Real life vs. Social Media

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Leading With Values

I was checking my email today after being away from home for a week without my computer and ran across a suggestion from Twitter to follow Geoff Talbot. When I looked him up, I found his wonderful blog called Seven Sentences: Daily Inspiration for Creative People. His blog appeals to me for a couple of reasons. First, most of his posts are only seven sentences long, not a lot of time lost reading on a busy day, and second, I learn something when I read his posts. The post I read today made me think about something that has been bothering me.

He said, “It is the curse of our times that we are led so frequently by our emotions and that we lead so infrequently with our values.” You can read the whole post here: http://sevensentences.com/2013/06/06/be-of-good-character/

I agree with him. I think we react with our emotions often without thinking, and I think the media has caught on and exploit people in the midst of their emotions. If you’ve ever been in a difficult situation, you know you need some privacy to sort things out, to figure out what you think and process what happened according to your values so that you can make sense of the situation. You do not need someone to shove a microphone in your face and record for the world your “reaction” to an event.

In our Youtube generation and digital age, I think people don’t value their privacy, and that’s a shame. In fact, I think people have abandoned values and principles as old-fashioned and outdated. Our society seems to value “emotion” more than it does thoughtful reasoning or prayerfully considered action.

Think back to nearly any tragedy covered in the news. When disaster strikes as in the tornados in Moore, Oklahoma, the media traversed the area to document the “emotion” and “reactions” of the survivors while they were still raw and incredibly vulnerable. What they found with most of the people there, however, was that their emotion was apparent (How could it not be?) but most of the people they interviewed were governed by a solid foundation in their faith. They knew, because they had faith, that God would help them recover from the destruction all around them. They generally didn’t bemoan their condition, they didn’t declare themselves victims, and they had compassion for those who were in worse shape than they were at that moment. In fact, it seemed to me that the media were a bit nonplussed at the lack of “emotion” they were able to exploit!

This documenting people’s emotions and reactions to an event has become the norm for the media, an exploitation of people which to me is troubling. What troubles me further is the willingness of most people to allow such an intrusion in their lives. The media ask questions of vulnerable people trying to get them to bare their souls to increase ratings on national TV. They ask prying, inconsiderate questions designed to elicit tears. And when the person they are interviewing succumbs to tears on camera, the media zooms in for a close up and reacts with a voyeuristic glee that they were able to push someone to cry on TV. What would we call someone who did this outside of the media? Think about that for a minute. Would you allow someone to question your family or your best friend in such a way? And yet, the media continue to do it. I find prying into the lives and privacy of people who have experienced tragedy absolutely appalling. When did reaction and emotion become news anyway?

As for the news anchors who adopt a sad face in any tragedy and say their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims? Well, forgive me if I’m skeptical, but I wonder if these people actually do pray. What they do in their broadcasts nightly is cover and, in fact, support the destruction of Christian principles and values in our country for the sake of political correctness. What they do is malign those who publicly espouse their Christianity. Do you doubt that? Just take a look at Tim Tebow, for example.  I believe the media do their best to promote and support policies that run counter to the traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and values that have been the underpinnings of our society for two hundred years.

So yes, I believe what Geoff Talbot says. I don’t know if he would support what his words inspired in this post, but I think it’s still incredibly important that we who do hold our values highly and try to live our lives according to them defend our stance and continue to assert our way of thinking. It is quickly disappearing. We are being cowed into submission. Daily we see ourselves being labeled as divisive, bigoted, small-minded, and non-inclusive. I could go on, but I think you understand what I mean.  We should all try to think through our emotions before we become fodder for the news media. And we should lead with our values.