Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. You may find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack.
From the “Duh! Tell Us Something We Don’t Know” department: a new study has found that Facebook may drive you nuts. According to the ABC News article “Facebook May Be Making You Sad, Says New Study“, social media such as Facebook has a negative effect on our emotions.
“Everyday Facebook use leads to declines in subjective well-being, both how happy you feel moment to moment and how satisfied you feel with your life,” says Ethan Kross, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the study, told ABC News.
Kross and the other researchers analyzed the moods and habits of 82 young adults — active Facebook users with mobile phones whose average age was 20 — over the course of two weeks. They texted each participant five times a day, at random intervals, and got feedback about their feelings, worries, loneliness, Facebook usage and real-life interactions with other people.
They found that Facebook users were more connected with their friends and acquaintances than those not on Facebook,
but the more frequently people used Facebook, the worse they felt immediately afterward. Additionally, the more they used Facebook over the course of two weeks, the less satisfied and happy they were with their lives as a whole.
The social medium I use most often is Facebook. I’m on every day, and it’s an easy way for writers and readers to contact me. I have found Facebook to be irritating at times, but not depressing. I don’t feel lonely or sad from being on Facebook. Quite often, I find it boring. There are only so many updates about what’s for dinner and baby’s first poop I can take on a given day. However, I never get tired of cats. 🙂
That said, not everyone else has such fond feelings about Facebook. Writers who use social networking look at it as a necessary evil. We need to get word out about our works somehow, and that means tweeting about our latest release, updating our Facebook timelines about our backlist of novels, avoiding flame wars on Goodreads, begging for reviews on that vast wasteland that is Google+, and posting images of what our characters like on Pinterest.
I interviewed some writers on Facebook to learn if they found Facebook to be stressful.
In a word, yes.
It may not be easy for writers, who tend to be introverts, to be social in general. Facebook does offer some anonymity and distance since you’re on your computer or phone, but the stress is there.
Aaron Smith said: “As a writer, I consider Facebook to be a necessary semi-evil. I hated it when I first signed up, as it seems to go against all the instincts of an introvert like me. But I realize it’s needed for promotional purposes, especially for authors who don’t have the support of major publishers. Over time, I’ve come to enjoy it and interacting with old and new friends as well as readers of my books. But it does get annoying at times, though I can’t honestly say it’s ever made me depressed. Perhaps the most frustrating part of it is that, due to the casual nature of Facebook, a post about something trivial like a Simpsons line or a baseball game can sometimes get more attention than something we, as writers, consider incredibly important, such as the release of a new book or a good review.”
One big problem with Facebook is envy. You see others talking about their endless Silver Stars on AllRomanceEBooks, their latest five star review, their awards, and their great sales, and you – who may not be doing as well – feel the green monster creeping up your spine. The thing is, success doesn’t happen out of the blue. It takes hard work and much rejection to get there.
I’ve noticed that writers on Facebook tend to not talk about the less successful aspects of their careers. You will always hear about an acceptance, but you may not hear about the ten plus times that same writer submitted that particular story to other publishers and was rejected. Tessa Wanton said: “Sometimes we get bound up in what we see out there and especially those who are so very confident when you feel so unconfident yourself. The problem I’ve found is that some people just constantly go on about how successful and brilliant they are, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. Even if I’ve found out later that what they’re saying isn’t true, the initial feeling of inadequacy still presides.” I saw a comment, possibly at the ABC News article, stating that people who needed to constantly talk about how successful and brilliant they are are probably overcompensating for an extreme lack of confidence. Tessa agreed, saying “very true, yet even still the damage is done at that point. I would say artists in general lack confidence in what they do, seems to go with the territory I guess. Such a funny place social media, I do find I have to stand back at times, it can be utterly all consuming.”
Kathleen Bradean discussed her experiences with envy on Facebook, and it’s similar to other tales I’ve been told. “I know I’m making the huge mistake of comparing my writing career to another writer’s. We all have our own definition of success.” She said. “So why do I make myself miserable seeing that someone sold their third short story this year when I haven’t even written one? And I guess the answer is that I’m not seeing the success I want. It doesn’t seem as if I’m making progress.”
Angelica Dawson has avoided Twitter for reasons similar to Tessa’s. “Either I feel inadequate, envious, or guilty and NONE of those help me.” She said. “I will keep my twitter account as one of the easiest ways to get a hold of me, also because I’m in a number of very busy tribes when I get back to blogging.”
Limiting time on Facebook is a popular way of dealing with being sucked in and occasionally sad.
Some have gone as far as leaving some social media sites altogether.
Taking a break often results in better writing, better sanity, and sometimes more money since you spend more time writing than hanging out.
Ashynn Monroe limits her time. “Face book makes me feel like that sometimes, that’s why I disappear for a while.”
Gemma Parkes said. “I read comments and they are not very helpful and a bit bitchy sometimes and I let it get to me, it stops me writing and that isn’t a good thing. Writers need to write.”
Tessa Wanton said: “I nuked my Twitter account for good, and concentrated on blogging a little more instead. And now, I feel a lot better and, I’ve had better results from concentrating on my website too.”
Noir writer Trent Zelazny has closed down his timeline on several occasions. He points out that some people say and do things on Facebook they would never get away with in real time: “It’s depressing. Text is not the same as speaking, and things can easily be misconstrued.” Zelazny said. “Add to that the people who love to attack others while from the safety of their home. People who would never have the brass to do it in person. An innocent statement, observation, or general feeling about the day, with one comment added, be it insensitive or simply misconstrued, can suddenly turn one’s Facebook page into an unfriendly or even hostile environment.”
Publisher Warren Lapine recently temporarily left Facebook because it was interfering with his work. “For me it comes down to the fact that I like Facebook too much. I find myself on it when I should be working.” Lapine said. “If I’m working on a particularly annoying or complicated book I spend time on Facebook avoiding the work. That needs to stop. I have a contract that calls for me to publish 400 books a year and that doesn’t when I’m online interacting with friends. I’ve tried to tell myself that it’s networking, but my income goes up whenever I get off Facebook and down when I spend too much time on it.”
Not everyone is affected by Facebook in a negative way, though. I’m one person who has never really had a problem with Facebook. I enjoy posting in the mornings, and lurking later in the day, but I suspect I don’t spend as much time on Facebook as some others do. Jacques Gerard doesn’t let Facebook get to him. Neither does Linda L. Barton. Devon Marshall “stopped giving a rodent’s behind what people thought” when he hit his 30s. Jacques Gerard doesn’t let envy ruin his enjoyment of Facebook. He enjoys seeing others succeed. “Mainly I realized my life/journey is my own and should not be compared with anybody else’s life/journey.” He said. “I’m just happy with other’s blessings and successes as well for my own. On the other hand give comfort and prayer for those who are experiencing a tough time or sickness. I learned very early in life that worrying about keeping up with others only creates unhappiness for yourself.”
Social media sites like Facebook are a mixed bag. Depending on how you choose to look at Facebook, it can be the ninth circle of Hell or a great place to network with writers, publishers, editors, and readers alike. It may even be both on occasion. The key seems to be knowing your own limits, and pulling away when you feel yourself getting sucked in. Remember above all you are a writer, and writers write. However, writers also need to make themselves available to the public in order to be seen, and that includes engaging in social media as well as attending book signings, book readings, conventions, and the like. Could the key be balance? Although social media in general and Facebook in particular may be stressful, according to that new study, it is a fairly new medium. Once you master it, it probably won’t own you any longer.