This week I started pulling the plug on various social media apps on my phone. I’ve gotten to the point where I am spending way too much time staring at a tiny screen and pushing “Like”, “Share”, or “Comment”. I found that at the least my eyes hurt at the end of the day and I also had a sense of loss for what amounted to hours spent mindlessly scrolling. This week I did something about it.
I run what is essentially a small business on social media so completely throwing off all forms of it and going Thoreau in the 21st Century isn’t exactly plausible for an indie author. I still have a computer and it still goes to that cesspool called Facebook, but that’s a business thing. My personal account is still active because Facebook is such an integral part of life at this point and most of my family uses it.
Where I’ve cut a great deal of it away though is on my phone. I had an entire folder on my iPhone dedicated to social media and when I think back it really was sort of sickening. I’d be habitually checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and WordPress for any sort of follower increase or change in numbers in terms of viewers, likes, and shares. All that remains now is Instagram (which can only be updated on a phone), GoodReads (which I use more to keep track of my reading progress than to habitually check for reviews on my own books), and YouTube because it’s still new as a platform to me and I like having fishing videos handy when I’m bored.
My first social media site was Livejournal about 16 years ago. That fizzled out for me after about a year when I started seeing a drop off of my high school friends. Blogging wasn’t as big a thing back then, at least for me, and there were more important things to do online such as *ahem* file sharing.
MySpace came after that and I seem to recall that I got on board with that pretty quickly in 2004. That was the standard of social media for me for the next three years as I added music, more pictures, and friends until my page ran slowly due to the overall weight of the crap I pilled on it. I finally swore it off in 2009, but didn’t officially deactivate it until 2013 because I didn’t know how.
I picked up Facebook in 2007 and have been with that since then. It’s too great and powerful a resource to cut myself off from completely and serves as a major factor in my book sales. I started my own page in 2014 just before I released Twenty-Five at the Lip and that’s been growing slowly but steadily.
Facebook has a lot of groups you can join and in my time on the site I’ve been a member of several of them. Perhaps the biggest suck of my time and mental energy on the Book of Faces was the NaNoWriMo board with over 23,000 members to date. It served a purpose for a time, but I finally had to let it go. I loved being able to give opinions or advice when people asked questions, but I’m not much into fairy tales and other urban fantasy genres and my news feed was often cluttered with questions like “What sort of chain mail should my squirrel mage wear into battle?”, “What would a centaur see in a minotaur love interest?”, or the frequently asked “How many of you go out of your way to read a female author?”
The last one, I’ll admit, was the sort of question that irked me more than it should. As a Classically Liberal sort of guy (that’s Libertarian Conservative for the rest of you) I felt somewhat nauseated by this sort of self back-slapping by the liberal majority that made up this group. This was a loaded question intended to either stir the pot or initiate some sort of feminist conversation. Inevitably the issue of women authors using their initials to disguise the fact that they are women would come up.
Apparently that’s a thing? I never knew that someone wouldn’t read a book because it was written by a woman. My favorite series when I started reading was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner, and later in my tweens, teens, and early 20s I followed Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. The biggest slap in the face to me personally was over my novel Just Say Maybe. I was told that my original cover and even concept was unsuitable for a male author to produce and that I should use my initials J. Windale to disguise the fact that I was male. Irony and hypocrisy know no bounds.
In election seasons (in multiple countries) it seemed that political posts started to show up more and more and while politics and religion were supposed to be somehow related to writing in order to be posted, some members disregarded the writing prerequisite all together. It was a near guarantee that if someone posted something that would ruffle the feathers of social justice warriors that a long message thread would start to grow and it would be sitting at the top of your newsfeed most of the day, even if you didn’t post on it.
If I saw one more mother fucking picture of Donal Trump…
Emperor Zuckerberg has even cast royal decrees defining what is acceptable to post about. Anything can be reported and if it doesn’t fit their community guidelines then if can be removed, the poster put into the all too famous ‘Facebook Jail’. EMS sites and groups are notorious for violating this tenant because of our cavalier attitude and crude sense of humor. If I’m going to be completely honest here, this also has a lot to do with me making a sort of stand against these encroaching liberal policies that have effected my life in a way that I really shouldn’t allow. I’ve been an active participant in something that pushed an agenda on me in an attempt to change my world view. If they’re not able to do that then they just limit your post reaches so it’s like you’re not there at all. It caused me to question what the point was and I decided that my life didn’t need that much social media anymore.
So what’s it like to not have Facebook on your phone? It’s pretty freaking relaxing. When I realized that it had been a major part of my life for a number of years and all it did was suck time from me it was an easy thing to get rid of. It’s still there, just not at my fingertips which is more than a healthy acceptable distance. I’ve been able to concentrate more on the world around me rather than just staring at my phone and I’ve even read an actual paper book this week. To be able to shake off that need to compulsively share everything you do is pretty awesome. It feels like regaining a sense of privacy in a world that isn’t so private anymore.
James Windale is the author of Twenty-Five at the Lip, Tuesday’s Gone, and Bright Lights and Cold Steel. His upcoming novel Just Say Maybe will be released soon. Click the images below to be redirected to their Amazon pages.