Life in the Fasting Lane

In April, I subjected myself to a month-long fast. Don’t worry, I haven’t been starving. There’s all that Easter candy to enjoy! No, this wasn’t a food fast, it was a social media fast, and the results were interesting.

Call in Leonidas because I can’t do this alone!

What Kicked This Off

First and foremost, I’m not a huge fan of social media. I don’t mind popping in now and then to see pictures of places near and far, to laugh at the latest funny video, and to enjoy a few dozen cat memes.

I mean, how can I resist?

But as for marketing or sharing my writing life, I hate it. There’s other stuff I hate about it too, but I don’t want to digress into a political/religious/social rant.

In early April, The Career Author podcast suggested giving up social media for a month to see what happens (you can listen to the episode HERE). My immediate thought was, “Now that’s some advice I can act on with gusto!” They then spelled out how to go about it and what to expect….turns out, they were spot on.

How To Start the Fast

Two words: cold turkey. The guys said to just stop going on social media, no checking in, no telling your followers you were taking a break, just quit. I’ll explain the reasoning behind not telling your followers later.

I have to say I cheated a tiny bit because my blog posts automatically post to Twitter, and I did pop on Twitter for a few minutes to find out news about the Notre Dame fire in Paris, but other than that, from the first week of April to the first week of May, I was completely off social media.

Yes, one does.

The Reality of the Expectations  

The podcast said for the first week or two, I would feel the need to check in, to have the overwhelming feeling I was missing out, to feel the tug of NEEDING to post, and to worry people would forget me. I’m not even close to what anyone would call a social media addict, but yet this all came true.

However, I noticed something else mixing in with these Fear of Missing Out feelings: my mind felt incredibly clear. More clear than it has in a long time.

I stopped fretting over trying to make what I was doing sound clever so I could post about it. I no longer experienced the irritation that Instagram won’t let me post from my computer (seriously, WHY???).

I also wasn’t tormenting myself with seeing other authors boasting about their amazing sales figures or sharing posts from all their fans raving about their books. Something was happening. I was getting over my comparison-itis.

Comparison Woes

Comparing yourself to others is inevitable as a human. We all see how much better someone looks in their clothes, how much better another person is at their job, and the like. Social media only exacerbates this. And if you’re inclined to get down on your appearance or your lack of success (as I most definitely am), this can be very bad for your brain, especially for the creative bits in your grey matter.

On social media, you’re mostly seeing people showing off the best part of their day, their fabulous vacation, their perfect moments, posing in that angle they KNOW makes them look fabulous, and, writers love showing off how much their fans adore them, how productive they’ve been, how well a book is selling, and how perfectly a launch went.

Yes, competition can drive creativity and ambition, but comparison can damage that it.

If you already feel like you’re walking around with a big neon “Failure” sign over your head, all this in-your-face-success can wear you down no matter how much you try to look on the bright side.

I don’t care how supportive I am of other creatives, sometimes their unending series of wins can feel like a big kick in the gut and make me wonder why I’m not doing as stupendously as them.

Thanks for rubbing it in, Yoda.

Fasting Changed My Brain

I’d say 91.42% (adjusting for statistical error, of course) of those negative feelings had vanished by the end of week two of my fast. I started feeling proud of my writing and marketing efforts for their own sake.

I started relishing my daily wins (even if they were tiny) and stopped thinking they were things to be ashamed of simply because they were nowhere near someone else’s level of success. I didn’t feel the need to post my latest writing quips or travel photos simply to get a few meaningless Likes from random people I don’t even know.

Instead, I noted to myself that I had a good day and anticipated the next. I was comparing myself to myself. I was trying to beat my own wins, not someone else’s. That in itself was a huge revelation. 

Good point, Al

And this really got me scribbling. As you saw in the last newsletter, my writing numbers for April were outstanding (for me, anyway).

Without the distraction of social media, without the nagging voice telling me to stop because I HAD to post something, and without the Debbie Downer voice of social media inside my head, I had a renewed clarity in my own brain and saw a HUGE boost in productivity.

There’ll be more on these projects soon, but in addition to my newsletters and blog posts, I ended up writing a short story, creating an outline for a new novel, churning out the rough draft of one book, then getting a big leap on the second draft of my next two books. 

The Results of My Fast

Okay, back to the reason you aren’t supposed to make a big announcement about starting your social media fast. You do this to see if anyone notices. We think we have “friends” on social media, but do we really? Do they actually care about hearing from you or are they just there blasting out their updates for their own ego and occasionally liking/commenting on yours?

Granted, I kind of cheated on this because my blog posts were still showing up on Twitter, so people knew I wasn’t dead.

Still, out of all my followers on Twitter and Instagram (on which I went completely silent), I had ONE person ask if I was okay. One. Bit of a downer, but at least I know I have one “friend” out there in the world (Australia, to be exact).

Because authors have been told they NEED social media to sell books, the podcast also suggested to compare your book sales numbers between a normal month and your fasting month. I do know for a fact that I have sold some books thanks to my Twitter connections, but would staying away from social media affect my sales numbers?

The short answer…Nope. Okay, my April numbers were down from March. However, I snagged those extra March sales, by accidentally spending more money on ads than I earned that month (long story, but basically I didn’t have my ads’ reporting set up correctly…oops).

Compared to February, though, when I was really making a huge social media effort? My sales numbers for April were the exact same. 

So What Now?

Did I miss social media? Not much. There are a few people I follow whose photos I missed seeing and there were a few very important things (okay, it was my cats being super cute) I wanted to share, but overall I feel like being away from social media has had way more benefits than being on social media.

My head feels clearer, I don’t feel quite as frustrated (with myself and with the world), I’m definitely more productive, and I’m left with a renewed sense of confidence and joy in the work I accomplish each day.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up altogether. I’ll slowly work my way back in, but I will definitely be changing my strategy and my attitude toward it. 

Alright, there’s a birthday party to attend, so let’s get back to that newsletter, shall we?