Most articles we read about Facebook (and other social media sites) report how much time we now spend frittering and twittering away each day. In fact, a recent article posted by Bloomberg BusinessWeek states that the average American spends as much time checking their Facebook feed as they do on their pets or on daily housework (you can read the article here: http://tinyurl.com/ml44ekl).
We really aren’t that surprised, are we? With the ability to check these sites on our phones while standing in line, or waiting at the doctor’s office, those little chunks of time all add up. The question is, “How do you feel after you’ve logged off?” Did you get anything out of it, aside from a brief respite from boredom?
As someone who uses Facebook casually to keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues, I also realize that Mark Zuckerberg is taking every bit of information I fork over in status updates and selling it to companies intent on selling me stuff related to that mined data. I know enough about Facebook and its TOS (terms of service) to realize that I am a product that they intend to monetize in any way possible. So, if we’re going to have this relationship, I might as well get something out of it. If I’m going to be on Facebook, I wanted it to be a better experience, which brought me to this question:
What if we started using these sites to help spur our writing projects?
Writers, by and large, are a supportive group, and this extends to social media as well. When checking Facebook, I specifically check updates of writer friends and authors I enjoy because they often post updates on their WIP or their processes. Reading these status updates, such as “Just finished 2K words this morning!” serves as further motivation for me. While it’s important to not compare ourselves to others–especially since we have Facebook personas that are more attractive and interesting than we actually are in real life–we can be encouraged and motivated by the posts of other writers. Anne Lamott always delivers and Louise Penny is extremely gracious with her updates. So, I now hide the feeds where people share their breakfast choices and opt to read posts from those immersed in the writing life.
Like anything, this can quickly become a rabbit hole of procrastination, so I try not to check social media until after I’ve tackled my own writing first. However, if I’m having trouble getting started, I give myself a 15-minute block of time to check authors’ posts to help spur my brain into action (and yes, I set a timer!).
I’ve also found Twitter to be helpful in terms of writing life and related stories because the nature of this format is condensed into 140 characters. Twitter’s format lends itself to sharing stories and blog posts, and I, again, set a specific time, and work to use the posts to motivate me and to help return my attention to writing.
I can’t say that I never waste time on social media but I have now become a bit more aware of how to use it to my benefit–and how often I’m online. Rather than scrolling mindlessly through status updates on things I don’t value, I now seek out specific posts and updates that will help me navigate the challenges of finishing a novel while working and raising a family. I also make sure to support my favorite authors by purchasing their books and writing reviews of novels I’ve enjoyed.
So, I’m making peace with Facebook and Twitter. Like all technology, these sites make valuable servants but horrible masters, and I realize it’s up to me to decide how to leverage them to my benefit. How about you? How do you use social media in relation to your writing life?