Being accessible online has become a mainstay for writers today (or author-preneurs, as I like to call us). Sometimes it’s a lot of fun chatting with people, seeing their pictures of their travels or their children, hearing about good news from our colleagues. Getting to know our readers. But it can also be a thorn in the paw and cause some serious issues, like these:
- Serious disruption to our creative brains when we need to be living in our protagonist’s world
- Become a major time-suck
- Increase our anxiety levels
Speaking of anxiety, I have to admit, I’ve been finding myself increasingly anxious after spending time on social media, though in general, I enjoy using it. This anxiety is probably because, oh, a few things in the world are “in flux,” shall we say, like these:
- The U.S. Presidential Election
- Climate Change
- The constant snafus in the White House
- Do I really need to go on? I’m getting anxious just typing this list!
But I do think there’s a way to exist as an author online, doing our thing, talking about books and any other topics that are associated with our brand and our platform, and not being constantly mired in anxiety or incessantly distracted. Here are a few ideas to try:
Be honest about who you are as a social media user
The start, be honest with yourself about your habits, as well as what you can handle emotionally and still be creatively productive. If you don’t want to disconnect for a full day, schedule your SM usage in chunks of time. After I reach 500 words, I can stop for a social media break, or at the end of this two-hour session, I’m allowed 15 minutes on SM, etc.
Install apps that short-circuit your internet for a specified length of time.
These apps can be really useful for those of us who don’t have enough self-control to turn off notifications, or close windows that need to be closed. Freedom is one such program and I’m sure there are others. A little handy dandy googling will help with that, or posting the question to a writer’s forum.
Carefully prune your lists on Twitter and your groups on Facebook.
If there are certain people whose posts inspire negative thoughts or feelings, either unfollow or unfriend them, or mute them. Another possibility is to set up lists (or groups on FB), including only the people whose posts you’d like to see. This way you can avoid reading your main feed that may be filled with anxiety-inducing landmines.
When a story breaks that you simply must follow, read about it in a variety of sources.
If you’re reading a headline that triggers anxiety, I like to look up the same story in news sources that oppose each other in their “leanings” or bias. It helps to balance the sense of outrage or propaganda. You may also get more data by reading widely and there’s a lot of comfort in data. It has a way of cutting through the emotional hysteria and grounding the topic at hand. Things may not be as bad as they appear when you read an article from a more level-headed and logical source so choose your news sources wisely—and widely.
Remove social media apps from your phone.
We have our phones in our pockets or at our sides almost all the time these days, which means we have social media—and the world—at our fingertips instantly. If the social media platforms are only available on your laptop, you’ll be relieved of the constant pings from notifications and the itch to scroll mindlessly for hours after your workday is finished. This way, you’ll have a proper break in the evenings. While this is great advice, I haven’t yet resorted to this myself. One day, I keep telling myself. #addicted
Post the kind of content you’d also like to read.
Like attracts like. The algorithms and creepy internet gnomes built into Google and Facebook and everything else, registers the types of posts you write and/or “like” and they begin to show you more that are similar to them. If you want lots of pet videos or inspirational quotes or Hallmark videos in your feed, share, like, or post them yourself.
Schedule posts far in advance
If you want to avoid spending time on SM daily, schedule posts for the week in advance. This could save you a lot of time. The only kicker is, social media is all about socializing so if you don’t respond to those engaging with your content, the point is lost. But hey, we have to protect our headspace, so scheduling and interacting later is far better than posting nothing at all.
Take a break
Sometimes we just need a break. If we disconnect from social media, maybe we’ll feel more connected to the immediate world around us. Maybe it will heighten our senses and sharpen our writerly lens. Perhaps we won’t miss it, or miss out on anything, and we’ll get back to what we’re supposed to be doing: writing a great book.
How are you feeling about social media and your writing life these days?