In an attempt to fix those annoying tech issues, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone only to have the subsequent experience (and rest of the internet) tell me it’s not enough—a factory reset would be imminent *DUN DUN DUNNNN*
So I was happy to drag my feet a bit, and found one pleasant side-effect of being app-less. It was only for a few days while work and other commitments pushed the phone reset lower down the priority list. But I found I could focus better on writing and reading.
That “hooked” feeling I’d get from feed scrolling transferred to books and I am so very pleased. I’m getting to stuff that’s been on my TBR for ages, approaching my work with a clearer head, and the weird thing is I’m not even going cold turkey on social media. I just don’t have the apps on my phone right now.
Actually, wait, those are only half-truths. I’m on a “feed restricted diet” right now too 😛 I get five minutes each of Twitter and Facebook a day (unless there’s something undeniably work-related I need to take care of). And now that I’ve reset my phone, I’ve put Goodreads back on there—but you could argue that Goodreads isn’t really a social platform, it’s more like a beefed-up logbook of stuff you read.
I wonder if it’s the combination of convenient internet-enabled devices and engagement-centered design that creates that dangerous combination. When you sit at a computer to do something, you have to sit at the computer to do the thing. But with a smartphone, you can not only spend your precious micro-minutes, but the extra tax of context-switching too.
Or am I the problem? Do I have poor executive function and self-control in the face of digital temptation? 🤔
My Project 365 is nearly over (and not a moment too soon)! I’ve been thinking about what life looks like once this social media odyssey comes to an end. There’ll be no more catching up for missed days; no more wrangling a buggy app and an ageing space-poor phone; and most importantly, no more cursing the day I decided to start posting a picture a day 😛
I’m only half-joking, of course. Project 365 started out as an aesthetic form of mindfully checking in on something for mental health reasons. A year is a long time, though, and somewhere along the way, this project began to morph into other things too.
1. Creativity motivation
Sometimes I go for days, doing the same things over and over. Write, edit, eat, sleep—lather, rinse, repeat. All the interesting stuff happens in my head, which doesn’t usually make for interesting photos.
Dealing with the pressure to post every day (cos if you miss a post, you have to catch up), and being forced to look at my own grid to keep track of posts, really motivated me to explore more ways to express my ideas visually.
From stock photo choices to post topics, I’m feeling a lot more fluent and confident about sharing what life looks like in the worlds I’m building. I suppose this is one way authors can get personal on social media without having to surrender private data to the Reavers.
2. Forced learning
In order to get more creative and expressive, I needed to learn more about the tools on hand. If one app can’t achieve the effect I want, how might another app do it for me—or how might one combine both to create something artistic that conveys the right mood?
I’ve also had to learn about IG, what it demands from its users, and what it takes away. I was lucky enough to sit in on a social media workshop hosted by a power user I know, and I gotta say the way this platform works makes me think about vampire covens and the thralls who willingly offer their wrist in exchange for a chance at eternal life.
In case it’s not clear, that’s us. We are the thralls. And only a small subset of us will receive the Dark Gift 🧛 Based on my engagement stats, I’m pretty sure I’m not included in that group.
But, you know, it’s always good to learn. It keeps your brain young and fresh. If I can’t have immortality, I’ll take this instead.
3. A pressing reason to question the role social media plays in my life
The days I’ve spent away from Instagram are so peaceful. Even with a small audience and low engagement, I find myself spending a spoon just to open up the app. Two spoons if the app misfires or crashes, or if well-behaved content gets disappeared for pretending to violate an unspecified rule, or if yet another privacy/data security/corporate abuse of power scandal makes headlines.
But then, the days I’m playing with pictures and text are kind of soothing too; it’s a creative outlet for ideas that churn my coconut. I love having a laugh with friends over silly memes. And it’s nice to share something arty with people. If someone smiles or gets a sweet (or spicy) feeling from something I’ve posted, then I’ve done my job as a storyteller and reminded a person how it feels to be alive. In a world that numbs us with its chaos, I feel this helps us believe in our future.
But is feeding the Gram-pire the right way to go about it? All this rapid-fire content consumption seems to steer us towards a quantity-over-quality mindset. Can a no-name author somehow be part of the social media conversation and still embrace life in the slow lane?
These sounds: even in the haze.
So, what now?
Well, once it’s over, my first order of business will be to take a long break from IG. I’m not gonna make some grand speech about leaving the platform for good, because the truth is, I will be back. There’s stuff I like to look at. I just don’t want to drink it through a firehose 🧯
In case you missed it, Facebook banned the sharing of news in Australia last week. The new ruling was rolled out very clumsily, with the public suddenly unable to access swathes of essential information services. Look, I won’t re-hash the story. That linked article gives a pretty clear rundown of what happened.
I feel like I should be righteously indignant about this, but I’m not. I’m concerned and I’m curious. We, the users of giant “free” social media platforms, are subject to decisions made by opaque corporations and governments scrambling to keep up with changing technology. In this unexplored social, technological and legislative territory, these decisions amount to large-scale experiments with us as the lab rats.
And the two questions we may not ask ourselves enough remain:
Are we okay with this?
And, what’s the alternative if we aren’t?
What would communication look like if you were to give up social media? What would you miss out on if the rest of your social network stayed on there? Could your small business, hobby, desire for connection flourish without it?
As usual, I have more questions than answers. I know no one’s forcing us to stay on these big platforms, but I also realise that everyone’s situation is different. Some people depend on social media because other avenues are inaccessible to them. So to get all high and mighty about the choices people make is very often an exercise in projection.
There are flaws on both sides of the fence. Neither Facebook nor Australia’s news media have a clean track record, and the optimist in me wants to believe this is part of the shake-up needed for everyone to figure out a smart way forward. And still, I worry about those of us who would become “collateral damage” in the process. I worry that we’re the frog in the water and whoever’s turning up the temperature won’t know when to stop.
Is that paranoid and overly dramatic? I hope so. I hope that’s all it turns out to be.
Writing has not been a priority of late. Instead, I’ve been making time to tidy my dwellings, reconnect with my feelings, and try and knock over all the stuff my mind tends to wander to when I’m supposed to be working 😅
And so my things have been thus…
Writing and such
Writing has consisted mostly of boring stuff, aka. non-fiction stuff for work. My bread-and-butter writing isn’t especially exciting, but I must admit, it does bring some relief when I’m anxious or stressed. I suspect it’s because there’s no emotion in it, not like there is in romantic and dramatic stories.
None of my big fiction projects have seen much love in the last couple of months, but I’m working on a couple of short bits and experimental pieces. My “weird fiction” story got accepted for publication—yay! It’ll appear in the Autumn 2020 issue of the Kyanite Press journal.
There’s a teaser excerpt coming out in next month’s Dot Club. Plus more information on this blog real soon.
Tidying up my digital life
Which means closing accounts and retiring profiles I’m no longer active on. It’s funny how many things get “left open” out of FOMO or nostalgia or the fear that we won’t have it at some arbitrary point in the future when we might want it again. I’m in need of some proper cleanups at the moment, though, and that oh maybe approach is standing in my way.
As of today, I’m no longer on Wattpad, Noveltrove and Lushstories. Thank you, readers, for following me there. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy my work in the spaces where I’m active. Like this blog 😊
Health, fun & other vitals
Self-care means working on my goal setting and time management, as this is proving to be super important while trying to get all my adulting out of the way 😅 I’m also really enjoying nice smelly things (candles, soaps and oils) and delicious tea.
These are interesting times we find ourselves in. Though saddened by the losses from turbulent events over the last few months, I’m simultaneously thankful for the shake-up. I’ll refrain from addressing specifics here, because there’s so much more to say than what I can fit into this post.
But generally speaking, something was not right in the life we once called “normal”. I’m optimistic that we can dismantle the rotten parts and build something better, but seeing it all unfold still stokes my nerves. It’s frightening to see how desperately some still cling to the old normal in the face of such overwhelming need for change. I get that change happens slowly, and one can only hope it doesn’t happen so slowly that we as a human family end up needing an even bigger shake-up further down the track.
Well, anyway, here’s what my last couple of months have been like…
Writing, publishing and Camp Nano
Sunset on a Distant World is on a publisher’s slush pile. I’m not expecting to hear back for a couple of months, but all my heads, shoulders, fingers and toes are crossed and hopeful. In late June, I wrote a piece of “weird fiction” to submit to the Kyanite Press journal. Whether or not it gets accepted, I’m thankful for the chance to try a different genre. It came at a serendipitous time, as this type of fiction has some overlap with Project H, which I’m working on this month for Camp Nano.
A Twitter hiatus + my relationship with social media
Recently, I deleted Twitter from my phone. A dear writer/editor friend pointed out that reading so much for work can make spending time on an ephemeral text-heavy platform a bit of a mind-killer. And my experience for the better part of this year so far has lined up with that.
Within 48 hours of deleting the app, it felt as if a fist had unclenched in my brain. Within a week, I found myself more able to focus on tasks in front me, and give more attention back to goals and habits that had fallen by the wayside.
Twitter is like a massively crowded pub—shouty, noisy, and heaps of fun if you’re up for that. But there’s a reason I don’t go to pubs as often these days, and it’s not (just) because pints are now $15 in Perth. I feel more relaxed after my break, and look forward to taking a more laid-back approach to how I spend my time on that site. And on all the other social platforms.
For the time being, Twitter is staying off my phone, and I’m enforcing a “no scroll hole” policy on myself. I’ll still see your mentions and messages, but may not get the opportunity to reply in a timely manner. If you need to reach me, HMU on email or Instagram instead 😊
BLM and activism
In the past, I’ve shied away from anything labelled “activism”, because I’d always understood activism to mean a confrontational big-bang approach to driving change. But in the last few weeks, I’ve learned about quiet/introvert activism and what an activism toolkit might look like if overt protest isn’t something you can sustain. It includes the kind of stuff that could slot easily enough into everyday life, and helps keep the movement going between heated moments.