Columns > Published on June 14th, 2023

On Leaving Social Media

Original image via Cottonbro Studio

A couple months ago I decided to step away from social media. I wanted to experiment with not living so online. 

I failed gloriously.

But the experiment wasn't a total loss.

During that time I processed many major life changes that challenged my mental, spiritual, and physical limits; the death of my dog of twenty years, the death of my father whom I was very close with, and well, sleeping three to four hours a night to keep up with multiple book deadlines. And that's not even everything. Stepping away from social media allowed me to reflect on life, peace, time, creativity, who is owed my time and energy, and what I hope for my future days to look like.

And while I’ve returned to social media full force, I do believe I’ve established firmer boundaries than in year’s past. I now see social media primarily as a tool to share my work, and yes, to socialize on occasion with fellow colleagues in the creative space, but I have come to realize that true personal and professional relationships can only be cultivated over time.

Still, I was curious about those authors who have maintained a minimal social media presence and how it has worked for them, their life and their creative careers. Here is what they had to say.

Craig Davidson

“For me, there was an apocryphal moment where I said, Y'know, this whole social media thing may not be for me. I still had a Facebook account and was scrolling idly, mindlessly, as one does, and stumbled on a review for a new book of mine—I don’t believe it was even out at the time—posted by one of my Facebook friends (I suppose I should use “friend,” not in a sarcastic way but simply because I may’ve had 2 or 3000 friends at the time but had physically interacted with less than 1% of them, so this wasn't someone I knew as anything beyond a name and a stamp-sized photo, the exact same way that person knew me).

"The review was...starkly honest, let's say. A frank appraisal by an individual who’d taken the time to read and was entitled to their opinion. But it crystalized a few things for me. One, how well did I know any of these friends? Were they really friends in the traditional sense—that being my old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy sense? The FB friends I really knew, well, I'd continue to know them whether I was on social media or not. And as I get older I realize it’s hard enough to keep strong ties to the friends I do have, and it seemed important to dedicate that social effort to nourishing those long-standing relationships. And while that particular review didn’t crater me—you can’t allow that to happen if you want to keep putting one creative foot in front of the other—it did put me into a bit of a funk for a day or so, and it seemed the nasty sort of shock I could avoid simply by getting off social media. To semi-quote Timothy Olyphant in The Girl Next Door, I decided the juice wasn't worth the squeeze for me. Now I’m sure I may have missed out on a lot of good times and friendship possibilities based on that choice, but we all have to live with our decisions.”

Get Cascade: Stories by Craig Davidson at Bookshop or Amazon

Brian Evenson

“I got involved in social media almost exclusively because my publisher pushed me to do so, with the argument that social media presence was important. They caught me at a weak moment and so I agreed. I’ve only ever been involved with FaceBook—which feels more and more antiquated and less relevant, but that may be what keeps me from shutting my account down. About five years back my agent suggested I join Twitter, saying it was a good way to grow my audience and “stay present.”  My response was to say “I've thought about it but it just sounds slightly exhausting.” That for me is the problem: every bit of engagement with social media leaves me slightly exhausted in a way that takes away from my writing. I can carefully craft a post, but the time I spent doing that I usually feel would be much better spent reading or writing. I never joined Twitter and to be honest I've had absolutely no regrets...”

Get ​Black Bark by Brian Evenson at Bookshop or Amazon

Gwendolyn Kiste

“I've been away from Twitter for almost six months now, and logging out of my account has definitely had a positive effect on not only my life and peace of mind overall but also on my writing. I'm simply able to get more writing done when my time isn't consumed with the latest bad news on Twitter. That's not to say there was no good on the social media platform; unfortunately, though, it's become increasingly toxic over the years. Every once in a while, I do miss the camaraderie there along with the ability to get more up-to-date news, but the truth is I'm finding ways to stay connected with people and the world that don't involve Twitter, and that's been a wonderful experience.

"There’s of course the reality that if you're not visible enough in the publishing industry, then your career can suffer. But personally, I feel like we're all expected to be online too much as it is, so I'm willing to deal with any possible fallout to have a happier life offline. Because when it comes down to it, not everything happens online. In fact, many of the best things in life most decidedly happen offline. It's been nice to have more time for all those good things.”

Get Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste at Bookshop or Amazon

Kathe Koja

“Eschewing Twitter, while it has meant losing contact with some people whose posts I valued, was a decision prompted by the platform’s continuing fascist bent. Social media per se is just as connectively useful, or distractive and devouring, as we allow it to be, and has to be approached accordingly.”

Get Dark Factory by Kathe Koja at Bookshop or Amazon

Gus Moreno

“Not being on Facebook and Twitter has helped me immensely, in the sense that I no longer have intrusive thoughts stemming from whatever social media beef I was previously obsessing about, which often never involved me in the slightest. For example, I quit Twitter because it was ruining my love of wrestling, which I think is what Twitter does to any fandom, but as a writer I’d get stuck trying to “solve” these random people online like they were characters in a story, trying to figure out their motivations and understand where they were coming from, and it all became too much to bear. I like Instagram far better because you have to post a photo first, you can’t just complain right off the bat. Unless your photo is a screenshot of some rant you’ve typed in your Notes app, to which I’d hit the ‘unfollow’ button before I even read the whole thing."

Get This Thing Between Us by Gus Morena at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Cina Pelayo is the author of Loteria, Santa Muerte, The Missing, Poems of My Night, short stories, poems, and more. 

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