Social Media Sabbatical: Two Weeks In and The Fog is Clearing

Social Media Sabbatical: Two Weeks In and The Fog is Clearing

As an aspiring author I am aware that social media is king. Publishers and agents want to know that you have a presence on social media and are aware and willing to utilise the incredible power and networking capabilities of the various social media platforms in order to build an audience and connect with people. In other words authors are their own marketing managers. The thing is, this is all time-consuming and the other thing authors are meant to be doing is writing, writing and more writing.

I went on an active campaign last year to get more Instagram followers. I love Instagram. I love finding new photographers to follow, drooling over their incredible images and imagining the adventures they must have had to get them (I follow predominantly landscape photographers). I never follow anyone whose images I don’t love just so that they will follow me. What’s the point? It’s disingenuous. The upshot of this, is that my unwillingness to play the game in terms of following and unfollowing has gained me a grand total of 100 extra followers in the past year. To put that in perspective, literary agents and publishing houses are looking for authors with over ten thousand followers across each of the various platforms. I have 135-ish (it fluctuates) Instagram followers, a poultry 20-odd twitter followers (though I rarely tweet), Pinterist is dead to me, and I ‘m not really sure what Google is doing. Linkedin? I’m on it… I think.

I have an average amount of Facebook followers for a person who posts way too many pictures of their kids and their sport (spoiler, my private profile is 70% taekwon-do and 30% kids). I like using social media. I like seeing news about my friends, family, and colleagues. I’m happy to find out about new books, or awesome podcasts, or the next best show on Netflix. I struggle however with the type of self-promotion that is apparently required of me when just at the moment I don’t really have anything to promote.

So here is my conundrum.

According to Cal Newport’s book Deep Work (2016), which I highly recommend you read, social media is an evil that stops us from working in a focused, consistent and productive manner. It so easily draws our attention away from the task at hand and back to the daily gossip, the sports report, the fashion posts the… I mean you should TOTALLY be reading my blog posts via Facebook and you should be telling ALL of your friends about it too (irony acknowledged).

Cal Newport’s remedy is a sabbatical. One month. See what happens.

I’m two weeks in to my disconnect with social media. I’ve deleted Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from my phone so that I can’t quickly access them as a reflex every time the phone pings, or I’m looking for an excuse to dodge what I should be doing. It’s school holidays here so I can’t say that this week has been overly productive, though last week I sourced three short story competitions I want to enter and began brainstorming ideas for them as well as completely re-imaging the new novel I am working on. I feel more focused/less scattered and I feel as though my brain has time to settle on my thoughts and ideas better than it has in a long time.

This was what I was hoping for. What I didn’t expect, however, was how I would feel when I did sneak a peek back at the insidious, perpetually scrolling view of the outside world. Sad. Because Facebook is a major form of communication between my friends and I, a major source of information for writing groups, taekwon-do news and kids activities it is completely unrealistic to stop using it altogether and it seems that if I want a writing career I not only have to engage with it, but embrace it. Yet, when I open my feed I find it bruising and jarring. From animal welfare advocates desperately trying to help those creatures in need (and as a former veterinarian I find this admirable and distressing), to fundraising for charities, to sexism, to racism, to the political shambles that seems to be inherent in every country, it simply hurts to see it all condensed and unfiltered and always there at my fingertips.

This should be a good thing, and I’m sure it is in many ways.

The challenge for me is finding the balance between remaining engaged with the world as it is presented and interpreted through social media and keeping my own head-space clear so that I can work, but also so that I can intelligently navigate all the information, misinformation, opinion and fact that I am bombarded with.

And how the heck do people attract 10, 000 followers???