going off social

This is me, halfway through the first draft of a new novel. It’s time to focus and get to work on building word count, so I need to minimize distractions. Meaning social media.

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Quitting social media is a lot like quitting coffee. First, a few days of headaches: How do I remember where that book launch is if I can’t check Twitter? How do I buy tickets for that festival if I’m not in the FB group? What if someone wants me to do a reading and I’m not answering their DM? Then a week or two (or three) of figuring out what else to do for that little pick-me-up between meetings, on transit, during that late-afternoon slump. Then calm.

At first, I shifted my cheap-thrills thirst to other online pleasures, like hunting for a wardrobe on Kijiji or “researching” way too many recipes for kimchi. Luckily, the internet gets boring really fast without the (illusion of) social connection. Then I started to remember some things I liked doing before social media, like writing letters and DIY projects. I picked up a couple of pen-pal relationships I’d let drop in the last few years, and started a new one. I got out my sewing machine and, over several evenings, made a Roman blind for my front window from a beautiful piece of batik I’d had waiting in my basement forever. These activities feel may seem dauntingly Martha Stewart-ish, but it’s amazing how much time there is when you’re not getting sucked into your phone for 45-min periods at a time.

Going off social has also confirmed a strong hunch I had all along (the reason I quit in the first place): solitude is simply not solitude when there’s social media in the room. As a typical introvert, I need solo time to bounce back from the day-to-day human interactions in my life, and I simply wasn’t getting it when “solo time” meant “scrolling Instagram.” In a low-grade way I was feeling chronically depleted and ill-at-ease.

And reading! Oh, my, what a transformation in the experience of reading. When was the last time you read a novel without imagining, somewhere in the back of your brain, how you’ll review it on Goodreads, or where you’ll snap a pic of the cover for IG, or what your shout-out to the author should say on Twitter? Well, I’m here to tell you that reading a novel just for you, in true privacy, is way, way more pleasurable. And you don’t have to not share it: When you’re finished the novel, you can pass it on and sing its virtues to a friend, in person, the next time you see her.

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