) that connecting through the internet is invaluable and validating. There really are others out in the world who write!
A secondary reason I became involved in social media was to build an audience for my book(s) when I am published one day. I don’t really know if I’ve managed to build an audience, (perhaps a small one) and my books aren’t on the market yet. Though I still like being on social media, I spend far too much time following my interests down the rabbit home of information and curiosity. I will intend to spend only a moment checking updates but find that an hour and a half has passed before I realize it. I no longer have much time to do other things!
Also, I’ve noticed something about myself and the time I spend on social media. I feel scattered. I struggle to concentrate. I am disconnected from life rather than connected to it. I don’t engage with my writing as readily as I once did. I have trouble concentrating on long passages of reading or writing for extended periods of time; whereas, I used to read and write for hours. I also used to draw, sew, garden, watch birds and myriad other pursuits. Ironically, my world and my interests have narrowed even as the internet has brought the world to my fingertips.
Once I wrote from a place of deep introspection. When I sat down to write, the words bubbled up from deep within. Not at first, but it didn’t take long to enter the mindset necessary for the magic to happen. Sometimes hours would pass, but it only felt like minutes. Characters appeared seemingly from the ether. Experiences, voices, descriptions, scenes, dialogue, all these passed through me. I was the conduit for the story. I didn’t think it up. I simply waited for it to come to me, and I wrote it down. It was glorious, like a runner’s high, endorphins exploding inside me and filling me with deep satisfaction. When I found that I could disappear into the words and rhythms of the story I was writing, I knew I had found my release, my meditation, my art. I want that back.
Now I struggle to write because I inhabit a place of frenetic activity, sound bites, and frequent interruptions. I think my characters into being rather than being open to the muse and letting the action and the characters appear as they once did.
If the creative act of writing is a meditative, relaxed, art-minded state of being, taking part in social media is the farthest thing from it. When I have written, I usually discover something about myself or gain some insight into the writing process or human nature. But on social media those moments of insight are rare. When I hop on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I tell myself I will only scroll down my feed (disgusting term, that) for a few minutes, but I so easily succumb to the seduction of reading articles, looking at pictures of cute puppies, watching videos–you name it–that I often spend far too long there and come away feeling less happy, less settled, less satisfied with life than when I began. I should have more will power, but I know that social media sites do a lot of research to keep me clicking.
I have decided to conduct an experiment. Starting today, I am going to limit my time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Oh, and definitely Pinterest, that black hole of a time suck where I tend to dawdle! From now until further notice–at least a month or longer–I plan to be on social media only AFTER I have worked, written, read, cooked, gardened, walked Stella, visited with friends, and generally enjoyed my life.
I am going to live my life, rather than share an edited-for-media version of it. I want face-to-face conversations with my friends at dinner parties over good food and wine. I want to float down the river with my husband and walk with him in the forest to pick berries or see the leaves change. I want to visit with my children and really hear what is going on in their lives. I want live music, art, and travel. No more distractions, no more staring at a phone or a computer screen.
I’m making a change today to save my brain from the constant barrage of ads and negativity I find on social media. I will continue to write this blog, and I hope you’ll follow me here, but I am limiting myself to an hour each day of activity on all media. I know it will take a lot of willpower to make this happen. All habits are hard to break, but I hope to be a happier, more productive person, a better writer, a more attentive wife, and a more loving mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I’ll check in and let you know how it’s going. You’ll still find me on my social media platforms, but not as often as before. If you feel compelled join me in sharply curtailing your involvement in social media or have done so already, leave me a note and tell me how your life was changed (or not). I’d love to hear your story!
Shannon, this is exactly how I feel, and I didn’t actually join Twitter and Facebook until March, fearing that what would happen HAS happened–I spend at least 4-5 hours a day or more on primarily those two sites. I wanted to get re-acquainted with my younger self who listened to music for hours, and talk to others about music, and boy have I done both of those things, but I feel that it’s to the detriment of my writing/reading life. Let me know how your quest goes because I need to do something as well. It has been fun connecting with people around the globe on music sites, but it’s becoming my life and I don’t want that to happen–my “real” life seems to be leaving me behind! Thanks.
Hi Mary Beth! Thanks for reading this post. I had a feeling it would resonate with other writers. Social media has its place, but I don’t think that place is at the center of my life. I hope you find a balance that works for you! I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Let me know how your dis-connection goes.
Thank you for expressing what I have been feeling for some time now. I have come to the conclusion that FB is now a bad thing. Wasn’t always but it is now. Soon I will begin a new book project that is super difficult and I will curtail my time on FB. I, too, feel scattered, unable to focus. Social media is the culprit.
I didn’t think I was the only one feeling this pull in the opposite direction from the one I want to go. I wish you only the best with the new book project, Tom. We’ll have to stay in touch through our blogs and Messenger if not by old-fashioned snail mail. I’m beginning a new project myself. I’ve had it on my mind for a long time, and I haven’t been able to figure out how to write it. Time away from distractions is what I need. 🙂 Stay in touch.
Thank you. We can use FB PM and I’ll still use FB but mainly to promote my work. I wish you well on your project too. I’ll not be hard to find.
Mindless scrolling is a horrible time-suck. The scary part is how much time can pass before I realize I’m mindlessly scrolling — and then how long it takes to tear myself away even after I realize I’m not engaging or reading for information. I’ve definitely lost my ability to focus. I want it back.
I wonder how many people don’t realize that they are mindlessly scrolling and don’t even realize they can’t focus anymore. I’ve noticed just since yesterday that I am drawn to social media even when I am consciously staying away. that’s seems like an addictive behavior.Not happy about that. I do feel more free to do other things, but I’m not free of the pull yet. I’m giving myself two times each day to go on Facebook and other media, but only for an hour at a time. If I spend less time, I’ll be happy.
Many of my friends now use FB PM to contact me. I wish they would use email. It is hard to avoid FB but I try.
I’m responding to you now because I got an email. I think instant messaging has become a part of our culture since we carry computers in our pockets. But I also think FB has a hand in making their product so convenient that we use it without even thinking of the consequences. Add to that the fact that we all expect instantaneous answers to questions (from our pocket computers) and contact with our friends (via our pocket computers), and what we have is our current dilemma. I’ll contact you via email from now on. I’m sure your friends would too if you asked. 🙂
Ok, let’s try that and see how it works. (Texting drives me crazy too, by the way.)