April 20, 2020 § 4 Comments
By Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Social media is incredible; it introduces us to writing opportunities, communities, retreats, residencies, prizes, scholarships, and so much more. It helps us connect and communicate with people around the world. It orchestrates new friendships. Social media dissipates geographic boundaries and makes the writing life less isolated. But, like most things in life, social media too comes with its complications.
Research tells us that excessive and compulsive social media usage is linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia, low self-esteem amongst other health issues. If we don’t learn to take care of ourselves, pause every now and then, and stop refreshing our feeds constantly, burn out is inevitable.
- Take a deep breath: While Facebook live and webinars and Zoom meetings make it easier for us to RSVP and “attend” more events because we aren’t limited by geographic location and timings, they can also take a toll on us. Sleeping at odd hours, skipping meals, not getting enough movement, and jumping from one event to another because there are no commute constrictions can have its own consequences. Fact: It’s important to pause. It’s good to take breaks in between. It’s imperative to exercise and eat right. And, it’s perfectly fine to not attend anything once in a while. When you make the time to recharge yourself, you get back to your writing life, writing community, and creativity with vigor and appreciation, you have so much more to give to your tribe.
- Redefine boundaries: Social media has made access to information seamless. It makes life more alluring. You see pictures of your friends at book launches, literary gatherings, and book clubs, and if you perceive exclusion, it can have negative impact on your mental health. Then there is the fear of missing out (FOMO) and tendency of over-booking your calendar to not feeling adept because everyone else around you seems to be doing better—courtesy of social media posts. Develop a healthy relationship with social media. Don’t check social media posts at least two hours prior to going to bed. Don’t log on to social networks first thing in the morning. Maybe schedule your social media posts or you use an app that compels you to take breaks? Consider having an editorial calendar in place to plan content ahead of time and allot specific time of the day to use social media. Whatever you do, do not forget to add a nourishing distance between yourself and social media. Sometimes, we need to build boundaries to protect us from our own thoughts and actions.
- Figure out your why: Social media can be addictive, and it can create a want for instant gratification. Figure out why you are on social media—what your goals and expectations are from it. You don’t have to be on every social networking channel just because others are on there. Figure out, which social media network makes most sense to you and allocate time wisely. Reality is that the more time you spend on social media, the more you start to seek personal validation through your social media engagement. So, if you share an update/post something about your new writing, book, interview, essay, award, struggles, wins….and don’t get “enough” likes or comments or emojis on your post right away, you might find yourself refreshing the feed obsessively. Then the inner voice gets loud and leads you on the path to self-deprecatory reflections: People don’t like my writing. People don’t like me anymore. People aren’t happy for my success. They don’t think I am relatable, witty, or intelligent. I don’t matter. My words don’t make a difference. No one will read my work. My career is over. The writers mind can be filled with insecurities, doubts, and self-loathing. We tend to make up fearful stories in our head.
- Find your community: While it’s important to feel that you aren’t alone, it’s equally important to know that there are different kinds of writers and paths available for your writing career. That said, not everyone will be a good match for you even if though they might be the best human being to have walked this planet. For example, if you are a writer with a day job who is feeling anxious about their commitment to the craft and publishing, talking to a full-time writer who has much more flexibility in their schedule and can afford to spend hours online to research options and opportunities, might put you in a more vulnerable space. Talk to those who can relate to your situation. Find those in the same position as you in life and build a community.
- Embrace tech timeouts: Have you noticed…on some days, you sit down to write with full intention…and then you make the mistake of opening Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or Pinterest on your phone? And there starts the world of mindless scrolling and thumb impressions. On a good day, aside from wasting productive hours, you might not be deeply impacted. But we all have bad days where we doubt our writing, our voice, and our capabilities. On a day like that, it’s easy to assume that everyone in the world has a better life than you. Because social media constantly exposes us to idealized versions of other people’s lives, we assume everyone is more successful than us. Fact: Everyone is struggling in their own ways. People only show those aspects of their lives that they want the world to believe. Intentionally disconnecting from social media can give you untainted perspective.
Social media is powerful. Try to use it mindfully, not reactively. While it’s important to be an active member of the writing community and support your fellow writers, it is equally important to take care of your emotional, physical, and mental health. Information overload can overwhelm us for the wrong reasons. There is a tipping point for each one of us, after which we end up on the road to burnout.
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” ~ Christopher K. Germer
Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an international speaker, best-selling author of 12 books, and Ayurveda and mindset coach who is committed to helping people thrive on their own terms. As a trusted source on health and wellness, most recently appearing on NBC and Radio Lifeforce, Sweta has dedicated her career to writing about and teaching a more holistic approach to creativity, productivity, health, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Sweta is a trained yogi, is on the board of Fly Female Founders, and holds a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Columbia University. Voted as “One of the Most Influential Asians of Our Times” and winner of the “Voices of the Year” award (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton), she lives in New York City with her husband and works with clients across the globe.