Monday, September 22, 2014

A Week Without Social Media

As you know, I've decided to severely limit my access to social media for the remainder of the year. It seems like a silly, small thing, but it's a big deal to me. I spend a lot of time on it. It's something I kinda do as part of my writing career—it's how I interact with a lot of the online writing community. So cutting it out of my life for the most part has been…interesting.

The first day, I was a bit horrified to note how often I felt the impulse to CHECK. I checked so much before. I checked in the morning, all morning, in the afternoon, evening, middle of the night if I couldn't sleep. Okay, basically I was CHECKING all day long.

Did anyone reply to my tweet/FB status/Instagram picture/Tumblr post?

Did any of my friends announce something important I need to reply to or talk about?

Did anything of note happen in the writing community?

I have three spare seconds so I'm a little bored and maybe I should check JUST BECAUSE.

Check. Check. Check.

What I've learned so far is that checking actually takes up a lot of time and brain power. A half hour in the morning, ten minutes here and there, a few minutes while a commercial is playing during my Kdrama. I have been surprised to find how much time I've actually been on social media—I didn't think it was as much as it was.

But more than that, I was shocked to discover how much brain space it was taking up. The best I can do is equate it to waiting for something to bake. You know something's in the oven, and it cannot burn because you want to eat it, so you keep it in your mind while you go and do something. But you can't do something TOO engrossing because you cannot forget that the oven is on, so you do something to pass the time while also thinking about the freaking oven and don't forget the oven CHECK ON THE OVEN.

So I was distracted all the time. Checking the oven to see if my tweets had turned into…something, I guess. Meaningful social interaction? Validation that I'm not just shouting to the void? I have no idea, at least not yet. Maybe I'll figure out in time what I was checking for.

Without the ability to check—because I've had the websites blocked from my network so I can't even cheat easily—my life has been…quiet. And nice, actually. All the outside voices in publishing have vanished, and all that's left is my close writing friends, agent, editors, and the few people who feel like emailing me. It's really hard to compare myself when I'm missing all the deals, reveals, tour announcements, etc. I just feel a lot better about myself as a writer in general. I didn't think it would happen so quickly, but I'm glad for it.

The most surprising (which shouldn't be surprising but I'm pretty slow) is how my brain now has room to THINK. And in thinking comes STORIES. And REVISIONS. And PLOT FIXES. I didn't realize how much social media was muting my ability to work, purely because I was a bit distracted waiting for the oven and not able to focus my full thoughts on my own work. I wasn't abiding the ever-useful advice of "Keep your eyes on your own paper."

I still often want to check. I kinda want to check right now because this will be the first blog post I write without linking it to social media outlets in a long time, and I am scared no one will see it and pat me on the head for writing something. I suppose that is my next hurdle—remembering how to write and be okay with no one seeing it.

I think I'll get there.


  1. I often wonder this myself, being attached to social networks. I have weeks where I delete twitter from my phone and then get annoyed because do I want people to miss me? Of course. Do I get annoyed when they don't? Of course. But then I get annoyed at myself for that caring or that need to refresh non-stop.

    Basically I understand where you're coming from. I'm not a writer, but the pocket I have created out of the internet sometimes reminds me that I need to step back. The breather is good. Or at least to realize how distracting it can be.


  2. Social media is something I've scaled back quite a bit in my own life. I post on FB and Twitter once a day for my work account, but other than that I'm trying to stay away from it. And I'm happy to avoid a lot of the drama that seems to pop up on my newsfeed so often.

  3. Have you read THE SHALLOWS: WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS? I read it a few summers ago during a month-long break. It really is compelling.

  4. I stepped back from a good deal of social media that I used to get into. It really becomes a time drain.

  5. I just spent 2 weeks off the internet and I wish I were seeing all the positive benefits you report. It definitely was quieter and I had more time, and I don't think I want to resume all my networks on the same level as before, but I didn't see any improvement or increased engagement with my writing. So far! I suppose it affects us all differently, and we look to social media for different things at different times.

  6. I gave up the internet (YES THE WHOLE INTERNET) for Lent last year. Weeks and weeks of no internet at all.

    I finished a whole draft of my book. I never felt more productive. I of course also felt closer to God, which is of course a major plus. I think it's something I'm gonna give up every year.

    It's funny how we don't realize how much we're distracted until we remove the distractions completely.

  7. *pat* *pat* *pat* People who really care still see what you write, even when it's not announced everywhere. Amazing how that works. You are heard. :)

  8. I had a similar experience last year. I was writing outside my race for the first time, decided it was something I needed to research, and hit up the internet for advice. I let so many voices into my head that I couldn't hear my characters talk anymore. So I gave up the internet for a few days. Sometimes, you just need some quiet to hear your thoughts echo.
    Congratulations! May the brain break continue!

  9. I relate to you so much. There's so much to like about social media. It's a great way to meet other writers, but, man, does it kill my time and creativity. I have to limit it.

  10. I've slowed down my tweets and selfies. lol I even actually do more skimming of the feed than I do reading.