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 🙂

Favourite reading oriented sites – Readers Choice

M.K. Tod’s 2013 historical fiction survey asked readers to name their “top 3 reading oriented websites, blogs and social media sites”. In other words, where do people go for information and discussion to enhance their reading. The answers are in:

2013 Favourite Online Reading SitesGoodreads is way out in front with 907 mentions followed by Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Historical Novel Society.

Interestingly, when readers mention Facebook they often qualify their response by mentioning a favourite group, author, fan page or the Facebook page associated with a blog.

Compared with 2012, Twitter has leapt ahead and I am delighted to see the Historical Novel Society featured so strongly.

Over 675 sites were mentioned. That’s an amazing number of sources for readers to peruse!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE SITES FEATURED

When I have more time, I will attempt to aggregate some of the numbers so I can report on different categories such as small book review blogs, sites dedicated to historical fiction, author blogs, library sites and so on.

Facebook – more fun than I imagined

My Facebook pageTrue confession time – after reading of an editor’s comment that she always checks Facebook before deciding to take on a new author, I decided to get serious about Facebook. That was eight weeks ago. In that time, I’ve found 202 new friends and discovered a world of social interaction that is truly enjoyable.

Although still a relative neophyte, I now know a bit more about how this particular social media tool works. I’ve caught up with friends from the past, seen many pictures of children, grandchildren, dogs and cats, been inspired by words of wisdom that others share and expanded my connections with the historical fiction community. I’ve enjoyed hearing about the successes of new authors and the progress that writers like Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon Kay Penman are making on their WIPs. Personalities emerge through choices people make about what to post and where to comment. Politics emerge too and I have tried to be careful not to dive into those particular waters. From a sociological perspective Facebook is fascinating!

Then, of course, there’s the opportunity to understand Facebook as a business. Two items come to mind.

  1. Recently I asked my son why he had ‘liked’ an ad for Volkswagon. He said that he had not to which I said, but I’ve seen three of these ‘likes’ in the past few weeks. A bit of head scratching followed and then an aha! Apparently about a year ago he had seen what he thought of as a clever ad for Volkswagon and ‘liked’ it. The folks at Facebook facilitate advertising for companies by putting them in touch with friends of someone who has ‘liked’ their product regardless of how current that activity might be. I suppose the assumption is that your friends will like the same products you do. Facebook owns the information about your friends and can use it for their commercial purposes. Interesting that Volkswagon fails to mention that my son liked their ad 12 months ago. Not surprising, merely new to me.
  2. Facebook seems to be aggregating product mentions on behalf of advertisers and posting them on your timeline as though they were status updates. I saw one today that leverages status updates from two of my Facebook friends where the word Amazon is included. (I won’t post a picture because I don’t want to include the names of friends.)

Both of these examples remind me that there is no such thing as ‘free’ in today’s digital world. I wonder if these commercial aspects are improving Facebook’s share price?