The situation with Facebook at the moment has a lot of people talking about social media and how we use it - or how it uses us - and it's prompted me to think about my own social media use. Also my smartphone use.
Now, I'm not writing this to offer an informed opinion or advice to anyone. This is purely an exploration of my own thoughts and circumstances.
First of all, I'll give a bit of background, so it's clear where I'm starting from.
I did not have any social media accounts at all until late 2015. I started with Twitter and rarely used it until the beginning of 2016. I got a Facebook account after beginning the crowdfunding for Ashael Rising largely because everything I read about building an author platform said that I had to be on social media and in particular, Facebook and Twitter. For me then, social media has always been a writing-related activity. It's work.
Now, I didn't like the idea of Facebook before I joined and there are still lots of things I don't like about it. In fact, I think I could pretty much delete my account and walk away without missing it except for the groups that I'm a member of who do their interacting through Facebook. Unfortunately, some of these groups are important to me and therefore I won't be leaving at the moment, but I will be thinking about the way that I use the platform and looking to minimise the amount of time I spend there as well as information I give them.
Twitter is another matter. As a company, Twitter undoubtedly has flaws and I have seen people treated appallingly there (although it's not unique to them, bullying happens on Facebook as well) but my personal experience has been positive. I have connected with people who I now consider to be friends through Twitter, I chat with my 'tribe' on a daily basis and many of the things that have happened in my publishing career so far, have come about in some way because of Twitter. I will be staying with Twitter for the time being.
However, just because I don't want to leave does not mean that all is well in my social media world. Both Twitter and Facebook are time-sinks (Twitter is the worst for me because I enjoy being on it more, but both of them tend to pull me down the rabbit-hole). I open the app to send one tweet and half an hour later I'm still reading, tweet unsent, and I've lost time that I could have spent in any number of more useful ways.
During the time that I've been writing this post, I've been distracted by Twitter notifications twice already and lost time looking at other tweets while responding to the notifications. I've taken to putting my phone in another room while I'm writing because if it's close to me I'll end up checking Twitter and Facebook, even though I tell myself not to. I'm fighting the urge to pick up my phone and check them now.
As I said above, social media is work-related in my mind. I wouldn't be on it otherwise. So, when I'm browsing, I'm thinking about writing/publishing/networking etc. It's not downtime. And I find myself increasingly interrupting other activities to check them. I watch about an hour of TV, most nights as a way to relax before bed but more often than I would like, I find myself only half paying attention to whatever I'm watching because I'm checking Twitter or Facebook. So I'm never really off-duty. I don't think that's healthy and it's not how I want to live.
So, over the next few months I'll be thinking about how to change my habits towards being more productive and having a better work-life balance, especially when it comes to social media and my smartphone, which is always by my side and always telling me I should be working harder. I suspect whatever steps I take will be full of compromises. The fact is, I have to work in the world that we have, not the one I would like and so I have to be available online. I have to have a presence and a platform if I really want to build a career as a writer - but I don't think I have to give up my sense of self to get there. There's a good chance that I'll start with a phone-and-social-media-free day each week.
What do you think? How do you balance social media use in your own life? What ways can I make sure that I maintain relationships with readers and other writers, without losing my ability to be present in the moment, with my family and in my work?