Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Kick the Social Media Addiction

By Bonnie Randall

Part of The Writer's Life Series 

JH: Social media has its uses, but when it sucks away our lives, joy, and creative energy, it doesn't do any writer any good. Bonnie Randall shares some scary numbers on what social media can do to your writing and your life.

Even as I write this, the ensuing hypocrisy is not lost on me: most of you will all be reading it off a screen, and will have likely arrived her via some social media platform; Facebook, Twitter, or the like.


I have arrived at a writing resolution for 2020 that’s been a long time coming, and a longer time needed. My own addiction to social media is a problem, and I’ve known it for a while—but it is not until now, with a few lofty fiction goals[1] in my near future, that I have actually wanted to make a change.

Yet, as with any change, I have needed to justify it to myself—and come up with solutions that will mean I don’t end up self-sabotaging. As such, and for any of you who may have a similar goal, I’m sharing these justifications, and solutions, today:

1. Data reflect that 40% of productivity—of any sort—is swallowed up due to time spent on social media. 

FORTY PERCENT! I don’t know about you, but with pre-existing, non-negotiable time commitments (such as a day job, a family, self-care/fitness), I sincerely don’t need anything in my life that is going to inhale 40% more of my already-limited time. That’s like being handed 60 cents instead of a whole buck, and dammit—my writing is worth at least a dollar!

Remedy: I have already assigned myself “appointments” with my social media vehicles of choice. 

I do not deviate from these appointments—meaning I don’t seek out these venues if my calendar says I am not ‘expected’ there, and nor do I skip my appointments. I have also adopted a bit of a mantra for those times I am tempted, and it is this: “No more mindless scrolling”.

I mean, really: the answer to world peace is not embedded in the newsfeed of my Facebook page. At best, the most productive thing I might find there is a good recipe for dinner, and since I’m already a fair cook, I repeat: NO MINDLESS SCROLLING.

I am also endeavoring to email or text when I want to connect with friends I normally “see” only online and with whom I want to stay connected. The added bonus of this is that conversations are deeper, more meaningful, and less pithy or said off-the-cuff more to prove how witty I can be in response to a status as opposed to a true effort to communicate.

So far, so good.

(Here's more on Things That Happen When You Stop Chasing Social Media)

2. Social media is geared, via algorithms, to show more negative content than positive. 

That alone should be enough to warrant a strict diet on screen time. Life is challenging enough as it is without a screen flashing image after image and clickbait after clickbait of salacious, horrifying, or enraging content. 

Social media does this, by the way, because they get paid-per-click by advertisers. So every time we “bite” on a story or picture that’s made us indignant, they get that whole dollar we were short-changed from above. But what do we get in return? 

Well, again data tell us that, ever since social media has been in our lives, rates of depression, anxiety, and even suicide have spiked.
Is it worth it? Again: No mindless scrolling. Not only will you get more done, but you’ll be happier.

Remedy: Need a replacement for the distraction social media used to provide? READ A BOOK. 

There. ‘nuff said.

(Here's more on Blessing Or Curse? The Modern Writer’s Dilemma)

3. Social media has stolen our patience. This one is more insidious—and destructive to storytellers—than we might think. 

It used to be the TV we writers had to compete with, as in: “Is your book good enough to warrant someone choosing to read your story over several hours, as opposed to sitting and watching a movie where the story is told over only one or two hours?” 

Now that Twitter and Facebook have been around for a decade, the competition has become more concise—and so have our attention spans. Can our story compete with the one-sentence soundbite sailing over Facebook? Or with the clever, quippy hashtag trending on Twitter? 

As our attention has shrunk so, in fact, has our ability to stay connected to our own stories

We are losing our ability to stay invested in and motivated to finish our own projects—and yet they are so much richer, longer, and infinitely more satisfying than any statuses or hashtags we see on our screens.

Remedy: Yet I—and most of you—market our fiction on social media. So what do we do? 

Again, I suggest you try different, not harder: keep you prescribed ‘appointments’ with social media that I mentioned above, and when you are on there, commit to sharing meaningful, quality posts that reflect your skill as a writer or promote your product. This will take practice. And discipline. Nevertheless, it will be worth it. A short attention span is never a productive thing. We—as a world—need to reclaim our ability to focus.

(Here's more on Do I Need it? Why I'm Considering Deleting My Facebook Account)

4. Gaming is an unproductive time-sink. 

There. I said it. Love Candy Crush? Bejeweled? Any of them? All of them? Do you currently use them as a way to escape or have distraction? That, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad. But how about you try this:

Remedy: Go to the Dollar Tree, Dollarama, whatever equivalent is in your community, and pick up a few cheap word search, Sudoko, or other old-school puzzles. 

Then use them when you need to distract yourself or have a break. Keep them next to your keyboard and go the old-fashioned route; shrink your writing screen and pull out your word-search and pen. You might be surprised—and pleased—by the different (and more cleansing) way it engages your brain. Just try it. What do you have to lose?

And reclaim that precious 40%!

Happy New Year!

[1] I have half of a ‘tragi-comedy’ written (in first-person narrative, no less; completely uncharted water for me) that even has the cover art ready and waiting. I also have half of a third novel written for my Secrets & Shadows series. Atop that, I am working on a collection of magical realism Christmas stories that I want to release for the season.

Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.

Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls. The series continues with her newest release, Within the Summit's Shadow.

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Andrew Gavin knows he's a train wreck. Before he even became a detective, Andrew’s first trauma—at only seventeen—occurred when he witnessed a gruesome suicide. Ever since, a delusion he calls The Dead Boy appears when his anxiety spirals too close to the edge…


Goaded by The Dead Boy, Andrew shoots and kills an unarmed teenage bully in what appears to be a fit of rage. Suspended from the force, and awaiting a possible murder charge, he retreats home to the Rockies. There The Dead Boy taunts him daily. Except…


Elizabeth McBrien, the childhood sweetheart he scorned, is back home in the mountains too, and shocks Andrew by revealing that she too sees The Dead Boy. Astonished that the spirit is not a delusion, but real, Andrew is further unnerved when he learns that The Dead Boy has ‘befriended’ Kyle, a gravely ill kid Elizabeth adores.

Now it's specter vs. cop in a race to save Kyle's life, and The Dead Boy insists that Kyle’s survival hinges on secrets Andrew holds about that long-ago suicide. Yet Andrew knows the entire truth will destroy him, and also annihilate any new chance he may have with Elizabeth. But they are running out of time; Kyle is dying, and The Dead Boy is ready to sacrifice anything in order to once again walk among the living…

Within the Summit’s Shadow is a paranormal romance unlike any you’ve ever read. Set in the resort town of Jasper amid the splendor of the Canadian Rockies, this novel combines love, mystery, and a persistent, deeply psychological, very personal haunting. Randall really delivers the goods with this one.”

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