Friday, June 17, 2011

Unplugging from a Social Media Addiction

In the shadow of a calling I found myself . . . 
                                                 Contemplating coincidence.
Musical Moment
        ~ “Lightening Strikes” Smashing Pumpkins
Question: How do you stay on course when your social media sites whisper seductively to you? 
I have been wondering if I have an addiction to Facebook.  I can’t seem to not go there at least a hundred times a day, check out my friends status updates, add a few of my own, click on those tempting links that take me to funny videos or to news headlines that make me shake my head.  And of course, I have to return to Facebook to post my impressions of said videos and head shaking news.
This morning, when I started my computer I immediately opened my browser and went to, you guessed, Facebook. You would think I would have made it my home page by now, but I haven’t. I am resisting the last vestige of truly admitting my downfall.
Back in March, I finally decided to give Twitter a shot and now I have twits to contend with and no, I don’t mean my fellow twitterers although the person who had an intriguing lead in to their “article” and sent me to a porn site is certain a twit.  
I was a late bloomer to the Twitter world because I just didn’t want to get sucked into another vortex that would consume my time and take me away from writing.  In my decision to work on being a writer I realized I wanted and needed to build an online presence.  I have seen the benefits as new and unknown people are reading my words and any anxiety I have felt over “exposing” my mental world to the public has begun to lessen, but I am also noticing the detriments of being so plugged in.
I find myself using social media sites as a crutch whenever I get stuck in writing or editing and when I allow myself to seek the comfort of my online friends, hours go by. It feels like a couple of minutes but when I respond to a laugh out loud post at 9:00, blink and look at the clock, I am always surprised to see it’s 11:22. That’s what happened to me yesterday.  I gave myself two minutes to beat myself up over the loss of time and then I got to work, but in the back of my mind I became worried.
Why is it so easy to slip and click open my favorite websites?  Am I avoiding doing the work of writing which, quite honestly, can be hard, challenging and not that pleasant when you’re feeling stuck or am I truly addicted to social media?  This morning as I scrolled through the newest updates, I asked myself if I could forgo going to Facebook and Twitter for a week.  
Seven day.  
One hundred and sixty-eight hours.  
Ten thousand and eighty-seconds.  
No status updates. No new friends. No cheers to friends with good news to share or jeers to posts that irritate or make no sense to the posters.  
I was contemplating declaring this intent, but then I stopped. What if I miss something?  What if someone needs moral support or a laugh after a really crappy day?  What if . . .
Yup, I think I’m addicted.  I have been seduced.  Social media has become a sexy, siren. (Can men be sirens?  Let me know. Google isn’t helping me out on this.)  I can’t imagine stepping away and yet I think I need to retrain myself and put up guidelines so that I can focus on what’s most important to my goals.  
I am not even mentioning the other websites I visit.  There, I have lessened my numbers over the years because I just couldn’t keep up with the number of sites that caught my interest. Considering my tastes are eclectic and easily scattered this was a challenge and frankly, it was exhausting.  Now I stick to a few “go to” sites - a few is still 
3-5, right? Okay, it’s more than a hand full of sites so we’ll just call it a controlled bunch - anyway, occasionally I check out new ones, but I make sure I don’t bookmark them unless absolutely necessary and while I have previously admitted having an unnatural love of shoes, Zappos is not on the list (but I still know how to get there).
I am still debating with myself.  I know I need to do this as I will only become better at keeping on task, but I don’t wanna. The separation anxiety is growing, but here’s the thought that is pushing me towards doing this experiment: I have yet to see a status update or tweet that has inspired the storyline of my work-in-progress. The only way to cure myself is to keep my butt in the chair, stare at the page I am working on, listen to the characters that have something to tell me and avoid tempting seductive distractions. This is the path to THE END. 
Luckily, I can still “share” my posts with my Facebook and Twitter families and not go directly to the sites and, dear readers, you can help me out too by clicking on those buttons above to share them for me to prevent me from losing the battle with this addiction.
Okay, I've decided. This Monday will be the kick off of my detox. Wish me luck.
Article first published as Unplugging from a Social Media Addiction on Blogcritics.
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