Endlessly Scrolling Through Twitter and Facebook

Writers often use Twitter and Facebook as part of their so-called media platforms, perhaps a necessary evil and/or a worthwhile publicity/networking part of the business that’s apparently indispensable to everyone who isn’t James Patterson or Alice Hoffman or Dean Koontz. Yet, as I read Damyanti Biswas’ recent post How much Time Do You Spend on #SociaMedia? How is It Affecting You?, I wondered how much social media time as necessary and how much was an addiction.

True, I have unblocked myself from my novels in progress by endlessly scrolling through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, I’ve done the same thing to break cycles of clinical depression. Yet, I can also say that there are days I got little or nothing none due to some mindless need to keep up with the latest social media stuff more than necessary. Part of being a writer is keeping up with the business, supporting other writers, and learning more about one’s craft by “talking” to other writers and following blogs like Damyanti’s.

Obviously, at some point, too much social media time is too much and it’s getting in the way of the stuff we’re supposed to be doing whether it’s writing or anything else. The easiest thing to do, I think, is to set time limits. We can decide, can’t we, just how long we’ll read bloggers’ posts and Facebook status updates before leaving the Internet for the day and turning to our real work. I’ve known people who kept their TVs on 24/7, tuned into one network news feed or another to make sure they didn’t miss anything. Some folks seem to look at social media the same way. But seriously, what are you going to miss that’s more important than your own career and your family’s needs?

One mistake here, I believe, is assuming that whatever’s happening on Twitter and Facebook is more important than whatever else we might do with our day. It’s almost a phobia, this feeling that our lives will be ruined if an important tweet or post goes by without our knowing about it instantly. Meanwhile, to satisfy the infinite demands of that phobia, our own work is sitting there undone, and at the end of a day of “too much” social media, we feel really down about ourselves pretty much the same way a drunk feels after wasting another day being drunk.

When I worked as a technical writer for large corporations, management would occasionally subject us to time-management courses that showed that a large number of us spent too much time focusing on what wasn’t important. Among other things, we tended to clear low-importance stuff out of our in baskets before working on our primary projects. Now, I see many of us who write doing the same thing with social media. We handle it first and then we finally get around to our major priorities.

As important as social media can be for promoting our work and networking with others, they are not our primary mission. Social media tweets and updates and posts represent what others are doing, not what I’m (supposed to be) doing. I need to remind myself of that from time to time.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

 

 

 

 

Seriously, why do I need to know everything right now?

We’re living in a right now world.

Of course, it’s always now.

But the now I care about is the now I can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.

  • skunkIf I’m enjoying smelling the roses in my side yard, I don’t really need an “urgent” text message from a friend saying, OMG I just ran over a skunk on Interstate 75. (Unless the skunk or the smell of the skunk caused a car wreck, this information can wait until later–or possibly never.)
  • When I turn on CNN, I see that the words “BREAKING NEWS” are always on the TV screen even if the news happened a week ago. The primary breaking news on CNN is that a bunch of talking heads are telling me what they thing about the news rather than covering actual news. (I got fooled by this at first and though some hideous events were happening over and over again.)
  • Looking for interesting posts on Facebook, I don’t need to see status updates that look like this: “Good one.” “Oh no, look at that chick’s ugly dress.” “What a bunch of crap.” “Yikes, the killer is getting away.” (I took me a while to figure out that the people posting these updates weren’t necessarily crazy–though that’s possible. They were making comments about some TV show they were watching, you know, like were were all watching it together.
  • When I’m busy defusing a bomb that somebody left under the hood of my car after watching the movie called “Speed,” I don’t really want to get a slough of voice mail messages from you saying stuff like this: “Hi Malcolm, this is Bob, just calling to see if you’re still alive.” “Malcolm, I know you’re not dead, please pick up.” “If you don’t answer your GD phone when I call you, why do you have a GD  phone?” (Bob, the Earth circles around the sun rather than around you.)
  • When I’m watching an exciting episode of NCIS, I don’t really want my local network station to preempt the the show with five minutes of emergency “JUST HAPPENED” commentary about a dead skunk on the Interstate with on-the scene coverage from reporters saying, “This is Bob Smith standing next to a dead skunk a mile south of the Highway 53 exit for Calhoun. It smells really bad. Back to you at the station, Susan.” (Meanwhile, I missed the stunning conclusion of my program and have gotten back to the network feed in time for a Preparation H commercial.)
  • Let’s say I just ran over a skunk on I-75. You send me a text message: “7132 hh lol”  (First, I need to remind you that looking at text messages while I’m driving is illegal in Georgia. Second, I need to remind you that I hate text messages because typing is a lot more trouble than actually talking. Finally, I have no clue what that gibberish means anyway and think maybe you’re a troll or a hooker.)
  • I try to avoid Twitter because most of it’s gibberish from people who think I care about what they’re doing right now as opposed to what I’m doing right now. When you say, “fantastic sex with my hooker BF is happening while I tweet,” I want to respond with “TMI.” (Actually, I don’t want to respond at all and will assume you’re insane, arrogant, or are having lousy sex that leaves you time to be on Twitter.)
  • If you just discovered minutes ago that a Hollywood star most of us thought had been dead for years has just now passed away, it really means you just now heard of it and think that my life will be changed forever if I don’t know about it immediately. (As it usually turns out, the breaking news in this information is the fact you just heard about it even thought it happened last week.)

There are days when I want to throw away my cell phone, swear off Facebook and Twitter, and stop listening to the so-called breaking news that isn’t breaking.

If you just discovered something, please don’t call.*

–Malcolm

*Unless you think I just ran over a skunk and want me to know there’s a bomb in my car that will go off if I don’t keep going at over 55 mph in spite of the smell.

 

 

The Internet is Drugs

As I sit here in the sunny kitchen of my father-in-law’s farmhouse, I’m going through withdrawal because the Internet does not exist here. On a typical morning, I would have checked e-mail (pot), looked at several news screens (cocaine) and read everything in my Facebook (meth) news feed.

My Facebook status would be a no-brainer: blitzed, spaced out, and higher than the summit of Mount Everest. I recall those old, fried-egg-in-a-skillet public service announcements: This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

Ever addictive, the Internet provides 24/7 instant gratification. Everything is now and now we can trip out anywhere we want from the illusions of You Tube right now to the mirages of web cams. On celestial days, the endless supply of self-evident platitudes on Twitter (hash) empowers us. On tense days, we can discuss causes on Linked-In (ether) or play free-base flame wars in the comments sections of news pages and friends’ profile pages and hope the experience doesn’t turn into the bad trip of being unfriended or banned.

Here on the farm, life is also now, but it’s a slower, less ubiquitous now. I cannot move at light speed from the kitchen table to the creek. There’s no creek icon on the window. While I can randomly hear the sounds of birds and horses and tractors, they are farther away than MP3 files and have no volume controls. Time was, contentment was easy to find in a farm or old forest because when I arrived at such places, my perception synchronized itself with the rhythms of the real world.

Today, the worlds of beach, river and mountain top begin as cold-turkey experiences away from the lovable and addictive noise of radios, televisions, cell phones and WiFi. Real-world taste, touch, hearing, seeing, smell and intuition have become dulled from lack of use. I can’t wrinkle my nose and download a new sight program nor stick out my tongue and update my tastes.

Daily, it takes more and more effort to see and hear the real world, especially the more subtle voices of trees and snakes and flowers. In fact, when I’m high on Facebook, I have my doubts about the existence of pastures outside my father-in-law’s sunny kitchen, much less the cries of gulls along the gulf coast or the songs of wolves in the Montana high country. The Internet will give me a semblance of all that. Truth be told, that semblance is faster and cheaper than walking out my front door and driving six hours south to Alligator Point, Florida, much less three days north by northwest to East Glacier, Montana on the edge of the shining mountains.

If the Internet existed here on the farm, I could experience, semblance-wise, the mountains and the sea right here, right now. I do see flowers blooming in the garden out past the kitchen sink. I remember once knowing what they were and what they smelled like but, without the Internet, I can’t “touch” the flowers’ images and see alt-text tags with that instant information.

The real world has become difficult to navigate and harder to imagine. I’ll be okay when I get back home and smoke a little e-mail and do a little Facebook. I’ll be fine because my brain will once again become part of the Internet and I won’t have any questions.

Malcolm