Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pulling the Plug: My Evolving Relationship with Social Media

On 8 November 2015, at 23:59, I went dark. I pulled the plug on social media — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogger. Then I went beyond that. I limited my use of e-mail, kept the TV off during the day (until my partner came home from work and turned it on), sent very few text messages, and when I wasn’t working at my day job, kept my cell phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode.

I went dark, off the grid. A much-needed timeout from social media because I felt overwhelmed. As I worked on the rewrite of my novel, I was also trying to stay current on industry trends. Suddenly, I felt everything coming at me fast and furious. On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or my inbox, the bombardment was unrelenting: Advice on holiday book marketing, or writing and selling your novel, or how authors can use Facebook Lead Generation Ads, or how to grow your followers, etc., etc. Overwhelmed, I couldn’t hear myself think. I didn’t know how to proceed.

And being overwhelmed has a spiraling effect. I don’t know how to move myself forward. I can’t concentrate. Then procrastination sets in, which I embrace wholeheartedly. Consequently, I’m then frustrated because I’m not moving forward, my writing projects stalled, and me along with them.

So I went dark, off the grid. For two weeks.

Now I’m back and, as a multidisciplinary artist, I recognize that social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. — can be powerful tools in the promotion of our brand. I enjoy interacting with those interested in my work, receiving their feedback, and thankful for their encouragement and support. It’s just that … I don’t live vicariously through social media. I’m not someone who likes to tweet about life as much as I like to live it. That’s why social media is both my friend and my enemy. I took the timeout because social media felt more like my enemy.

My enemy. Because, real or imagined, I felt like social media had dominion over me. I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t creating. By going off the grid, I wanted to get grounded again, get back to basics and myself, and focus on what I love to do most: writing.

During that two-week timeout, I wrote. Focused, I’ve made a lot of progress on the rewrite of my novel. I polished several short stories and made submissions. I got out running more, or to the gym. I went out and explored my neighbourhood, discovering new restaurants and boutiques. I read more (currently making my way through Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series and having a blast). I Challenged myself in the kitchen, taking on some of the more intricate recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I finally organized my spice cupboard. I felt relaxed, and at the end of each day, a sense of accomplishment. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Yet here I am, still trying to figure out a way forward, how to balance my use of social media, my writing time and the rest of my life pursuits. I know something has to change. And maybe it’s that I have to change my perspective — stop worrying about my “platform,” how many followers I have on Twitter or fans of my Facebook page. Perhaps, when I become a bestselling author the likes of Stephen King or Margaret Atwood or John Grisham, I’ll worry about those things. Then again, maybe not. Now, I’m just going to write, live life and enjoy this spectacular journey. I invite you to hang around, be part of it. But don’t expect too much from me on social media. I’m pulling back as I figure out a way to use social media “smarter,” to not let it define me, become who I am. I think this is the only way for me to stay real.

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