Greeting everyone, and welcome to my blog for the month of May!
I wanted to speak a bit about social media in this blog. I especially want to chat about Twitter. Twitter is is my preferred social media platform. However I feel compelled to take a semi-hiatus from Twitter to finish writing the next book in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, called The Last of the Atalanteans.
This is the first break from Twitter I have taken. I never thought I would need to take a break from something that I receive such pleasure and gratification.
I remember first joining the Twitter #WritingCommunity. I quickly found that everything I heard about #WritingCommunity is true – it is simply the best group to be found anywhere in cyberspace.
Once realizing how privileged I am to be a part of such an awesome group of creatives, I resolved to being an upstanding member of the community. Vigorously, I continue to work at being a contributor to the welcoming, positive space that includes so many kind, generous, and talented people.
I am determined to spend the bulk of my time uplifting and boosting others, and their work, rather than my own. It’s not to say I didn’t self-promote. Of course I am doing that too, and lots of it. But I feel so much better and receive so much more enjoyment out of re-tweeting the amazing works of other creatives than plugging my own work.
It's so good for my soul, constantly retweeting pinned tweets of these incredible writers, poets, and artists. I believe that is the path to true happiness and success, because in the end, none of us in #WritingCommunity are competing against each other. So many others seem to share this view. We are altruistic people. We are all about assisting each other. And everyone always pays it forward, which in turn just increases the success of those around us. We rise together as a community. We succeed together! Such an astounding thing to be a part of!
The solidarity, the support, the love. It's so addictive. I feel exhilarated! A few times, different friends message me and said they believed I helped them get a sale. What an incredible feeling! I know that the tweets of other friends who boosted me, help me sell books too, for certain. I am so grateful! We are selling books on Twitter! Unbelievable! Even better, we are helping readers find paths to works of other writers. Its amazing! There are so many benefits to being on Twitter! So much more than selling books, it's all about the sense of belonging, the camaraderie, the genuine connections made! The tips and wise advice from veterans in the industry, the brainstorming of ideas, the valuable nuggets of information about writing and publishing, it 's irreplaceable!
Yet, in all this great activity, something was changing for me.
I started to feel anxious about missing out on any acknowledgement directed my way, or any tweet where someone took the time to include me in a lift or boost, or thank me for something positive I did, or praise my book. I'm horrified to think I didn't manage to respond to someone who devoted time out of their busy day to mention me.
I spent hours and hours desperately trying to catch up on the Twitter notification feed, and the mentions, and respond carefully to each tweet directed my way, even if it was part of an exceptionally large group who were noted, not just me. I was plagued by extreme guilt that I missed someone’s uplifting post, or celebration of their birthday, book launch, or other significant event, that I was not there to congratulate them, help promote their book, or share in their good news.
I was heartbroken at missing a tweet by someone who was feeling down, and posted they were struggling, and not being there to help pick them up. So I simply re-doubled my efforts to be caught up on everything. As I began to follow more and more people, and in turn gain more followers, it became so much more challenging. But I wouldn't be defeated. I kept going.
Soon I was spending more than three hours a day on Twitter. Then six hours. Then, sometimes on days off from work, eight to ten hours. But I was keeping up!
I was responding to almost every tweet, every writer’s lift, every mention! I was there for those who needed people to lean on, and to comfort them. I was able to acknowledge all those who put me on lists of people they cared about and tweet out lists of all the fantastic people I cared about.
I was able to help new people coming to Twitter, welcome them to the wonderful #WritingCommunity. I catching the tears of joy when someone published a book, crying with them, help to spread the news to cyberspace, and hopefully help them gain more exposure, and more sales and followers. I got to laugh with my friends at all the funny memes and engage in all the witty banter! I was doing it! I was keeping up! I was having a blast!
Until I crashed.
Unfortunately, excessive time on social media according to some studies has been linked to developing depression.
I start feeling down. Twitter isn't as enjoyable as it was before. Combined with a hectic and sometimes stressful career, the enormous time I' m spending on Twitter, the pressure I'm feeling to keep up, slowly begins to affect my mental and emotional health.
My wife notices what was happening and is concerned. When your partner, the person you trust most in the world, tells you something, you listen. She tells me keeping up with Twitter is becoming an obsession. She's right.
We discuss what to do. One of the scariest aspects was that my writing is affected. I'm not being productive in getting my next book done. I 'm not feeling inspired. Even when I step away from Twitter, I have little desire to write. I'm always worried about getting back on Twitter and missing out.
My goal was to always write a better book than the one before. My devotion to Twitter was jeopardizing that goal. I am enjoying some initial success with my first book, which I'm proud of. But I'm not going to continue to achieve my goals in the writing world unless I do something drastic about Twitter.
After conferring with my wife, I decided on a hiatus from Twitter.
I believe that staying off the feeds, for the most part, was the key to staying sane and healthy. Like most users, I already have timed tweets, both to promote others, and myself. I keep those in place. I feel that I can keep up on DMs and be available if someone needs me, personally or for business reasons.
I always want my DMs to be open. I'm a person who cares about people, and cares about being approachable and helpful when I can be. I always planned to proactively check in on my Twitter friends, via DM. These people were way too important to me to not touch base when I can, and I miss them horribly. I've formed genuine, devoted friendships with some amazing people, and they are as dear to me – though I had never met them beyond virtually – as other friends I have physically met.
So, with my plan in place, I withdraw for the most part from the main Twitter feed. I still do those check ins, to see what was going on, from time to time. I still follow back followers and seek out new creatives to connect with. I also periodically respond to tweets when I can.
Otherwise, I simply stay off Twitter.
At the onset of my hiatus, it feels very strange for a week or two. I go through a difficult withdrawal period. I'm missing out on the interactions with all my Twitter friends. I'm missing out on all the motivating words, the fun, the fellowship, everything. Then, things get better. I start feeling better. My inspiration to write cranks up. I start to writing more and more. My mind feels freer, clearer.
The writing time regained cannot be understated. I'm back to having bursts of maniacal writing, which is generally how I write. I'm back to my more normal exercise routine.
I'm stunned to find my overall mood, emotional, and physical health was improving by spending less time on the main Twitter feed. I've became more productive at my non-writing job too!
Besides the significant uptick in my writing, I'm using that time off the main feed to find different ways to interact with some of my amazing friends I made on Twitter. I always preferred having Direct Message chats or participating in writer’s groups – which are essentially group DM chats.
I also have more time to devote to other social media platforms – again more group type chats – like Facebook, Slack, and Discord. I only am on those platforms periodically and have learned my lesson from Twitter. I only have so much time for social media, and I spend much more time living the rest of my life, especially writing, which is why I wanted to become an author in the first place.
Perhaps one of the most worthwhile and enjoyable things that I now engage in more often is chats over Zoom with some of my new Twitter friends. The pandemic has forced us apart and lost us so many beloved people, but Twitter has gained me more people I care about, and I was determined to forge lasting bonds. We may be denied in-person visits, due to distance and COVID-19, but we can see each other on the computer screen, and share a smile, a laugh, and a virtual hug or high-five. The feeling of finally chatting via video with people one has become so close with online in #WritingCommunity is a fabulous one. It has been one of the highlights of my hiatus so far, as I can allocate time to do this. I may have taken a hiatus from Twitter, but I'm determined not to lose out on the most important element of Twitter that I gained from being on their in the first place, and that is the outstanding people that I met, and became friends with.
I know definitively when I've completed the final draft of The Last of the Atalanteans, and I'm ready to return from hiatus to Twitter, I will have to do things differently. I'll have to schedule my time on all social media platforms more sparingly, especially Twitter. Twitter will always feel like a second home, and I love the people there in #WritingCommunity. They will always be important to me. But to be a better friend to them and others, and better husband, father, and writer, I need to be well. Part of that wellness is limiting social media time, to get other tasks done, do self-care, and reconnect with the world beyond the social media sphere.
So my message is, don’t hesitate to take a break from Twitter or any other social media, if you discover that you need it. It will be there, along with some of your favourite people, waiting for you, when you return.
Please feel free to comment on this and future blogs and I will be sure to get back to you. Chat soon!
P.L. Stuart's Blog