Friday, 16 December 2016

A Writer’s Addiction to Facebook

This year, I endeavoured to take some time away from Facebook / social media. In August, I went on a 12 day meditation retreat where mobile phones were not allowed. However, by the end of my time, I was secretly scrambling to the top of a nearby hill to catch signal, scan my phone, and scroll through, in particular, the Book of Face.

Fakebook. Face Ache. Farcebook. The Brook of Faeces. And various other names, exist for this stream of neverending comment, critique, effusion, effluence, and idiosyncratic silliness. I share, therefore I am. I like, and I consequently exist. I can connect, in that luminous abode, to up to 5000 humans, a little like Jesus Christ when he shared the fish and chips out. I mean, wine and bread. Whatever it was. And, like that gallant guy of Galilee, when I am on Facebook, scrolling through a sea of posts, I feel that I am elevated, somehow: looking ‘out’ and ‘down’ at this ocean, this crowd of human beings, able to view all of them and they, strangely, with all eyes on me…

And so, believing I am ‘seen’, if I make a post on Facebook, and no-one likes it, I feel unliked. Some of my posts get many likes (many = more than three - the ones by my mum, my cat, and me); so, following the logic through, if no-one likes one of them, I must suddenly be an outcast, and no longer in favour. I look out from my hilltop and see other people getting lots of likes… Does this mean that they are now getting all the attention and affection which, just a few clicks ago, I would have had?

It seems, sometimes, like it’s a popularity contest. Famebook. There is also the fear of missing out. This month, again, I tried to come off, but began to feel worried about what I wasn’t seeing. As a writer, I belong to some groups and pages which are useful to me. They let me know about competitions, submissions, and other literary opportunities. I came back on. There was nothing of interest on the pages I followed, but after I spent an age crawling through the feed, I saw that another writer I was friends with had ‘liked’ a post by a page I didn’t follow. The post was a call for submissions, and I had some suitable poems. I sent them off. And felt pleased, and justified, in my return to Freaklook. If I hadn’t come back, at that exact moment, I would have missed this!

As a writer, it can be hard to manage your day. ‘Routine’ is so important but, at the same time, most of us haven’t got agents, managers, social media staff, administrators, PA, marketing help, booking managers, website developers, or anyone else assisting us in our quest for, er, whatever it is we are questing for (I’d say ‘fame and glory’, but if any writer was actually looking for this over and above other considerations, rest assured, they would be doing something different). Keeping up on social media is an important thing, for me. It has gotten me things, before. It is a gateway to opportunity. It also shows the world I am alive, engaged, engaging, and that I should be considered for the festival reading, workshop, or anthology. Or as a potential girlfriend (okay, not the last one, but I may as well just put that out there…).

However, it's also one of the main sources responsible for sucking away my time and attention. I seem to spend hours and hours just crawling through the feed… As this article states, “ Facebook scrolling is a symptom of procrastination”. Its “infinite scroll” capitalises on our tendency to look for other things to do, away from that important book or project we should be focusing on. In which case, as writer Daniel Wallen says “it might be helpful to change your perception of Facebook. Instead of looking at it like a place to be social or kill time, frame Facebook as the enemy of your productivity and purpose. Doesn’t sound as tempting now, huh?”

Other reasons cited as possible causes of addiction to FB are: loneliness; low self-confidence; unhealthy comparison with others; impatience; and people-pleasing. So… Imagine the average writer: working alone; worrying if their new work is good enough; looking around at the success of their fellow pen monkeys; keen to finish their latest book; concerned about whether people will like it when it emerges… It’s basically a perfect match-up with the list of reasons of why people get addicted in the first place.

So, what to do?

After offering some suggestions for overcoming addiction, Daniel Wallen writer then asks readers to please share his article. The platform he prefers is - you’ve guessed it - Facecrook! Because it’s an addiction but it’s also a very useful one...

Maybe this is the key, then: to take a look at the uses of the platform, and the time one spends on it, and weigh up the actual gain derived from that time. Sharing isn't in and of itself wrong, of course - but spending hours of your precious life staring into a screen and worrying what others think of you (isn't that what the 'likes' are all about?) seems a terrible waste.

Here is a further list which could help you, if you can’t keep your fingers from touching at buttons or stroking at the mouse:

For me, the main solution is, I think, going to be to make it harder for myself to get into my FB account. Farcebreak! This is the only way I am going to stop fiddling with the thing when I should be out getting some fresh air or chatting to live humans or stroking real, breathing mice (!) or whatever it is people do when they’re not attached to their computers…

So, that’s what I’m going to do. As soon as I’ve shared this article on my blog, and then on - oh, you know!