Quitting Social Media

On September 10, 2017, a Sunday, I deleted my Facebook account. I did not do this impulsively. I did it consciously. I even “gave notice”, as if I were leaving a job and wanted to make sure I received a good recommendation.

On the post in which I announced my pending exit, I received over 100 comments in the thread. All were kind and I felt loved. It’s not the first time I’ve felt loved on Facebook. In fact, I’ve felt loved there often and much.

On Facebook I also found content that was difficult to navigate, content I couldn’t digest, stories and pictures that froze my heart, and made me hurt.

But content, good or bad, was never the problem I had with Facebook. I figured that the content on Facebook pretty much reflected the content in life. Some good, some bad, some tough to process, some cotton candy, lots of opinions. Just like life, only more so, because it was hard to close the door on Facebook, for me anyway.

Something was going on in my brain and I knew it. I knew I was in trouble because I could not focus on the book I was trying to write. There’s always self doubt with writing, but this was different. This was more than the question of whether or not I’d be up to the task. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to even enter the flow. My mind was fractured and splintered, my spirit in constant agitation. I felt like I was failing at everything.

I googled “effects of social media.” I found an article that said social media can make you spend too much money. Another that said social media can make you overeat. A third that said social media made a person unable to think for herself. None of these described at all what I was feeling. Then I found a TED talk by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. He said, using the same words I was using to describe to myself what I was feeling, that social media fractures the mind. He said that in order to work deeply, we need to reclaim our minds. I wrote a quote in my journal. “Respect your attention.”

I wanted to work deeply again; I wanted the feeling I’d had when I first began seriously writing, a feeling of sacredness, a feeling that I was working with the spirits of my characters and them with me, a feeling that something larger than my own little self was present.

In those days, when I was writing Life Without Water there was no email and no Facebook. There was not even the web. My computer’s reason for existing in my life was to aid me in writing. That was all it did, and because that was all it did and because it did it well, it took on the energy of a beloved tool. After the internet entered our lives and became the thing we do everything on, after social media, after I became not just a writer but also a “brand” (although I don’t think I ever actually achieved becoming a brand, probably because the idea was so abhorrent to me) my computer no longer felt sacred. It felt jumbled and trafficked, like a highway dotted with road kill. I wanted that sacredness back.

I’m not saying my art is so great that it’s holy. I am saying the relationship I have to my art is holy, and that relationship was being eroded. I found myself incapable of ignoring Facebook (social media sites are designed to be addictive) and I felt that the only thing I could do was delete my account.

Well-meaning people told me I was making a huge mistake. I may not have built a brand, but I had built a following. A lot of people knew me because of Facebook. A lot of those people are here, reading this blog now. As a writer, I’m supposed to do a hogshead of self promotion every day. I’m also supposed to write books. I couldn’t do both. Perhaps some can, I can’t. Perhaps it’s a personal failing on my part. Perhaps I’m just weird and unable to perform in the ways expected of me. But this is who I am. I write books exactly because I am weird and unable to perform in the ways expected of me. That’s how I became a writer.

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25 Responses to Quitting Social Media

  1. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for sharing your process so freely. It is instructive and inspiring.

  2. “Respect your attention.” Perfect. I sickens me that it takes “courage” to jump off social media. And, though it seems self-serving, I mostly only use my own page–for posting links to my blog and photos from my website, limiting my viewing of the what other people are eating and where they are traveling and who they are with to before 6:30am and after 6:30pm. Thank you for your courage. 🙂

  3. Thanks for writing this Nancy. I know exactly what you mean, and I am having the same problem. I like Cal Newport, he is a godsend. If you ever want to read more about the ill effects of social media, take a look at Jaron Lanier’s books. I think that writing themselves via social media is oversold, it’s not as important as it’s made out to be. More importantly, though, it is the ill effects and addictiveness to writers….I totally get what you say. There is something wrong with this idea that we must brand ourselves and constantly promote ourselves, but you can’t say that out loud, for the most part. Anyway, thank you.

    • Nancy says:

      I’m really through not saying things out loud. I don’t like the climate of pretending. Things need to change, and I believe the change is going to come from the writers, with whom the work originates.

  4. Jan Priddy says:

    Thank you for sharing this post, Nancy. You may recall I turned off my FB account a while back. I found the same problem with my blog—obsessively checking my stats as well as FB. They are traps for time and energy. I have not (yet) deleted my FB account and my activity on Goodreads keeps turning it back on, but after ignoring FB months, I visit FB only once a week to check my own page or contact someone when I do not have their email address. Former students still send me writing questions on FB. My blog posts are all-but-one turned to draft and that site remains inactive. I think it is because I am a librarian’s daughter that I have trouble erasing my posts, but not visiting or posting allows me to take breath.

  5. Ron Jackson says:

    Admire your decision. Other social media, such as blogs, email, do not have the flooding and kidnapping effects of Facebook.

  6. pam says:

    Balance in all things. As ever, Nancy, you are fearless in your work, doing what feeds your soul to honor the process. And I’m glad you keep in touch, nevertheless. 🙂 xx bisous de France

  7. Ruth Knox says:

    There used to a sacred process to my writing. When I can recapture it, it is still there. Just as I recently said goodbye to the conventional living-in-a-house way of being, I am ready to say goodbye to social media too. My travels are taking me to new places, quiet places where my spirit can do what it does best, writing, without the interference of so much frenetic energy and herd mentality. It disturbs my peace, and without my peace, I am not living my authentic life. I’m taking it back. Thank you for your example.

  8. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing. I contemplate leaving FB myself. What prevents me from doing so is my fear of losing connections from friends I grew up with, went to school with, and met at tarot and writing conferences. My own sons won’t use FB. They were required to create a page in Middle School but that is all they would do with it. They enjoy Snap Chat mostly. They like to tease me that FB is for old hippies like me. That always makes me laugh. (My sons are 18 and 20 and don’t believe in TV either, which warms my heart). We are a bunch of nerds and happy that way. Perhaps I will take up letter writing again. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to bring that back?

  9. Mimi Games says:

    You speak the truth! I find social media like a greedy goblin. As a painter, I find writing about my work takes away from the limited time and energy I have for painting and there are too many non-painting tasks associated with making art already. Feedback is good, but I must paint from my unique point of view and select my critiques. It is difficult to maintain a unique voice in today’s homogenized world.

  10. John Roach says:

    Hi… you might want to change or delete the connect with me on Facebook at the bottom of your email… 🙂

  11. ruth moose says:

    Bravo Nancy…… I applaud your every word. I’ve never checked how my books were doing, all that crap. I just want to write. Selling/promoting moves in your brain, takes a chair, puts its feet up and starts yapping like a boring relative/neighbor who won’t leave. I’ve kicked mine out and taken my house back. Writing is holy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Deana says:

    Sister, I so appreciated you sharing your experience. Seizing the real moments of this existence are what keeps the heart beating and the wheels turning–that’s how I’ve framed my relationship with what keeps me alive and what numbs me. Social media is awfully numbing for me. I recognize that enlivens and engages so many friends and family members. But for me, it’s a plastic world full of rubber snakes spitting out opinion-venom, holograms of trees and ghosts of relationships, amusement parks and confounding emotions/emoticons. May I also painfully admit that F-book always made me want to burn my bucket list because things that I could only fantasize about, others in my circle considered weekend entertainment? I have to laugh!

  13. Fauzia Tirmazi says:

    Good for you, Nancy. From someone who has never had a Facebook or any other social media account. Stupid me doesn’t even have a Smartphone and doesn’t do online shopping! A dinosaur I am called. I’m happy with that. Probably a great decision by you.

  14. Nancy, your post is inspirational and educational. My husband has recently built me a writing studio in our backyard. It will NOT have a wifi connection for my computer because I, like you, have allowed my mind to be fractured by all social media, but especially Facebook. So when I to write I will be working without interruption, and perhaps one day I’ll walk away from it all when I’m inside my work space maintained within our home. You have inspired me to be more conscious of the respect I have for my work and my mind.

  15. Virginia Meldahl says:

    Yeah Nancy!!!!! How many “great books” both known and undiscovered (including thousands of letters penned) were written without the mind fracturing effects of Facebook et. al.? We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden, as a great song writer wrote.

  16. Nell Whitehead says:

    Once upon a time, before I fried my brain on the internet, I attempted to read “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr. It’s about–oops, I forget. Look, there’s a pop up ad for shoes that just appeared on the screen! Back at you later. If I remember what we were talking about.

  17. Alice Osborn says:

    Thank you, Nancy! I wish could leave FB but need it for my job–SnapChat and Instagram are much more fun. I’ve done a lot less self-promotion this year as I’m focusing more on my music. Thank you for writing your blog posts and for being the awesome writer you are!

  18. Emily Buehler says:

    Way to go, Nancy!

  19. This accurately sums up my own feelings with social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, or something else.

    Like you, I recently wrote a note to myself and my splintered attention.

    It said, “Guard your time.”

    Thank you for sharing your words with us.

  20. Donna Collins says:

    Huh? These comments sound like Facebook to me?

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