I didn’t want this to be one of those “so I left Facebook, look at how above it all I am” post. So I asked myself: “Self,” I asked, “what does ditching a social media profile have to do with anything?”
It goes back to grad school.
Back in 2014, when I was getting my MFA in creative writing, I had a novel to write. This was my graduate thesis, and it was a dark speculative fiction piece about climate change, crumbling civilization, and the possibility of a new life on another planet, but mostly it was about family. It’s funny how, in the intervening years, what I wrote as basically science fiction looks scarily close to becoming fact (except for the whole other planet bit), but that’s the thing about fiction, right? Sometimes you tell a vision of the future and it comes true.
Anyway, I’m still revising it, but at the time, when it consisted of nothing more than a few pages scratched in a notebook, a proposal for a scholarship (which I didn’t get, but that’s okay), and a reading list I’d submitted to my (awesome) advisor, I had a long way to go. (Also, any time you can compile a graduate thesis reading list and it includes things like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, you’ve got a fun, but grim, project on your hands.)
Anyway—have you noticed how often I start sentences and paragraphs with “anyway”? This is a verbal tic that I’m conscious of in my writing and that I work on revising out of it but, apparently, not right now. Anyway… (See what I did there?)
ANYWAY. I had a deadline and a lot of writing to do in a short period of time—to the point where my advisor was suggesting that combining all my short stories into a collection could be a good alternative if I couldn’t pull this novel out of my hat in time—and I was all about eliminating distractions.
That’s where Facebook comes in. Or rather, that’s where Facebook went out. I deleted my Facebook account—not just deactivated it, but went the full-on nuclear option and made it gone, gone for good. To be fair, at the time I didn’t understand the distinction between deactivating and deleting a profile. I just merged my profile and my writer page and left it at that. (Did you know I have a writer page? Doesn’t really matter; most of the traffic points people to this little website or my newsletter, and you’re already here, so there’s that.) If I’d just deactivated that profile, maybe I would have turned it back on afterwards.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Or something like that.
Fast-forward a couple years and the thesis was finished (I think we were both surprised I got it done that fast, my advisor and I), I was no longer in Vancouver, which is my favourite (adding the extra “u” out of nostalgia) city in North America, and I no longer saw on a daily basis all of the friends I’d made there. I missed it. I missed them. So I created a new Facebook profile.
You can see where this is going, right?
I’ve been in a distraction spiral ever since.
One of the many things I do in my ongoing quest to make a living (which automatically makes me think of the Sade song “When Am I Going to Make a Living?” and that’s not a bad thing…)
Where was I? Oh, right. Distraction spiral. One of the many things I do to cobble together a living as a writer is teaching, and one of the classes I teach at the local community college is a one-day weekend workshop called Social Media for Writers. And yes, I recognize the irony in that. But I enjoy teaching that topic, and one of the things I touch on in that class is that you can set up an account on every different platform there is, but you can’t keep a fully fledged presence on all of them at the same time. Or rather, you can, but all of that takes time away from the actual business of writing. And it may be worse to have a lackluster presence on a particular platform than it is to have no presence there at all.
(There’s also the concerning issue with how Facebook plays fast and loose with access to users’ personal information, which is why I also erased every post, photo, and detail before I deleted my account; whether that amounts to any use is questionable, but it was satisfying. It was also eye-opening to see how pointless most of my interactions there were.)
You can only be so many places. You can only divide your attention so many times before it’s impossible to focus on any one thing for any appreciable amount of time. Where do you want to spend your most finite resource, time? Me, I like spending it here, writing things to the folks who read this blog, or writing stories and books that I hope people want to read.
I have two novels to finish revising this year: the as-yet-unnamed sequel to The Unwanted, and that aforementioned grad school novel. I also have a third one I’d like to get started on, and I’m mulling over an idea to make use of my back catalog of stories. With all of that on my plate, I know I’ll need to do as much as I can to keep myself on target.