Posted on 23 September 2011

Chapter Two: To Do Right

So, Facebook has been in the news lately. Granted, this social network isn’t exactly about writing, but I’ve never been too hard and fast on this being exclusively a blog about writing. I will make a tangent somewhere along the way, I promise. In fact, I’ll make it at the very beginning. Facebook was stopping me from writing Wednesday night, and I turned it off, along with Twitter, Google+, and even my email. The only thing I kept open was AIM/MSN, and no one bothered me there. Suddenly, my writer’s block vanished and 1500 words appeared on my screen. It was magical. So, was I just distracted? Well, yeah, but there is more I want to say. Below the break.

So, small story time. A little over a year ago, I finally broke down and acquired a smartphone. I had been resisting the device, as I was not all that interested in having a tether. On the other hand, I did the same with a regular cell phone for a long time too. Sure enough, just like the cell phone, I quickly became dependant on my mobile internet. Why? To keep up with social networks, of course! In the writing business, social networks have become huge. Authors need to be on Facebook and Twitter, and I’d imagine Google+ is going to be huge too. So, I dived in both feet first. I then found I was spending way too much time checking social media after work (as I could not access it at work). If only there was some device that let me spend idle moments checking it. Oh wait!

So yeah, I got the phone. I got into twitter and facebook. I actually am glad I did, as they have helped me nurture friendship with people I don’t see that often, but still like. And phooey to all those people that say it is exhibitionist and screaming into the void hoping someone hears you. No, I am telling an amorphous group of people who actually do care about my life what is going on in it.

Rant aside there, Wednesday came along, and Facebook changed to the new stream, which was the bastard love child of “Top Stories” and “Recent News”, with a dash of the green-and-black screens from the matrix. Way too much data all over the place, and kind of disorganized. At first, I despised it. Actually, I still do, but now I’m learning how to interface with it. That silly ticket at the to actually lets me jump into conversations nice and fast without having to completely reload the screen. Okay. But it became too much. The ticket is always moving and it kept drawing my eye. I could never get my attention focused, and I kept making comments.

And then I turned it off and wrote. When I was done, I checked back, and guess what, IT WAS STILL THERE! No, not that I was expecting it to go back to normal, but instead, it didn’t blow up and leave me behind. In fact, I didn’t really miss anything, despite being offline for several hours that I would have spent continuously reading updates and commenting on threads. How is it that 2 hours of net time of not doing a thing didn’t make me miss anything?

I think it comes down to a simple thing: massive immersion in any digital medium (or anything really) has a massive diminishing return compared to light interaction. All this sitting around on facebook chatting at people is great and good, but so is actually going out into “meatspace” and chatting with your friends. Or focusing on your writing, or just sitting and watching a movie (preferably with a loved one). I had become what I feared: a techno-junkie addicted to the internet. I think I’m going to cut back some. Hopefully, you all won’t notice. Because, really, while I may enjoy spending countless hours at my computer, I’d rather do it leaving something meaningful behind, such as my writing, or not feeling like I’m stringing pearls without a knot. Maybe this new resolve will make the recent writer’s block I’ve been suffering with these past two chapters go away. From now on, social networks stay off while I’m writing. We’ll see how this works out. (And I told you I’d get it back to writing!)

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