Writer’s Craft Q + A

Facebook vs. Facing the Book

Q: I spend a lot of time on Facebook, am I wasting all the time I should be spending on my writing?

A: The short answer is: probably. But lets open it up. Facebook has become the major player in social media, which is at the center of our current media and technology-based culture. Writers use social media in two major ways, for two different purposes, personal and professional.

FBdrawingThe first way we use it is to connect personally to other individuals and companies. You might use Facebook to keep track of friends or family, to see what others are thinking, reading, watching and what they are doing. You might trade photos on Instagram or Pinterest or use Twitter to keep tabs on what your kids are up to. It is also worth noting that our interconnected technological culture has revealed a growing population of folks who suffer from isolation and/or loneliness, and social media can be a lifeline for those folks. But regardless of how you use it, connecting on social media is taking up startling and increasing amounts of our time. According to Businessweek, the average Facebook user spends anywhere from 40 mins to a few hours checking their Facebook feed, and as a culture we spend about 9hrs a day on electronic media (Including the internet, cell phones, tv, etc) So YES, we need to look carefully at how much time we are spending online and how much time we are NOT spending on our writing lives.

The second way we use social media is to build and maintain our professional profile and network as professional working writers. If you have public goals for your work as a writer (and not every writer does, which is fine) then creating and maintaining an Author Platform, which is a network of author website + social media+ public presence, will be important. Over 30 million businesses have a Facebook page and as a working writer you may eventually have to have one too, but we use social media tools very differently for our personal and public selves. If you have a big Facebook network and are comfortable using and maintaing social media tools then that will be a big advantage when its time to build your Author Platform.

But here is the catch: most folks DO use distractions to avoid their work as a writer. Sometimes these distractions are productive (I once painted an entire house to avoid finishing my Master’s Thesis) but they are still distractions. The 1.3 billion OTHER monthly Facebook users out there are a BIG distraction. So without judging your Facebook time, just take a minute and think about how much you might get done if you spent that same 40mins a day writing.

If you want to experiment, here are a few things to try. Keep a timer going and notice (but don’t judge) how much time you spend on social media in an average day. Now try a few days of spending an equal amount of time writing. Did it stress you out? Did it make you more productive? You might also try a app or tool for tracking and/or intentionally limiting your Facebook or social media time. For example, tools like Minutes Please, App Cap or Facebooklimiter can help you track how much time you are spending on these sites and even close the windows when your pre-selected amount of time is up. Just remember, there is nothing wrong with social media, but don’t let it take away your writing time, its too vital to your work as an author, and you will need discipline and dedication to protect it.