Update on my Social Media Detox:
I’ve done a “cleanse” like this before, and as always, I’m surprised by how much time suddenly appears in my day. But this time I’ve noticed something else.
I am thinking like a writer again.
This morning I was on my way to work, riding the bus, reading a book, and ideas for characters and story openings kept popping into my head. Yes, even while reading a book in the busy and incredibly distraction-laden atmosphere of the #41 Metro bus, I had enough extra brain cycles to think, imagine, and create.
Normally, on my way to/from work, I check in on Facebook. I bip from one conversational thread to another. I click over to an article or watch some squee-worthy cat video before returning to the main feed where I pick up another thread. My commute isn’t a long one—about 30 minutes—but during that short time I would normally hit ten to fifteen topics, deal with a dozen emails, and even answer a message or two.
In other words: complete brain chaos.
When I take that same length of time and read a book, I’m immersed in one world, one series of events, one story. Rather than swimming through a deluge of unrelated input, my brain deals with one thing in exceptional detail. As I build the world of the novel, my mind creates the specifics that the author doesn’t provide—there’s only so much you can put on the page, after all—and once my brain begins imagining, it’s hard to stop it.
I used to read a lot more than I have in recent years. I used to write a lot more than I have in recent years. Hell, I wrote four books almost exclusively while riding the bus.
I cannot blame social media for this fallow period; not entirely, anyway. The past four years have been a roller-coaster of family upheaval, health issues, and monkey-boy-day-job woes. During that time, social media have been a comfort, connecting me with people who would otherwise be much more distant. But during that time, interacting on social media has become the default activity. Got a minute? Check what’s up with your Facebook peeps.
It’s not that social media have kept me from thinking deeply on certain topics. It’s just that most of the deep thinking I have been doing has been instigated by social media contretemps, which is a complete waste of time. Social media, unfortunately, is not a place for exchanging ideas and discussing of topics in a meaningful manner. Rather, it’s just a digital Speaker’s Corner, except sans logic and any shred of rhetorical discipline.
I will return to social media, eventually, but I have a strong feeling that it will be in a much reduced and greatly restricted manner.
I’d rather think like a writer.