I am probably the last person you expected to say what I'm going to say: the internet has all got too much and I am going to take control. It's become like one of those eat-all-you-can buffets and it's making me feel somewhat sick.
After I spoke about "building your online platform" at the Society of Authors conference, people said they were terrified by my apparent energy. How did I find the time? Vanessa Gebbie asked on my blog for advice about how to use the internet without wasting time. Blithely, I replied, a) define wasting time b) when it feels too much, stop - don't let it take over. Discipline, my child!
Well, I was OK at that point. After all, I only had a few blogs and three FB pages and Twitter and a new website in progress (now done!) and three existing websites and Audioboo. And this collaborative blog. And the Authors Electric blog, which I'd just joined as a newbie ebook publisher. (And immediately volunteered to manage their Twitter account...)
But then, my behaviour tipped over some kind of precipice: I investigated (purely for research, you understand) LinkedIn, where I found groups and threads and discussions, and where I spent a lot of time deleting randomly-generated emails. And Google+, which everyone said was "better" than Facebook, and where I found circles and groups and threads and discussions and hangouts to hang out in with people I already knew from Twitter and Facebook. Then (purely for research, you understand), I thought I should join the Kindle Boards (because I am interested in ebook publishing) and the Kindle UK forum (ditto and because it exists) and the Absolute Write Water Cooler (ditto and ditto and because people asked me to) and in all of those places I found forums and groups and threads and discussions and spent a great deal of time in a great many similar conversations.
In those places, I kept seeing the same people. Often lovely people. "Fancy meeting you here! Do you come here often?" So I was communicating with existing friends in umpteen places. They were everywhere, all at the same time, and so was I.
As well as that, within 24 hours of arriving on one forum, I had THREE private messages warning me to be careful what I said because the conversation could sometimes be vicious. The word "vicious" was actually used in each case. I didn't see any viciousness but I know people who have experienced it. And I don't want to.
After a couple of weeks of all this gorging on the buffet, and working longer and longer hours to get any actual work done, it all became too much and I thought, "Blimey, this is wasting time." And I reminded myself of what I'd told Vanessa Gebbie: Discipline, my child!
Also, I was getting more and more frustrated with Facebook - I seemed to be force-fed information and photos and quiz results and Farmville pink rabbits from people I literally didn't know. At. All. I am sure many of them were lovely people, but I didn't know them and they didn't know me and there are actually only so many hours in the day. And to be honest I don't want to know the Farmville activities of even my closest friends.
So I began slipping away from some of the afore-mentioned places, without wanting to offend the perfectly decent and sensible people there. Today, I began to try to untie the strings of Facebook. And what long FB conversations that caused! Facebook has this horrible word, "Unfriending". In order only to interact with people you actually know, you have to unfriend the others. It's horrible. You have to do it one name at a time and a little - well, OK: big - message comes up asking if you're really sure you want to unfriend so-and-so. Meh.
What's my point? I actually think there's a reassuring message to all this. I think that any of you who also feel that your online life has got or is getting too much, if it feels unhealthy, might take comfort from this: if I, the ultimate internet junkie, addicted to communication with as many people as possible in as many ways as possible, can call a halt and take control, anyone can! it feels very cleansing and sensible. Like a detox diet after over-indulgence.
I don't think we should do any of these online things just because we feel we "ought" to, only when we want to. We should eat when we're hungry or to be sociable and human, not when someone waves a piece of chocolate cake in front of our noses. Not just because it's there. Not because people try to tempt us.
If only it was as easy with real food...
Has anyone else reached this point of online saturation? Some of you, I know, have resisted it. It's all about balance - but that balance is different for each of us. When you reach it, I urge you: stop. Discipline, my child. Or desperation.
Nicola Morgan is the author of around 90 books for children and adults, including Tweet Right - The Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter. £2.74 on Amazon and you don't need a Kindle!