“D” is for Depression and Social Media

Welcome to my 2016 A to Z series on how to establish a meaningful minimum for social media as part of a balanced life. Over the next 26 days, I’ll take a quick look at  some of the pluses and minuses of social media and how to adapt it to your own needs and plans.

IMG_6885.JPGSocial media and depression have a complex relationship.

On the plus side, social media can relieve isolation and provide opportunities for mutual support.

On the other hand, depression has been linked to social media, and the number of hours a person spends on social media is strongly correlated with depression, though it remains unclear if people with depression seek more social media time or if too much social media makes people depressed.

As someone successfully managing depression without medication or therapy (don’t get me wrong, I’ve done those things before and would again as needed), I’m always on the lookout for signs I’ve strayed into a habit which undermines my overall attempts to main good mental health. As I’ve learned more about the way depression and social media interact, I find myself taking steps to move away from social media and for longer periods of time. Just like alcohol, isolation, and negative self-talk, social media is on my watch-list of things which can trip me up.

Here are two key things to consider if you are depressed or have a history of depression and use social media on a regular basis:

  1. Should you decide to reduce your use of social media, take it slowly. Once in place as a means of social support, it can be harmful to quit social media cold turkey. Even moderate reductions (such as one-day social media fasts) are associated with withdrawal symptoms.
  2. Be careful where you engage, opting for places where you know people or where the group norms are polite and supportive. Leave groups and interactions which contribute to a sense of isolation or worthlessness or negativity.

For more information on how depression and social media are linked, check out this short article.

To visit other blogs in the A to Z Challenge, go here:

 

“C” is for Commit to Community

Welcome to my 2016 A to Z series on how to establish a meaningful minimum for social media as part of a balanced life. Over the next 26 days, I’ll take a quick look at  some of the pluses and minuses of social media and how to adapt it to your own needs and plans.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve been a member–active or otherwise–of close to one hundred Facebook groups.

About ten minutes ago, I deleted myself from all but twenty of these groups as part of a massive first pruning because, after a weekend of reading and reflection, one thing was clear to me:

I am a person who commits.

…who was not committing

…who was in fact drifting and dissipating from overcommitment, the happiness killer.

“You mean like in Fellowship of the Ring? The butter on the bread?” my friend Roslynn asked in response to my complaints.

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

It was more like I’d scraped the butter dish and smeared a snail’s trace over my toast.

No, today I quit as commitment. It was a commitment to spend “more time with my remaining parts” i.e. the secret sisterhoods of writers which are much better haunts and light the way and raise the spirits with wonder, awe, and laughter.

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To visit other blogs in the A to Z Challenge, click here:

 

 

Ready, Set, Go

A2Z-BADGE [2016]Well, tomorrow is the start of the A to Z Blog Challenge.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been blogging topics about nutrition on Tuesdays, birds on Fridays, and science on Saturdays and will suspend those topics over the next few weeks to focus on balancing social media for writers.

I thought I’d give you some insight into how I chose this topic.

I had been complaining to a friend that the recommendations from writers seemed to rely on testimonials instead of study evidence. Everywhere I turned, the good opinions seemed to be mostly based on hearsay. As I used social media myself, I couldn’t help but wonder why it felt like something illicit. Later, I learned how social media impacts dopamine in much the same way as food, drugs or gambling, making it as something to which we could become addicted.

The final thing which pushed me to choose this topic happened two days ago. While researching the study data on the impact of social media and internet use, I found this piece. When I first read it, I thought it was a joke, but as I continued I realized that it was meant to be serious. The first panel left me a little confused…

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The second panel was the one that caught my attention and made me wonder where exactly this piece was going:

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The final segment made me wonder had the person who shared this data become completely inured to compassion? Did he/she care so little about the impact others that they would sell anything just to make money? Was this type of marketing typical of how businesses were being taught to approach social media? I read on…

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I have no idea how prevalent than attitudes expressed above really are, though I found the same data shared in several different places. So, when you think about why it is hard to get off of Facebook or how glued you are to your Twitter feed, just remember that there are companies out there whose objective is to pander to your every desire. This is just one of the interesting things I’ve learned in preparing for the upcoming month of blogging.

My hope is to uncover more about social media–the pluses and the minuses–and share that in my blog over the course of the next thirty days. I hope you’ll find this interesting.

From Here to Zternity: The A to Z Blog Challenge

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I’d thought about posting this tomorrow, but consider this a last call for the A to Z blog challenge.

For those who don’t know what that is, the A to Z Blog Challenge is a 30-day event  in which bloggers share blog posts following the letters of the alphabet. A list of the rules etc. is here.

As challenges go, this one is devilishly simple: blog Monday through Saturday through April following each letter in order.

Blogs posts have no limit on the number of words, though posts that are on the shorter side seem to have the advantage of finding more readers–though there are always exceptions. Organizers recommend that posts be at least one hundred words long and participants can blog about any subject, though blogs with adult content must be identified at the time of registration.

This is my third year completing the challenge, generally with two different blogs, but this year, with just one blog and just one theme–The Meaningful Minimum: how writers can manage social media as part of a balanced life. I’m on the A to Z list holding down place #1084.

Here are the 7 reasons why I have grown from grousing supporter to enthusiastic appreciator for this well-conceived blogging challenge:

#1 It Puts Your Feet to the Fire

There is nothing like knowing a few thousand friends and would-be friends are blogging daily to make one jump up and join such a robust community spirit, and you will find it in this blog challenge. For me, just knowing that there are people all over the world struggling to improve at the process of daily content creation is enough to remind me that my struggles are hardly unique, and that little bit of a comparative nudge jars me loose from my “can’ts” and into my “cans” moving quickly to the region of how. Since I love a challenge and can’t fail myself without questioning my tenacity, inventiveness, and growth, the extra structure raises my concentration and shows me myself in a new ways.

Blogger Roslynn Pryor at Pushing the Bruise, a blog of what I call “poe-lit-spit” (poetry, literature, spirituality) says of her A to Z experience, “I blend A to Z with NaPoWriMo, combining the daily prompts with the letter of the day. Forcing myself to do these quick draft poems sometimes reveals little treasure bits. It keeps the poetry muscles limber.”

#2 You Learn New Things

Learning happens for A to Z bloggers all through the month of the experience as they find new ways to present their topic, refine their message, or gain an outside look at how someone else faces the challenge. With or without a chosen theme, with nothing more than a willingness to try, writers create an incentive to look deeper at their craft, or a specific subject, or some nuance of the local or wider world. For writers and creatives seeking cross-pollination of ideas, this is a great place from which to draw fresh inspiration.

#3 You Read New Blogs

One of my favorite things about this challenge is the recommendation that you read 6 to 7 other blogs each day you post. I can’t emphasize enough how much fun it is to randomly select other blogs and read them–whatever they may be. Most of the time, I end up finding new blogs to follow and a few have become prized places to look for content. While many blogs are tagged by subject matter, some aren’t classified in any way

ъъъъъ.jpg I love the lottery-like nature of this daily gamble and the later exchange with friends about great blogs to check out in the future. While no one forces you to read for others, I’ve learned that this is where the real joy can be found and the more other blogs you read, the more you connect to this vibrant community which leads me to…

#4 Comments, Comments, and More Comments

There is nothing like writing into the void and feeling the vast array of insignificance which happens when you write alone. Comments from other writers can be heady things which quell the wolves of isolation. It’s great to receive comments from other people and, I would argue, even more fun to write something you believe for someone you’ve never even met. I’m a big sucker for the feeling that I read hard, wrote a worthy comment, made a difference or provided encouragement to someone who needed it that day.

On the flip side, the A to Z blog challenge has a group of bloggers who stop by to check if you are on track with the challenge as evidenced by daily writing, and its fascinating to feel the effect of these random visits which double as intermittent reinforcement.  Like disembodied guardian spirits, they contribute to the magic of the month and the feeling that kind beings are close at hand ready to lend necessary aid.

#5 Follow Me, Follow You

The greatest increases in blog followers have always happened for me during the A to Z blog challenge, but not surprisingly, it’s a two way street. Like most forms of social media, this community relies on fair exchange, unless, of, course your content just happens to hit the societal sweet spot, like one of these short examples from Mashable.

#6 Purposeful Planning

There are people who engage in the challenge, writing on a daily basis, but many more plan their posts far in advance. Whichever style you choose to employ, thinking ahead can make lighter work and more fun during the challenge, and I’ve watched at least one friend cruise in style with all 26 posts scheduled before Day 1 begins. In other ways, too, your blog benefits when you plan ahead. Here is a list of smart ideas from blogger Solveig Warner about how you can ready your blog for the upcoming challenge.

# 7 Have It Your Way

djfdklj.jpgOne year, I wrote an A to Z of events from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition; another time, I was so desperate, I took any topic which fit my letter for that day. One friend wrote marvelous erotic haikus and other poems in a coded blog which was itself a puzzle to discover. The point is, you have enormous control over the manner and style of your expression. I’ve have posts of a few words and a couple of choice images, and longer posts that happened to match my emotion of the day.  One thing I have found is that each year, I’ve come away from this experience proud having mastered a few new skills. One of those skills, how to blog daily, has been transformed into my own year-long blogging challenge , a task I would have never undertaken had it not been for the months of experience I garnered each year in A to Z.

So, if you are feeling the call of the wild, it’s not too late to join the fun. Even if you fail to finish, there’s no A to Z police to come and impound your blog or take away your firstborn post. Perhaps you’ll find, as many have done, that the A to Z can set you free–free from uncertainty, writing paralysis, and doubt as it throws open a creative floodgate.

If you’d like to register to join the challenge, here’s a direct link to that page.

A Meaningful Minimum

Well, as I promised yesterday, today is the day I said I would discuss how to balance social media in an otherwise active life.

As I researched today, looking at the topics I wanted to cover for a single blogpost, I found that there is so much more to this issue than I ever could have imagined. It turns out that social media, like sugar, is actually at the head of a multi-faceted public health crisis whose implications go beyond what many could even imagine.

I hate to do a bait-and-switch on anyone, and if you know me, you know that’s not my style, but in order to cover this topic adequately, offering things for you to consider so that you can reach your own conclusions, I need more time. I’ve decided to change my theme for the A to Z blog challenge from topics related to my novel to a discussion of how writers (in particular) can balance social media with the rest of their workload, fitting it into a healthy lifestyle.

The A to Z blog challenge starts on April 1st and runs through April 30th. If you, too, are doing the challenge, please leave your blog in a comment and I will make sure to follow you during the challenge.

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