Slow down world, I’m overloaded

Social Media OverloadFour years ago, I began blogging; two years ago, I embraced Facebook; eighteen months ago, I dipped my toe into Twitter and Goodreads. ‘Social media is essential to writers’ I had been told on countless occasions. ‘When I consider representing authors, the first thing I do is check their Facebook pages’ a senior editor said. However, the Globe and Mail’s series, Digital Overload by Erin Anderssen, is causing me to reconsider my approach in today’s world of non-stop interaction.

According to the first two parts of the series:

there is growing scientific evidence that sprinting through the day in a state of super-charged distraction takes a serious toll on our mental and physical health.

Daniel Coleman, author of Focus: the Hidden Driver of Excellence suggests that “we are being pulled away from the things that enrich our lives”, like talking to one another, being intimate, enjoying our children, thinking, being creative. If you need further incentive, Facebook has been linked to depression and a growing email inbox can lead to raised heartbeats and blood pressure.

even simple web searches caused people to take shorter breaths, or hold their breaths entirely, restricting oxygen to their brains.

Being ‘on’ 24/7 is a ‘killer intellectually’. A recent study found that the constant use of social media and email “led to a temporary 10-point drop in the IQ of the study’s participants”.

Nathan Zeldes, co-founder of the Information Overload Research Group has this to day:

The worst damage is to creativity and your ability to think – your mental acuity. Being interrupted and stressed all the time dumbs you down, you make worse decisions, and you are literally less innovative.

Yikes! I need all the IQ and creativity I can muster in order to write successfully.

So what’s the right strategy? I welcome your suggestions and in the interim, I plan to allocate a set amount of time to Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads every day. I plan to turn email off when I’m writing. And I’m going to continue limiting my blog posts to two per week.

There! I feel better already.

PS – I apologize if this post is part of your digital overload 🙂

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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18 Responses

  1. Yippee – as the title of my draft little book telling or showing my experiences of writing since 2010 suggests – Writing and Reading for Pleasure – instead of the struggle as Helen Hollick said to me of having to publish and use all the social media to prove you are a serious writer. A serious writer with a lower IQ interesting. Tony Riches wonderful liitle e book about establishing an author platform is also pretty daunting … where would I find time to write creatively if I did all the social media stuff you do so well, even if I had the technical competance. Now writing some non-fiction about my ocean sailing years and realising how rusty my memories are of how long the night watches were, and crew names etc etc … I am having fun so that is the pleasure.

  2. I am at the same point. I am limiting myself to a scroll through Facebook in the morning, and the same with email. I am not into Twitter, If I spend more time dealing interacting on social media, and do not get to writing until noon, which is not my most productive time. Then, at night, I scroll through Facebook again. I am writing two blogs a week on my Child of the Happy Days sight, and one a week on my Linda Root – Indie Writer page. I am spending 30-45 minutes four times a week in my ipool so I do not get Root Rot, and every other month I write as if I were doing NaNoWritMo.Othherwise, I stagnate.

  3. I spend entirely too much time on Facebook, Twitter & Google+, but failing that, I could spend days, if not weeks, without conversations with other humans. This way I can convince myself I have a life (albeit vicarious) outside of being buried in books.

    1. Kris … this is one of the reasons I use Facebook so regularly as it gives me a sense of community with other writers – even brief snippets of their lives, concerns, angsts and so on help me feel connected. I remember thinking that Facebook was nonsense – that was before I embraced it! I watch some authors like Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon Kay Penman – they both use FB differently and have their own disciplined approach. I’m glad to have met you on Facebook!

  4. Being ‘on’ 24/7 is a ‘killer intellectually’. — I can attest to this. My attention span has grown perilously short over the past few years. My brain flits from one subject to another, even in mid-thought, which makes the process of formulating and articulating my thoughts a slightly arduous process. I’ve also developed the bad habit of completing part of a task and then jumping online or Twitter because my brain has been trained to associate downtime with boredom!! O___O

    I am forcing myself on a social media/internet diet.

  5. There is important synchronicity working now – As I wrote yesterday ,before this valuable post, I must design a more restrictive social media plan. My wholehearted immersion in just facebook alone has had dire side effects. I believe some people are more naturally suited to heightened activity – and I wish I could handle it better – but, for me, already fragile health issues have raised up warning flags: accelerated heart rates, a more constant state of anxiety,some insomnia, …
    When well intentioned agents/bloggers/writing gurus/proclaim a writer must have this kind of presence, they are corrrect in one way – if offers a presence, a way for an extended community to get to know you and your voice – hence, “a platform”.
    But I didn’t begin writing to design a platform

    I believe personality and creativity walk hand in hand down a different road. They float in a dream-like state and access unknown universes that feed us the stories that define our work.
    And these stories do not originate from Facebook.
    In one way we risk losing our creative voice by not allowing enough space to hear it . and may destroy the very thing that is at the heart of our work.

    Personality certainly dictates how a writer might use social media wisely.and I feel certain many writers I know of are already moderating their time I have not been so wise! So I will not abstain – just go on shorter rations for a while.

      1. I think you did strike a chord Mary. But last night I worried that my response seemed to negative. I hope not. Social media is a critical and immensely valuable communication tool for the usually solitary writer/blogger. My personal world has expanded a thousand-fold with avenues to writers, bloggers, reviewers. I know I would not have learned and had the knowledge and support of other independent writers to help me publish my first book. Your post and accompanying links are great. I think I suffer most from what any writer who works at home does – the need to develop a structure that works for me.

  6. I think you are on the right road. Activity for the sake of activity should not be the goal. Do we have something to say? Is their an audience for our social media efforts? Have we assessed our priorities? And have we given our minds some white space to be creative? Then remember the old days when mom did not allow anyone to answer the phone when the family sat down for dinner.

    1. I like the latter memory … the potential for which has increased with mobile phones which seem to have supplemented or replaced smoking as an unsocial discourteous activity. My friends get upset when I ask them to turn off their phones in my home … and all those who use their phones in quiet carriages on trains. Even I was left speechless by one user in a quiet carriage I challenged who said how rude I was disrupting their telephone conversation! Good material for short stories.

      1. I heard the other day of a family that asked all their visitors to place their cell phones in a black box when they came for a visit! Perhaps that’s what should be done in restaurants and quiet carriages? Thanks for your thoughts, Alexander.

    2. Hi LaDonna – love the memory of Mom not allowing phone calls during dinner – absolutely taboo when I was growing up! Thanks too for the notion of ‘white space’ for creativity.

  7. When I got my first book accepted with an epub, all I heard was Promo! Promo! Promo! or you won’t sell any books. Since I knew nothing then, I did. I have a website, I blogged (my blog, guest blogs, group blogs, and those posts take forever to research and write), did chats alone and with others, went on the yahoo loops every day, had contests and gave books away (but not the massive downloads of KDP Select), went on goodreads, facebook and twitter at all hours, chatted and put up with the trolls and assorted nasties on the web. And believe me, all this sociability goes against the grain. I would much rather be alone.

    I thought that if I just promoted a little more, or did something different, I would sell more. And you know what? My sales never increased. I made pennies 5 years ago when my first book came out, and 8 books later, I still make pennies. All this promo stuff is garbage. Nothing works.

    The worst thing is, I spent so much time promoting, I didn’t write. Writing would have been a much better use of my time. As others said, the promo fragmented me so much, I couldn’t write. But the worst is, the constant, unceasing, INEFFECTIVE promo has destroyed any pleasure I may have had in writing.

    I now promo for an hour a week. That’s enough time to waste on something that doesn’t work.

    What next? It may be time for me to throw in the towel. I will self-pub the books I have under my bed (at least I can get them out), but 5 years of failure is long enough.

    I hope others realize much sooner than I did that the wisest course is to limit the promotion and save your life for writing.

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