The Social Media Fast – What I Discovered

A few months ago I went on an accidental social media fast. It was the September/October school holidays and we were busy living the dream. Painting windowsills, clearing out the shed and ripping out winter weeds so our garden no longer resembled the Amazon. Some mornings we ventured far and wide with the kids, giving me the perfect, guilt-free excuse to not check into social media for the day. The problem was that one day became two, then three, then….

At the end of the week, trailing behind my family on the popular bike paths that hug the Swan River and circle Perth’s pretty CBD, I reflected on what it felt like to have not checked into social media for days on end. It was the start of spring and the city was stunning. I felt an amazing sense of calm – no niggles whatsoever about what might be happening online, or whether I may have neglected to respond to a comment or two. It was like my baseline had been reset.

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I’ve been going hard at social media since I joined Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Blogging and Goodreads just over a year ago. I love social media — I’ve made great friends online and feel connected to a highly supportive community. I’ve learnt a great deal about the industry and the craft of writing, but I hadn’t realised how much time and mental energy was required to keep up with all those platforms on a daily basis. I used lists and hacks wherever possible, and became adept at each platform (a month of total immersion across all platforms in the beginning made this easier in the long run), but I let it seep too far into my writing time. I justified time spent on social media as being necessary – believing that it would increase my chances of being published one day. I still believe social media is vital to success – even if only for the community support it can provide when things get tough, or because there are always like-minded people online who will celebrate your small wins with you.

Stepping back from social media for a week helped me realise I was reaching a tipping point. Interacting intensely across several platforms was creating a momentum that was becoming difficult to handle – if I also wanted to write, care for my family and enjoy some downtime, that is. My social media fast taught me that I can’t be everywhere at once. I don’t need to be everywhere at once. And that’s okay.

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I’m in the enviable position of not having a book published yet. I say ‘enviable’ because at this stage, without anything concrete to promote, my social media is more discretionary than mandatory. Allowing me a certain freedom in how I manage my social media interaction. I’m aware there may come a time when I can’t afford to disappear offline into the ether whenever I feel like it, and that I’ll need to put in extra hours late at night to keep up. I’m sure I’ll appreciate having taken this time out while I could.

When the ‘accidental’ week was up and the kids went back to school, I made a conscious decision to stay offline for longer. I wanted to think about social media’s role in respect of the writing stage I was at – which is not the stage of a high profile author my social media was trying to emulate!
I was surprised that I had formed a few social media ‘values’. I wanted my interactions to be more genuine, having realised that I often ‘liked’ or ‘commented’ on posts purely to people-please, or because I wanted to be seen as the life of the party – working the room and making sure to connect with everyone who was up for a chat.

No wonder I was worn out!

Having since eased back into social media, these are some areas of change I’m working on:

Assess priorities
I had previously set early mornings as my ‘social media time’. But as my follower numbers increased and communities grew, there wasn’t enough time to connect with everyone across all platforms in my ideal morning window. I found myself sacrificing writing time to keep up to date.
Now I exercise at 5.45am instead. I often manage a quick Twitter or Facebook check while wrangling the kids before school, but whatever social media I don’t get around to has to wait until the writing for the day is done, and the needs of the family have been met. I have not been sending a good message to my children with my face constantly behind a screen…
This wasn’t an easy change. My conscientious nature likes things to be neat and up-to-date before letting creativity flow. ‘Work before play’ has always been a huge mindset. In some ways I still consider writing to be ‘play’ – it’s enjoyable and I’m not yet earning an income from it, but I won’t get where I want to if I don’t prioritise it.

Genuine interactions
The social media fast taught me that the number of followers, or ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ I received on my accounts weren’t actually all that important to me. Sure, it’s great when my phone bleeps to let me know someone’s liked something, but I feel a strong urge to respond in kind – to return the compliment. Social media is meant to be social, after all. I’ve started telling myself that maybe others genuinely like my posts for the content or smile it gave them, not just because I like their stuff back. I now put a little more thought into my motivations for liking a certain post or tweet, and don’t take it personally if my own posts are met by the sound of crickets.

Scheduling posts across platforms
Prior to my social media fast I didn’t schedule posts, apart from easily placing a few re-tweets in a Buffer queue. I’ve decided that for now, scheduling is not for me, despite the time it apparently saves. Intuitively, I would prefer not to push the same photo or post across all platforms in a short space of time.
Again, this is coming from someone who doesn’t have a book or service to market, and at some stage my approach will probably need to change, but for now I’m happy with a more boutique approach. If I wait long enough, I’m sure some shiny new scheduling app will come along at just the right time to entice me into the practice.

How often to Blog?
My blog is just over a year old. Initially I was caught up in the idea that blogging frequently is necessary to build a readership, and that’s certainly true if you want your blog to rank high in internet searches, or if you intend to monetise your blog, or if it’s a portal to your products or services.
But I realised that I enjoyed blogging most when I didn’t feel pressured to actually write a blog post. It felt ‘right’ when I blogged purely because a topic interested me, or because I wanted to share milestones of my writing journey. I used to worry over what to blog about, whether it would be good enough, whether it would be relevant to anyone, whether anyone really cared about what I had written. For now I intend to channel all that mental energy into novel writing, and have given myself permission to blog only when I feel I have something relevant to say, or to review a book I particularly loved.

All that advice!
Memes, Facebook posts, one-line-tweets, blogs and articles – there’s a constant stream of advice on social media about how to write, where to write, how often to write, to plot or not-to-plot, which POV to use, which software to use, which book is hot right now. And I care deeply about all that stuff. I really do. Too much in fact! I inhale writing-craft articles. Click tweet links that sound promising. I’ve learnt a hell of lot in a few short years, but I’ve also taken a lot of the advice a little too seriously. Pushed myself beyond what I was capable of because of some article I read.
A break from the well-meaning advice, in hindsight, felt like I’d stepped around the street corner out of the blustery wind and into a sheltered stillness. My desire to be the best writer I could be meant I put too much emphasis on the advice available out there, and not enough on my own intuition. I was trying to fit my manuscript into some sort of formula, making sure all it’s components were spot-on.
Restricting my social media intake means I simply don’t have the time to be swayed by conflicting opinions on how to write, and I need to rely instead on what feels right for me at the time.

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A lengthy, all-inclusive social media fast might not be right for everyone, but if any of this has struck a chord and you’re losing equilibrium, maybe there are small tweaks you can make. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

27 thoughts on “The Social Media Fast – What I Discovered

  1. I nodded all the way through your post. I deleted Twitter and usually check FB at breakfast and after dinner. My emails at breaks and share FB posts so I can open my FB to read later. I feel better now x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think the key is not to try to be everything to everybody, and not to try to be everywhere at once. I limit my social media to thinks I like. I like Facebook for all the reasons you say – and I pop in and out of FB many times a day. I hate my mobile phone – so I don’t do Aps, nor do I have my phone linked to FB – so I don’t get beeps if someone comments/messages/likes. I like it that way. It means that I only log in to FB when I’m in the mood to, and that helps. I don’t do Instagram or Pinterest because I don’t take photographs – whereas I can see it makes perfect sense for you and some of our mutual friends who take beautiful pictures. Me? I always forget the camera. And I hate my phone. And my phone won’t talk to FB anyway, so there’s no point me taking pics to post… I also hate presentation (well, I love it in others but I’m really crap at it) so therefore, pretty pages or pictures on pinterest, showing amazing ways to decorate a writing room, are not for me. That leaves pretty much my Facebook, Twitter, and my blog – and I’m happy right there. Goodreads maybe is another, of course, but I like books and reviewing, and I like seeing what other people are reading, so that’s all good. Balance is the key and you nailed that with your time away and your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, Lily! It’s definitely about balance. And trying not to do everything – even though I enjoy all the platforms!
      Thanks for your feedback and advice.
      I could never get by without my phone, and it’s handy for times like right now as I wait outside my son’s classroom, twiddling my thumbs before the start of an event.
      But you’ve made me think about muting apps on it while in the ‘writing zone’, something I always forget to do!
      And Pinterest! I have avoided that platform completely because I know I would be totally sucked in by its charms!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed reading this (apart from the part about you getting up before 6am – that horrified me!) and I’m glad you had a social media fast.

    I’m probably the most ineffective social media user I know. I basically only use Facebook to catch up with people, share stuff I think is cool, find out about fun events, stalk interesting people, and kill time when I’m too brain dead to do something productive.

    And instagram? Um, I think I have posted eight photos of my kids and nothing else.

    I *still* don’t have an author page, but I tell myself it doesn’t matter because my kids have a picture of me on their website. That counts, right?

    I’m looking forward to opening my (signed, yay!) copy of your first book when it comes out, which it will, and it’s not because of social media. It’s because I like the way you write, and because when I met you I decided you had an interesting brain that my brain resonated with.

    Social media is cool because it means I get to stay in touch with cool people I might otherwise never speak to again. But I think that there is too much pressure on writers to live on social media.

    I was reading fiction (obsessively) long before the internet was a thing, and it never stopped me from finding new authors to binge-read.

    I hope you do keep posting frequently, for selfish reasons, because I like when your stuff appears on my newsfeed.

    But if you end up taking a year-long-break from Facebook, I’ll still want to read your actual books.

    Just saying 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nancy. This was a truly beautiful comment to wake up to this morning! It’s really made my day 😊
      It sounds like you use social media to your benefit – taking the good from it, like keeping up with friends that you’re unable to see in ‘real life’. I love that aspect of it too. And I remember having an ‘aha’ moment when we met and had a discussion about social media and children. Your approach was enlightened – you place a great amount of respect on your own children’s abilities and maturity, and I took the essence of that home with me.
      I think you’re right – there certainly is a lot of pressure on writers to be social media savvy. I understand it’s in the author’s best interests – but only to the level that each writer can cope. Some are naturally better at it than others.
      Here’s to finding the right balance!
      Thanks so much for stopping by 😊

      Like

  4. Marie,
    Even I understand what you are saying! My Facebook page is as young as my blog (about 8 mos). I have an instagram account, but have only posted a couple items and will keep it just to check in on my daughter and a couple good friends. I don’t tweet. I’m a private person, so Facebook was something I said I’d never have, but it has introduced my blog to many people and it has been fun to catch up with a few long lost friends. My numbers are small on all platforms and that works for me! I look at my blog as a form of creative expression. It’s fun as long as I allow it to be…I’m in control…as we all are. Sounds like you have your priorities straight!

    Liked by 2 people

    • After blogging, Instagram is my favourite platform. But I haven’t managed to get back to it yet because the genuine interactions are so time-consuming, and being authentic is important to me. I’ll figure out a way soon, I hope!
      I enjoy following your blog – I love the slice of life that is quite different from my own. I get a sense that it’s from the heart, and not a means to an end.
      😊

      Like

  5. I’m in awe of how well you’ve managed to cut down your social media time. This post has managed to make it very clear to me what I’m doing wrong, actually. I’ve cut down on my social media, too, but I feel bad. I feel anxious if I haven’t checked in, and I worry if I’ve missed a good friend’s update and they’ll be upset—like this post, for instance. I’m worried I’ve upset you because you posted it yesterday and I haven’t read it and commented until today. I’m also worried because I haven’t left a comment on Facebook. The bottom line is, I need to forget all of that, because I can only do what I can when I can. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear you, Louise! It’s hard not to feel anxious like you said – as though our silence is somehow interpreted as letting someone else down. You can’t be everywhere, and I think those who use social media as much as we do understand that on some level.
      I had to walk away from my desk this afternoon and physically talk myself out of replying to the last lot of comments to this post because I was deep in the middle of writing. Oh, the irony of it 😂.
      Remember to cut yourself a lot of slack. You’ve got a few important months coming up!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Welcome back, Marie! Please know that your posts and interactions definitely do come across as genuine and considered. I understand the desire to step back from SM, especially when you’re trying to keep up with so many! I for one have loved getting to know you and your writing over the past year! X

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Great Post, and welcome back!! I love when you said ‘I’m in the enviable position of not having a book published yet’. Hahaha, made me have a good laugh 🙂 I think I need to have a go at a social media fast too, I get far too obsessed with ‘numbers’ and not enough on genuine interactions. I think I’ll take a nice long break over Christmas 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the quip about not being published yet. There has to be at least one perk 😂
      It’s so easy to get carried away trying to build up an amazing, popular blog (and yours IS popular and amazing – but how could it not be, with those cute cats and your sense of humour?).
      Just listening to the ProBlogger podcast makes me feel like I could never do enough!
      Your interactions with me come across as genuine – probably because we share a similar interest in writing (and a love of funny cats).
      If you do decide to have a break over Christmas, I hope you really enjoy it! 😊

      Like

  8. Great post, Marie. I think it’s way too easy to feel we HAVE to do everything, all the time. I enjoy social media but my philosophy is that I’m in charge of it and it’s not in charge of me. Welcome back!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great post Marie! I need a social media fast too… i check updates way too many times throughout the day 😦 I don’t know how many times i’ve picked up my phone to set an alarm or check the weather or something and 15 minutes later i’ve scrolled through IG, Twitter and FB! I also agree with what you said about all the information out there. I’m forever saving websites and blog posts to come back to read later… all that information can sometimes be overwhelming! And it does get in the way of the writing!
    Good to see you back 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Lauren. I’m glad my post resonated with you and that I’m not alone in getting carried away with social media at times (especially when a ‘quick’ check of the phone ends up lasting half an hour!)
      I have a saved bank of articles to read too – it’s worse than my TBR book pile 😂. But with my new time limit approach to social media, maybe I won’t get around to reading them after all, and relying on myself instead! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I totally agree. I need to prioritise my actual writing. Last weekends I was too busy because my book review was due to be posted on my blog and didn’t get meaningful time with my novel. But I don’t know how to stop, Marie! I also concur with Louise. I’ve had little reminders going in my brain since you posted this – ‘such a great blog post from Marie, must find time to comment and share!’ Don’t feel bad if you don’t reply to this comment straight away. Write yo novel!!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post Marie and you definitely come across as genuine 😊 I’m glad you’ve written this, I’ve reached that point where I’m worn out slightly with social media and this post has given me ideas about what to do about it. I really like the interactions etc. but I think a step back will be beneficial. Have a lovely Christmas x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Samantha. I think we’ve both been going at it for a similar length of time – so I really hear you on being at the point of needing a break. I hope you manage one over Christmas and I’d love to hear which ways you’re able to adjust how you approach it.
      All the best for Christmas x 😊🎄

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is such a good post! So much of what you wrote resonates. I took a break from social media too, and it was great for reassessing priorities. Writing seemed to have slipped down the list – because it’s hard work and social media is fun. I think I’ve got the balance right now. I don’t check in to social media every day and it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to anything. I’ve decided it’s like a room full of friends. When I’m in the room, I’m enjoying myself but I don’t spend all my time trying to get there, or wishing I was there. Although I am guilty of scheduling – every time I see something on the Internet I think is interesting – I’d forget to share it otherwise!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sandy! You’re absolutely right – social media is fun, but writing can be hard work, and it’s too easy to let ‘fun’ get in the way – especially if we deem it an essential part of success!
      I like your analogy too, about social media being like a room full of friends. I totally get that!
      Thanks for taking the time to stop by. I really appreciate it 😊

      Like

  13. Great post Marie, and thank you for your kind Instagram mention of Esme’s Wish on your return to the social media stratosphere! I know that I am much less conscientious than you when it comes to keeping up with social media and that has probably stopped it eating too much into other parts of my life. I rarely check feeds, which means that when I do check them, I quite enjoy 😉 it. I like instagram and twitter the most because I can dip in and out like a flighty bird (!) and it doesn’t matter if I don’t post for days or longer. Facebook I just can’t get my head around so I just really maintain my author account. Writing and reading is my real pleasure- for the next year or two that’s where I’ll be – with my head in a book – mine or someone else’s!

    Like

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