You may have noticed, or, if you’re like me now, you won’t have (good for you!), but I’m no longer on social media.
To be clear, for me ‘social media’ includes Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. I’m still on YouTube, so I haven’t gone completely off the grid.
I wanted to write this blog post to explain why I’ve made this decision and, perhaps even more importantly, why you’ll never find me lingering on the likes of Facebook (so long, Zuck!) again.
The red terror of notifications
Ah, that heady rush when you open your Facebook app and someone has liked one of your posts. Sometimes, even more than one person has liked it. Oh, the joy! Put like this, it sounds silly, but it’s just how our brain works. And Facebook is designed to make us come back for more. I was sick of this near-constant agitation and the quest for ever more dopamine hits.
An hour extra every day
I can’t tell you how many times per day I’ve said to myself: I’ll just quickly check Facebook, only to be pulled into a black hole of link clicking and notification hunting for the next hour or so. I wasn’t counting. I’m not counting now either, but I do suddenly seem to have more time on my hands.
Social media is so effective at leeching on our time, because we don’t notice that it is. But even 5 minutes in the morning, 5 after lunch and 5 before logging off in the evening adds up to fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes that, almost certainly, could have been better spent.
I’m no obsessive lifehacker wanting to make the most out of every minute of my day, but I’d rather not give any more of my time to what is, essentially, an advertising platform. (You’ve no idea how many times I’ve hesitated to buy that pet vacuum!)
I reckon I get an hour extra every day, what with eschewing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter completely. I use the extra time to go for a walk in the forest, where no one’s trying to sell me a vacuum for my cat.
A weight being lifted
As an indie author, I always believed I had to be on social media. How else was I going to sell books? It was one of these indisputable truths, which turned out to be nothing more than just another myth.
Social media doesn’t sell books, not a great number of them anyway. And isn’t it better to spend the time I gain by not having to come up with yet another witty Facebook status writing new material instead?
Peace of mind, where art thou?
I had a personal profile on Facebook, a page for my author name, and a profile for my author name. I belonged to several groups about lesbian fiction. I even set up my very own Readers Group a few months ago. All of these required constant feeding of one-liners, pictures of my cat, and status updates (preferably with gifs) about my work in progress. All of that followed by the hankering for the instant gratification of a thumbs-up symbol.
It’s no secret that I’m a delicate little flower of a writer and I have no qualms admitting that it was all a bit much for me. My peace of mind has increased significantly because I don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. Meanwhile, my ego is just fine.
Because I may have told myself that I needed to be on social media to sell books and make readers aware of ‘my brand’, but, when I’m really honest about it, it was all about myself. The attention. The dopamine hits. How accomplished it made me feel when someone like Jae left a comment on one of my posts.
I don’t need to have an opinion anymore
I stopped spouting opinions on Facebook a while ago, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t still trying to come up with witty/accomplished/look-what-I-can-do status updates all the time.
An example: a few months ago I bought an old desk I wanted to up-cycle. All through the process of picking it up, sanding it, painting it, and making it look pretty, in the back of my mind there was this little voice: the before and after pictures will look so good on Instagram. What the hell is that about? Was I up-cycling this desk for my personal enjoyment or for Instagram likes?
I don’t wanna miss a thing
The days of me scrolling through my Facebook news feed had been long gone already. But it used to be such a thrill to see what my nephews were up to or which new decadent cocktail my friends in Hong Kong had discovered, but after about a decade of seeing family members’ lunches and old classmates’ babies, I’d had enough.
When we lived in Hong Kong it was the perfect way/excuse to stay up to date with our family and friends in Belgium and vice versa when we moved back home. How many conversations didn’t start with: Oh, I saw on Facebook that you did this… And sure, it may have been convenient, but you know what it also did? Cause FOMO (and so many eye rolls)!
The fragmented mind
I made the decision to quit social media after reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work for the second time. He challenges his readers to try it for 30 days and then see how they feel.
I knew after one day that I wouldn’t be going back, because of all the things I mentioned above: Delicious peace of mind. Like a weight being lifted off my fragile shoulders. Not needing to spend any precious energy on other people’s issues. No longer having to roll my eyes at my mother’s oversharing.
I read Deep Work for the first time a year ago and I really wanted to try a digital fast then, but we were traveling and I wasn’t in the right state of mind and I simply still believed I had to be on Facebook for my brand (how silly does that actually sound when you really think about it?)
This time around, though, I was ready. The book advocates deep work, gives you strategies on how to accomplish it, and lists the many benefits of it. When you read it, you want to work deeply.
Not only does frequenting all your favourite social media haunts eat away at your time, leaving less of it for deep work, but it also fragments your focus. It’s always easier to quickly check Facebook than to write a chapter in your new book. Always. But if there’s no more Facebook/Instagram/Twitter to check, you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate on writing that chapter.
And all the useless information you’re no longer bombarded with leaves your mind far less cluttered and able to focus on what matters: (in my case) how am I going to get these two female characters in bed together?
I’m still here!
You won’t be able to private message me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram anymore, but you can always email me.
I’ll also be spending more time keeping my mailing list subscribers up to date about the goings-on in my life (I may even send them a picture of that up-cycled desk!) by sending a newsletter every two weeks, regardless of new releases.
And who knows, maybe I’ll start writing more blog posts like this one?