Life outside social media: yes, there is one, I’ve checked

“A few weeks ago, I attempted to tidy up my Facebook ‘friends’ list, deleting folks I didn’t interact with in a positive way or simply didn’t know. I was trying streamline things; only linking with people whose updates I wanted to see and for whom I hoped the feeling would be mutual.

It’s a lot trickier than accepting a request and, with 4500 contacts to trawl through, a sizeable task. If there’s some embarrassingly easy way of doing this, I remain ignorant of it. Anyway, after each unfriending, the page tried to refresh 4499 icons, then 4498 and so on. It all got a bit Sisyphean.

I thought: Why am I even on Facebook? Apart from sap my energy and steal my time, what does it do? Where’s the benefit?

I couldn’t think of a good answer so I deleted my account.

I know.

But, honestly, that move had been at the back of my mind for ages and I still can’t think of a decent reason to use the site now. This is not a criticism of Facebook, it’s a personal thing. Me and the initially lovely Facebook just grew apart. Sad. But these things happen all the time.

Before my first novel came out, my publisher told me I had to have a Facebook profile, so I set it up. It was always intended as a marketing and publicity tool. As time went by, Facebook made it harder to reach the many contacts I’d initially developed and the experience became about linking to cool or amusing stuff and chatting to people.

Nothing wrong with chatting but I’m meant to be writing books over here. And I suddenly realised I’d been ‘on’ Facebook for six years. Seeing as I ‘used’ it every single day, it occurred to me then that Booking Face was a little like having a…you know…a habit.

Let me come clean here: I’m easily distracted. I don’t need help with not doing my work. For an author, signing up to Facebook is like poking your eyes out, cutting your hands off and then trying to compose a text on a BlackBerry Curve. IT ISN’T FUCKING HAPPENING, PEOPLE.

I know this much about myself:

Even with a deadline looming, I’m pathetically easy to push off course. I mean, I could watch a 20-second ‘cute cats’ clip on YouTube and still be staring at the screen going ‘Whoa, dude, awesome kittehs! Show me more!’ several hours later. It would require a team of eight Shire Horses to haul my focus back onto the matter in hand – which is, of course, the neglected work in progress – and a combination of welding and riveting to keep it there.

“Rewrite?” I say to myself. “It’ll keep. After all, why put off until tomorrow what you can do next week?”

So, I felt good about getting off Facebook because I suddenly had tons more quiet, contemplative headspace and I immediately found extra time to write.

I even joked on Twitter about how Twitter was next if it didn’t shape up.

#Heh.

Then I deleted my Twitter profile.

*does dance*

Things were very quiet that day. I managed several hours of redrafting and editing without interruption and was able to think, calmly and constructively, about crucial aspects of the rewrite – elements that had eluded me for many weeks.

I realised that on Twitter and Facebook, I was always waiting for something amazing to happen, always checking for the next hit of awesomeness. But the truth is, nothing ever does happen ‘out there’, except chatter. It’s only here, inside, where I am, that things can be made to happen. Increasingly, it strikes me as far more important to do the work than to talk about it.

At first, I was a bit concerned. No Facebook profile? No Twitter feed? Did I even exist any more? Would I still qualify as human? And didn’t all this point to me doing loads more actual work?

Ach, it all turned out fine, people. I’m equally as good at procrastinating as I was before; it’s just that now I have more time to squander and I’m more creative about how I do it.

In terms of online presence, I do still have a Goodreads profile but, since Amazon bought that (and Lovefilm), I’m thinking of ditching it.

If there’s one thing I can’t help but be suspicious about, it’s businesses buying businesses so they can do more business. Get a life, corporate entities, will you? Go and hug a tree. Walk barefoot on the grass. Dip your toe in a lake. Talk to a person less fortunate than yourself and get a small sense of the nobility you lack.

So, yes, Goodreads could be next on the chopping list. However, I need to give this careful consideration because, until now, it’s been a reader-led, book-oriented site. That’s a worthwhile online presence for an author to have. But if it becomes a way for Amazon to tighten their chokehold, I’m gone.

Authors are led to believe that web-presence is vital to their success. Publishers are far more interested in writers who work hard to build a network that brings them a bigger readership – why wouldn’t they be? And every new story of a self-pubber making a fortune online seems to reinforce the prerequisite of internet ubiquity.

I had a long discussion with one of my publishers about all of this. Their feeling was that an author should build a dedicated fanbase through blogging and social media. The idea is to be everywhere at once, on every reader’s radar until you’re a household name. I took the conversation very seriously – especially the core idea that if you have 10,000 loyal fans, you’ll always make a living, no matter what it is you do or sell.

I asked for an extension on the deadline I had with this publisher and got down to writing articles, doing interviews and generally popping up wherever and whenever I could. It was fun for a while; probably because it was a change from what I usually do.

But the reality is that this isn’t me.

I’m no Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, Joe Konrath or Cory Doctorow. Being online, creating content and networking in that way feels forced – again, that’s just a personal thing, not a criticism of people who thrive on it and find making it work a joy.

I had this minuscule epiphany: instead of being a novelist who is a self-publicist, salesperson, networker and limelight-seeker, perhaps it’s okay to simply be a novelist who…writes novels.

Unless you’re already a celebrated name, most of the people you end up linking with on social media are authors trying to sell the same product as you – a book. It’s a bit tiring, both trying to find ways to make your latest news interesting in a non-pushy way, and having to read endless updates from other authors attempting the exact same trick.

Don’t get me wrong. I like online communities. I really do. It’s just that I prefer real ones. And I’m relishing the experience of having a little more time and a less polluted head.

With Facebook and Twitter gone, what does that leave?

It leaves this humble blog. For the moment, I’ll keep it going.

It’s a place where I can speak to people who visit because they want to, rather than me cluttering their ‘feed’ with subtly-disguised hey-look-at-mes! It’s a place where I can be ‘searched for’ and ‘found’. And, yes, if nowhere else on the internet, this will also be the place where I talk about and pitch my work.

It also leaves my family, the garden, exercise, reading, cooking, my fiction and all the time I spend wondering about the world, what it’s all about and why we’re here; what I consider to be the fun stuff.

For the moment, then, see you here or – even better – in the real world sometime.”

*spoken like a true addict*

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25 thoughts on “Life outside social media: yes, there is one, I’ve checked

  1. “okay to simply be a novelist who…writes novels” well put 🙂
    It will be interesting to see what happens over on Goodreads but I fear the worse. But glad you’re continuing to blog 🙂 and if you’re ever up’north I’ll come along 🙂

    • Cheers, Neil.

      Will have to keep an eye on Goodreads…

      There’s a small chance I’ll be doing a mass signing of BBF 2013 in Leeds in September if that’s far enough North – will post any news on that here.

  2. Pingback: Where the hell is Joseph D’Lacey? » This Is Horror

  3. I only found out last night that you were gone from faceache, Joseph, as I tried to tag you in a humble review of Roadkill (awesome story, by the way).

    Interesting decision and the reasons behind it.

    I find myself thinking of faceache in opposite terms. Yes, it’s frustrating, a pain and occasionally downright infuriating, but without it, I wouldn’t know a lot of the people I know (from all over the world), I wouldn’t have read a lot of the books I have and I wouldn’t have been to the events, out of which I have made some very good friends and contacts. For me, it’s almost vital, to the extent that I’ve been inspired and encouraged to try writing myself.

    But, if it means you’ll get more writing done, then fantastic. Oh, and you better be coming to Horror In The East in November, I need my copy of Black Feathers signed 😛

    • Hi, Paul.

      I appreciate you dropping by to say something – nice to virtually see you again.

      Like you, I’ve made some very solid contacts through FB – some of them are people I ended up working closely with. So I am grateful for that and it’s good to hear how much it has done for you. Thanks for giving this post some balance!

      Also, thanks for the review. I’d love to see it if you can post a link.

      I hope I can make Horror in the East too. It will be good to see everyone again (as long as we don’t eat in the same place!).

  4. Hi Joe, you do know that when you have any news I’d be more than happy to post it up on my site and share it with my readers.

    • Hi, Jim.

      That’s lovely, sir, and I’d be keen for you to share my latest – if I get any! *grateful face* *makes note: owe Jim a beer*

      Hope all’s well at the GNoH and that I’ll see you sometime soon? WFC, perhaps?

      Many thanks meanwhile.

  5. Great to read this! I’ve never been on any social media. Have I missed out? I don’t think so. It all seems to be a waste of time. I see folk filming and tweeting about wherever they are instead of being present in the moment. Live life, don’t ‘Share’ banalities about it! I agree that it’s helpful for writers etc to have some kind of presence online so they can be found (hence my own WP site) but there’s no need, I think, for much else.

    • My moment-to-moment appreciation of things has definitely improved without it, however, I did make many useful contacts over those six years.

      I think that, these days, I’m keener to value the moments by spending more time in the real world and less in the virtual.

    • Aww! Thanks, Liz. I haven’t really gone anywhere – still here doing the same ol’ thing; just more of it!

  6. Nice to see you’ve got your priorities in order. I loved Meat and a couple of your short stories in Morpheous Tales and Shroud. Keep up the good work. And like Stephen King said “You Rock!”

    Lex Sinclair author (Neighbourhood Watch, Killer Spiders and Nobody Goes There).

  7. Joe, not sure if my privacy settings will allow linking to the ‘page’, so I’ll copy and paste the review here. It’s short and, I hope, sweet. It’ll be good to see you at Autumn and yes, I hope we go to a different restaurant 😛

    ‘Number four in This Is Horror chapbooks and here we have a strange tale from Joseph D’Lacey. In some future or alternate apocalyptic/dystopian wasteland, two high speed drivers race against (or with?) each other on a lonely, almost deserted highway, while the narrator gives out piecemeal information about the world they inhabit. It takes place over the span of 98 seconds and five miles of road (I think). Through the high speed and dangerous terrain, the narrator muses on why he’s doing what he’s doing and hints at the social structure of his world. It’s all tantalisingly brief and there’s a real dream like quality to it, a sense of fantastic feverishness. Despite that there’s little detail to the world (sparse descriptions, rather, but enough to give a sense of this future place), I didn’t feel cheated (as I’ve read in some other reviews). It simply wet my appetite for more story. The brevity fits the tale perfectly and the final scene is a belter. Completely came out of nowhere and hit me. I would love to see more set in this world.’

    • Fab review, Paul!

      Thank you for taking the time to read Roadkill and make such positive public comment. I’m glad you liked it, however, I doubt I’ll write anything further in this world.

      Well, we’ll see…

      Thanks again for your support, Paul.

  8. Pingback: Interview with BBC presenter Bernie Keith | Joseph D'Lacey

  9. I’m so relieved, I thought you had died! 😉 Seriously, I’m glad for you that you made this move, that you’re focusing on being a story teller and not a social media master. 🙂 Loved Blood Fugue and you can expect my review soon, and then it’s me and Garbage Man! 🙂

    • Ha! Not dead yet, though I expect I’ve got it coming!

      Being off social media continues to be a real blessing, so thanks for understanding.

      I’m so pleased to hear you got into Blood Fugue – the book has a long and not particularly glittery history and it was great to finally see it materialise. There’s a post about it here with some facts and figures and the early responses https://josephdlacey.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/blood-fugue-the-final-word/ in case you want any background for your review.

      Can’t wait to read it and thanks for your support!

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