Friday, 19 November 2010

Are you living your life or just twittering on about it? - Linda Strachan

It's not that I have anything against social networking, in fact I do like the fact that you can communicate with lots of people so easily.

Social networking as a writer is a good way of reaching a wider audience; of getting in touch with other writers, readers and interested people, as well as keeping in touch with close friends.  But is it all becoming too invasive?

Are we wasting so much of our lives tapping information on small electronic devices, when we could be living more?

Being able to call or text or email almost anyone, at any time of the day or night can be incredibly useful, and at times it is a lot of fun. But is there a point where it stops being fun and becomes compulsive and potentially destructive?

Could we be forgetting to live our lives because we are so desperate to share every little detail with people we hardly know, and may not even have met.

Imagine that you are relaxing on a beautiful beach watching a fabulous sunset.  It is quiet and peaceful and you are getting away from all the hustle and bustle of life at home. Do you still feel the need to twitter about it?

Immediately you pick up your phone and tap away, twittering the details to the wider world. But as you concentrate on the tiny screen the beautiful sunset in front of you is changing from moment to moment.  You are missing it - spoiling the moment because you are now reading what someone else has said about their roof leaking, their dog scratching itself or possibly something equally inane and pointless.

Meanwhile the life you could be leading is passing by unnoticed.

It sounds to me like the start of some horrific tale of the future. Have we become that society that is so busy being busy that we have no time to 'stop and stare'.

Do you feel bereft if your mobile device is lost or stolen?  What if you have left it at home or can't get an internet connection and are unable to communicate with the world for - heaven forbid- an hour or two? If this is you perhaps you need to start weaning yourself off this dreadful anchor that is insidiously draining away your ability to survive without it.

I have seen people sitting together -  no one is talking to the group they are with because they are all either talking on their phones, sending or receiving text messages or twittering?  Is that because they think the people they are with are not interesting or important enough to talk to?  If so why are they spending time with them at all?  Or is it that they are so insecure that they have to prove they have lots of friends or important things that must be communicated immediately?

It is not just phones - computers and laptops can be just as enticing, and all consuming.

I know that there are many people out there who are not welded to their technology. But if you are one of those for whom the temptation of just one more text or email, just another minute or two, (which turns into an hour before you realise it) is irresistible - perhaps it is time to check and see if you are indeed able to do without it for an entire day, or if you have the kind of withdrawal pains or summon up the same excuses that we associate with any other addiction....

Linda's latest teenage novel is Dead Boy Talking (Strident Publishing)
Her writing handbook Writing for Children (A & C Black) ideal reading for all aspiring and newly published writers
For younger children the Hamish McHaggis series (GW Publishing)
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Unknown said...

You make good and valid points. Sharing is a part of experiencing though. Schroedinger's cat.

Linda Strachan said...

Yes, Elaine, it is a bit of a dilemma!

Katherine Roberts said...

Linda, your post hit a nerve! As writers working in isolation at home I suppose it's natural to crave social contact... yet since I got Broadband, I am aware of "wasting" entire days doing this internetty stuff because it seems more rewarding than writing my next novel with no guarantee of publication at the end.

Addiction? Yes, absolutely. But then so is writing... and chocolate... and coffee... all the fun things are bad for you, aren't they?

Sue Purkiss said...

I certainly wouldn't be without email and the internet - but goodness, I waste a lot of time on it! And I only dabble with Facebook, and don't do Twitter at all - if I did I suspect my entire life would become virtual. And I HATE it on trains when people are glued to their phones, coming out with such gems as, "Yes, we're pretty much on time, just going into a tunnel now... call you back..." But on the other hand, mobiles are so useful...

Stroppy Author said...

There are people who tweet to endorse their experience - it has to be validated by external observation. But there are also people who tweet to share an experience with friends who are not there. Only the individual knows why (s)he is tweeting (or using Facebook).

But I agree that people often miss the experience because they are too keen on recording it. Just like all those who see everything through the lens of their camera because seeing it isn't enough, they have to have evidence that they saw it. (Of course, they didn't see it because they were too busy photographing it! It is only evidence they were there.)

Linda Strachan said...

So true, Katherine, far too many good things are addictive, but balance in all things helps us survive!

I do hate sitting in the same train carriage as one of those irritating people talking into their phones...aargh - perhaps that is when texting and twitter are miles better.
I agree that for a lot of people only they know why they are on twitter or facebook, but it is interesting to stop for a moment and look at our own reasons and whether sometimes the time would be better spent elsewhere.

Unknown said...

It is an addiction, isn't it?! I bet if scientists looked inside our brains they'd see the same chemicals released as when people fall in love. It becomes all you think about. Distracts you from your most basic functions - eating, going to the toilet, doing your job.

It is of course great to network but I find I feel more sane when I stay off Twitter for a day. I enjoy reading more when I don't check Twitter for updates at the end of every chapter. I enjoy writing more when I don't click from tab to tab.

So I think for me less is more.

michelle lovric said...

really interesting post, Linda, and you put into words all the instincts that keep me away from facebook and twitter, even though i do also see the plus side of intelligent use of same. The cynicism and sordidness of motive and operation shown in the excellent Social Network film confirmed my feelings that i didn't want to be part of a habitat generated by that kind of evolution.