Social Media

  • Need Freedom from social media distractions?

    Need Freedom from social media distractions?


    Need Freedom from social media distractions?

    Need Freedom from social media distractions?

    Have you ever considered just how much social media and the internet rule your life? Are you at the beck and call of whatever is happening on your mobile phone? Do you feel anxiety when you switch off devices, check out of email, or switch off notifications? Do you need freedom from social media distractions?

    If you’re a writer or editor, you might have realised by now that social media can be your worst enemy. Those shiny sites with their 24-hour news cycles, followers, likes and shares create an addiction that is hard to break.


    The days before constant electronic stimulation

    For anyone old enough to remember the days before social media, there’s often a strong feeling of nostalgia.

    I have a strong nostalgia for the 1990s when it comes to the amount of time I had back then to read books and write.

    When I look back on the last two decades, I see the steady erosion of focused time and the meteoric rise of endless distractions. It’s not that we didn’t have distractions back then, but they didn’t come at us with a 24-hour global cycle, complete with massive public squares like Twitter.

    The internet has been great in other ways – the ability to study courses online that are based elsewhere, even thousands of miles away is one of my favourites. There’s been an enormous expansion in opportunities for learning.

    But with that expansion has come a closing of the attention span window.

    To put it bluntly, our devices and our social media apps now control us in ways we never dreamed. They undermine the very dreams we tweet about – for example, the desire to finish writing a book.


    Social media undermines our productivity

    How many people spend too much time scrolling through the Twitter writing community hashtags and checking out ‘rivals’, while worrying over their own low engagement and follower count?

    Yes, marketing is important when it comes to writing and publishing, or even running an editing business.

    But if you want to write a book, or do a good job as an editor, you also need to shut off all distractions.

    I’ve mentioned some useful social media blocker apps before in this post over a year ago. Since my phone has never ruled my life, my main issue has always been Twitter, YouTube, and the general ability to Google things too easily. And all of this is done on my PC. Yes, as a writer or editor it’s useful to be able to Google things, but sometimes you want to shut things down completely.

    Having said that, I usually just shut down Twitter and YouTube. That alone takes care of a lot of the problem.


    Freedom – a subscription-based blocker

    But today I was looking at some of the social media blocker alternatives and I stumbled across Freedom, a paid app with over a million users. There’s a free trial version which I might try – otherwise, it’s a subscription-based blocker, for $2.50 a month across all devices.

    The Freedom website quotes scientific research on our problem with online distractions:

    • That we lose 23 minutes every time we check our email, check a feed, or respond to a notification.
    • This is because it requires 23 minutes of our time to refocus and get back on task.
    • Multitasking is 40% less productive (something that was recently hammered into my head in a copywriting course).
    • Apparently, multitasking may even affect your IQ negatively by 10 points.
    • Willpower actually requires effort and energy and we deplete it fast.
    • Distractions are habit-forming – yes, and social media is designed to become an addiction, which then exploits this phenomenon.

    Freedom offers a free trial which provides you with seven trial blocking sessions. I don’t know whether it will prove to be better than Cold Turkey. I think Cold Turkey seems to be somewhat less complex in its user interface. It’s a very easy app to use and I’m still using the free version.

    In the meantime, here’s another video on how to use Freedom after you sign up:

  • Don’t make this mistake on your author website

    Don't make this mistake on your author website. Social media icons at the top of the page? Kill them with fire!
    Social media icons: don’t make this mistake on your author website.

    A while back, I watched a great webinar on website design by Gill Andrews. I ended up buying her book, which has bite-sized chapters which get straight to the point.

    One thing she made me do was to remove the social media icons at the top of my website. And I’m here to tell you: don’t make this same mistake with your author website.

    I was reminded of this yesterday in the middle of a business mentorship thingy from Ash Ambirge. I was one of the lucky beta folks who signed up, so I’m currently wallowing in all sorts of useful information.

    Anyway, she also recommended removing these icons from the top of your business website page.

    But, ha, thanks to Gill, I’d already ticked that one off my list. The icons were gone.

    Gone, gone, gone.

    Which is just as well because two of the three accounts were neglected and the other one is my nemesis. (My nemesis, if you’re interested, is Twitter.)

    So, what’s the problem with your site visitors seeing your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram icons?

    Well, apart from the fact you might be neglecting some of the accounts, so do you really want potential readers going over there? Guess what? That’s not actually the worst of it, though it’s not great.

    No, here’s the bigger reason.


    Social media icons are outbound links

    If your social media icons are the first things they encounter when they land, they might just be tempted to click one of those icons.

    And, folks, that would be terrible.


    Those icons are outbound links. They are teleporters. Your visitor has now been teleported to another site.

    Slap yourself with a wet kipper.

    Cause you and I both know those social media sites are designed to be addictive.

    How many website visitors are already longing to go back and check their Twitter or Facebook account anyway, to see what’s happening?

    Far. Too. Many.

    Don’t give them any more excuses than they have already.


    Teleporting new visitors to Twitter is bad!

    If you’re an author with a website, you don’t want your new website visitor to be offered a range of teleportation destinations that takes them AWAY.

    It’s like installing a revolving door with the word ‘exit’ in Twitter and Facebook icons.

    Because that’s what you’ve installed – a revolving door. Or, an exit right next to the entrance.

    Or, just a plain old teleporter (and believe me, they’re old to those of us who watched the original Star Trek, or who’ve spent time in Second Life).

    Don’t do it!


    Think you can compete with Twitter? Ha!

    I know having people follow you on social media would seem to make sense, but that’s not what’s likely to happen.

    Seriously, it won’t.

    Because… you can’t compete with cat videos and the latest news.

    Your website visitor will forget about you right after they go ‘check out’ your social media account. Those top trends will catch their attention, or maybe you’re tweeting a hashtag that interests them.

    Then, click, they’re gone!

    Yes, your website may still be open in one of their browser tabs, but so are a million other things.

    A million other things they will never return to.


    Here’s the solution – remove the teleporters!

    So, what do you do on your website?

    First up, you remove those teleporters at the top of your home page.

    The ones that present an invisible doorman who says, “Hey, nice to see you, now here’s the way out!”

    Remove them.


    Don’t wait until whenever.

    Get rid of them.

    And here’s the bigger reason why. It’s not just that most website visitors will spend mere seconds on a site before they leave (and you don’t want to push them out the door any faster). No, there’s another very good reason.


    New visitors need time to get to know you

    If they’re new to your site, they don’t know you yet. So, why would they follow you? There are so many people to follow. So many shiny accounts.

    You need to ensure that you hook their interest in you first.

    That means your website has to hold them for longer than a few seconds. You want to entice them to pull up a chair and browse your site.

    You want them to get to know you and your work.

    And you want to remove anything that will push them out the exit fast.

    This also means you need to watch where you place outbound links.

    You want your website visitor to have time to look around before they get tempted with anything clickable.

    So, where do you put social media icons?

    I have personally removed them completely for the time being, but you can put them at the very bottom of your page, in your footer. That way, your visitors have the chance to read your content first.

    And if you’re finding social media addiction is interfering with your writing time, here’s an old post I wrote on social media blockers. I use Cold Turkey – the free version. There’s a paid version too which I haven’t used.

  • Social media blockers

    Social media blockers
    Social media blockers are a godsend for writers

    Social Media Blockers Provide a Quiet Room

    Spending too much time on Twitter or other social media? Checking the #writingcommunity and #amwriting threads there far too often? Come on, be honest!

    This is pretty much the modern equivalent of tidying your desk or playing with your pencils. If you really want to maximise your writing time, you need to get tough. You need a social media blocker.

    I know, I know … you have this really good reason to be on Twitter. You have this writing or plot problem and if you just put out a tweet about it, maybe someone will answer. A blocker would totally interfere with that.

    So, there you are on Twitter, or FB, or wherever you hang out, and while you’re waiting, a million other fascinating tweets/posts will appear. Before you know it, a couple of hours or more have gone by, and you’re running out of writing time.

    Another problem is that social media just fractures your concentration. The internet throws so much information at us, and for so long, that our attention spans have diminished. We’re chasing one shiny new piece of information or entertainment after another.

    Sometimes you just have to get tough. One way to do that is to use a social media blocker …

    Protect your writing time by using social media blockers.

    I use the free version of Cold Turkey, though there are others available.

    On Cold Turkey, you can make up custom lists of sites you want to block. My two worst time wasters are Twitter and YouTube, so I have that as my A-List. My B-list is just Twitter. So, um, Twitter is definitely my downfall, with YouTube a close second.

    For other people, it’s Facebook, Instagram, or some other place. It’s always worthwhile checking your browsing history to see just how long you spend on certain sites, going from one page to another.

    Virginia Woolf talked about the necessity of having a room of one’s own to write fiction. But the internet gives us a neverending window of passing traffic, entertainment and noise. It removes that quiet room needed to get some writing done.

    And that’s why it’s worth using a site blocker. Cold Turkey comes with a timer, and you have the option to add in a break time.

    There are other alternatives – including a number of Chrome add-ons. Pause, for example, literally pauses your access to a site by showing a calming green screen for five seconds (or longer, if you want to adjust the timer). You are encouraged to reflect on whether you really want to continue to the site or not. This add-on is produced by Freedom Labs and you’ll find it in the Chrome web store.

    Then there’s the ingenious Forest, which encourages you to ‘plant virtual trees’ instead of visiting your usual internet haunts. It’s more of a nudge app than a blocker. So if you don’t mind your trees dying when you leave the app, then you need something stronger. Forest works on iOs, Android and Chrome.

    Other blockers and nudgers are available, some free, some with paid options. For now, I’m happy with the free version of Cold Turkey.

    Personally, I find it a bit of a relief to have the block on. And if you really do have questions you want to ask others in the writing community, you can always jot them down and ask them when the timer is up. Social media will still be there.