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Why Social Media is Bad for your Writing

Why Social Media is Bad for your Writing

inspiration mental health mindset Mar 03, 2024

Have you ever been so horrified to know what other people are doing, but somehow you can't stop watching them? Your finger crosses the screen as another short story slides, and you get this feeling that everybody is doing great… but you.

 

In these times of social media, when people value sharing but also showing –and it seems like you don't exist if you are not on it– it's very difficult not to get caught up in a vortex of comparison and self-pity. Not to mention the distraction and overstimulation that keeps our brains silly when trying to work or be productive.

But, is social media killing our creativity or increasing it? 

Today we'll talk about the benefits and disadvantages of constantly being exposed to what others read, think, do, and share. Luckily, understanding how social media works will help us cope with it and keep our ducks in a row while protecting our mental health and our creativity.

 

Why is social media bad for my writing?

 

We expose our feelings and thoughts on X, we let everyone on Instagram know our accomplishments and, sometimes, our failures too –depending if we´re looking for validation or emotional support– and we use TikTok when we're bored. So I think it's safe to say that we use social media to fill a void. 

It can work like any addiction: alcohol, drugs or even sex –all the good stuff– and the way to know if we're struggling is when we can't get out even if we want to. 

But social media is as normal as it gets, right? It's a part of our every day, it's a standard. And even though it hasn't always been there, I'm not sure we realize how many negative consequences it brings to our mental health. It literally changed our brains: the lack of attention is lower every day, and we have to figure out our relationships through it too. But without going any further –I'm not a sociologist– I will concentrate first on the damage I experienced as a writer trying to get out of social media. 

Here's an existential crisis coming right up.

Have fun!

 

To be creative, be bored

 

Writing involves silence. Patience. Involves hours of hard work and determination. To write, you need to focus. You need to be able to spend hours in front of your computer, left alone with your own thoughts and ideas. But this is something you already know, I'm sure. Even without social media, it's already hard to focus.

But you know what social media gives you that you don't need? Entertainment. 

To write, you need to get so… bored.

Like really, really bored. 

Have you ever observed a kid? They can't stand boredom for a minute, but that is exactly what keeps them so creative. Children draw, write, sing, invent games, they let their imaginations run wild because they’re yet to gain the self-awareness to stop it. Boredom is what makes children so innovative. So, yes, get bored. 

ALSO: How to Tap Into Your Subconscious to Improve Your Writing

I don't know if you noticed, and I hate to be the type of writer who underestimates their audience, but these things are quite the opposite of what social media does for us. Social media is fast –it has to be–, it's overwhelming, there's always someone talking, expressing, sharing, whether it is good or bad it doesn't matter: there is no silence. It's entertaining. It's so loud.

But writing… Writing is also an absorbing place. It's all about being free, and nervous, and obsessive. It's coming back to the beginning to rewrite the story, changing things all the time, and thinking over and over about the exact same details. There is no “easy way” to do it, but you need to hear your own voice in order to make art.

Resist that temptation to look at your phone and be quiet for a moment, an hour or two, or even a week if you're looking for a challenge. See what new ideas are born in the silence.

 

How to stop comparing yourself with other writers

 

I don't know if this is familiar to you, but I have woken up several times, tired after working on my never-ending novel, just to realize someone I know is publishing their book. And it hurts more if they're younger than me, or don't have the studies and background I have. 

And don't get me wrong, it's always good news when someone publishes their book, especially if they are people that we know and cherish. But also…

I just can't shut up the voice in my head that says: when is it my turn?

These feelings I'm describing are not pretty, I know. There's so much envy and comparison in these words. But people tend to get very moralistic with what we are “allowed” to feel, and I'm just trying to be transparent here. 

To be honest, I think people want to be more like other people. There's a very unique loneliness that comes with experiencing the world through your eyes only, so you never get to know what others are feeling, you only know yourself, your own desires and fears, and, of course, your own lack of luck.

With these limitations, it's crystal clear that we believe others have it easier. And we desire that ease to move through the world, too.

What I'm trying to say is, if you feel bad when you see others accomplish anything, living a “better” life than yours, don't feel like a monster. It's very human to desire what others have, to compare yourself,  and to try to find an answer to why it's not you. 

Trying to answer this question will do nothing but hurt you.

ALSO: The Correct Way To Let Writing Rule Your Life

Virtuality reflects the real world like a black mirror, but it's important to remember that it is not the real world. It's just an illusion that day by day, we build. 

We have the feeling that everyone but us is making progress, but the thing with social media is that we see only the result, not the process. A photo is just a fragment of a complicated story which we don't know anything about. Success is rarely free.

So, yes, we see that person publishing their book. But we are unaware of the sleepless nights, the panic attacks, the effort, the compromise, the help of others, the many hands that a book needs to be called a book. Also, we don't even know if it's good, but we already feel like it's a menace to our self-esteem and our practice. For a tiny moment, we feel it's never gonna be us publishing that book.

But it will. As long as we want it and keep working towards it, that moment will come.

However, in the meantime, we can't afford to compare ourselves to our peers, losing our minds trying to be like anyone else. Creativity is mostly about making things in our own way, it's about what makes us authentic, so trying to copy what the algorithm says you should be doing might work for your business or your brand, but it might also hurt your creative process.

 

Be a player, not an observer

 

Social media is deceitful. When we pay attention to other users, we become observers. We spend how many hours a day just watching people living their lives? What they eat, how they dress, who they're with. 

It's kinda creepy, isn't it? 

Making art requires contemplation, but I don't think this is what poets were talking about. Watching others living their lives might entertain us, but it makes us lazy. We are not actively participating in the world, we're just sitting and watching. 

I'm gonna make a bold statement, but I don't think that's the way artists should live. Making art is an active task, something to do in the real world. Even when you're writing words into a screen, you're shaping your own experience into it. So go on, get off your phone, and let something happen to you in real life. 

 

 

Over-stimulation

 

Or, as Lorde says, people are talking, people are talking. 

I think the major problem with social media is the over-stimulation of constant news, information, videos, and opinions that no one ever asked for. This flow of violent voices coming through all places at once affects our mental health more than anything. 

If you read the news to pay attention to what happens around the world, then you understand. There's so much misinformation and aggression.

It's really hard to keep your sanity and your creativity when every piece of information feels like one bomb after another. And if you're on X –then I'm sorry– you know that people feel the right to say everything that comes to mind as if they're experts. 

To this, I can only say: set boundaries, get away if you need to, read local newspapers instead –yes, they still exist– and take care of yourself.

And remember that words have meaning and power. If you're not using them to say something useful or nice, is it really worth it? 

 

What advantage does social media have?

 

On the other hand, not everything is bad on social media. We have cats, funny people, our group of friends sending us things they think we're gonna appreciate. We can see and know so much more than our limited existence allows us in our current place. 

And there's so much to learn. So much, that it's easy to get both motivated and overwhelmed at the same time.

 

 

How to use social media to learn

 

The good news is, aside from everything I said before, we have a powerful tool in our hands. 

As we said, there is so much information on the internet. Sometimes, that can hurt us. But when we go searching for it, it's a different matter. There are, as you well know: blogs, courses, videos, newsletters, and communities that you can participate in.

To improve your craft, you don't need much, because a lot of information is free. But be aware: it only depends on how much effort and commitment you can make. Spend your time wisely and search for those places –inside of Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube– that really suits you. 

When it comes to creativity, it's important to say that the only advice you should follow is the one that resonates with you. Don't take any personal story or any teachers' lessons as the Bible. I think the challenge is to separate toxic positivity from what it's really useful. Don't fall for all of these “get better at your productivity” methods, and only choose to learn from the ones that gain your respect. 

Learning on Social Media is also learning how to be self-taught. So the one controlling your learning process is really you.

 

Find a community

 

The best thing about social media is that it connects us with other people. Very obvious observation, you might be thinking. But how we connect with others should be a choice, not an imposition.

Being a part of a community implies that you share something in common, maybe your interests. And since real life is not as easy as saying to someone: hey, can I be your friend? Social media lifts inhibitions. You can meet awesome people there, and connect without the pressure of having to see them face to face. Now this might seem like I'm recommending a dating app. I'm not. But have you thought about getting a writing partner? A beta reader? A funny friend who you can share your music taste with or books?

ALSO: Do I Really Want a Writing Partner?

The thing about connecting with other people around every part of the world is that we can find more people like us. Identifying ourselves with somebody else always makes us feel less alone. The connections you make are the most human thing about being chronically online. 

 

Get inspired

 

As social media connects us with others like us, it also can show us different types of artists and crafts. Don't underestimate the power that diversity can have when it comes to inspiration. For example, I follow a guy on Instagram who listens to a new genre of music every day –Russian metal to soft country– and shows his favourites so we can listen too. 

I also love to watch people painting on Instagram. I do not paint, wouldn't know what to do with a brush, but it warms my soul whenever one of those videos comes up. And we need things that warm us. 

On the other side of the violence, there are still people who want to make this world a better place. Some of them share awareness, others simply share the music they like or the painting they made. As art is a form of resistance, I think we should pay more attention to these people. Not only because they inspire us, but also because they contrast all the negative opinions we absorb every day.

ALSO: Why is Literature so Important in a World that is Literally Dying?

And if you are one of those creative people, trying to share your art without being consumed by the algorithm, keep doing it. Even when you feel you are not reaching your full potential or the number of followers you want to get, keep showing up, cause you never know who's watching and getting inspired, thinking about it, or simply just enjoying it. 

Share your art, we need it. 

 

How to use social media

Now that we talked about the pros and cons of social media, it's time to decide what to do with it. So far, I guess you know I'm against it, but ironically, while writing this blog I checked Instagram at least ten times. I can't get out even when I want to. But I pay attention to what I consume and I try to make my stay there as comfortable as it gets. I choose very carefully what I want to see. And I set as many boundaries as I need. 

It's not my intention to tell you what side to choose – Many creatives stay out of social media, while others use it to promote their work. It's up to you what way it is.

Just keep in mind that what we consume, consumes us too. 

Though I have this feeling that being online is a simulation, and it's altering my brain in the wrong way, I also recognize that it's fun, full of things to learn and people to meet. It's a way of discovering new art, artists, and old techniques, and this, essentially, leads to new ideas. 

And why not? Sometimes, it even leads to new opportunities. 

 


Juliana Palermo
Written for The Plottery

Juliana Palermo lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She's 22 but hasn't learned how to do her taxes yet. She works as a freelance editor and book cover designer, but you will find her drinking coffee and daydreaming during working hours. She is currently writing her first fantasy novel. You can find her as @julippalermo both on Instagram and Twitter. 

If you need her, you can say her name three times in front of a mirror and she will appear with a cynical smile. But let me warn you, her jokes are not as funny as she promised, and if you invited her in, there's a chance she will never leave.

 

 

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