• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
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Baby You’re Everything I Ever Dreamed Of

I swore I would never do it and last night in a bout of horrible insomnia I did it: I wrapped my arms around Mark Zuckerberg and smoked a cigarette with Sheryl Sandberg or Andy Samburg or James Franco between selfies and here I am the four billionth person to sign up for Facebook. The four billionth hamburger. The other day I compared an elderly woman’s eyebrows to the golden arches and really patted myself on the back for that one. Do you still write poetry? NO. Are you on Twitter? YES. Instagram? YES. Do you have a blog? You’re reading it. Where did you go to high school? Technically? Where did you go to college? What stairwell in which dorm did you write a poem about death? Can I friend my puppy? Can I friend all the men who failed to worship me? Can you love others before you love yourself? Easily. Can you  friend the dead?

How much time do you waste on FB instead of writing?

26 Responses

  1. Tech is now a character in our lives and in our writing…the type of character is constantly being revealed.

  2. e-mails and fb take up way too much time..i get up in the morning prepared to write but first check my horoscope and emails and fb then play free cell and then it is time to take my dog for a walk and I have lost my writing incentive…I think it is procrastination. I am trying to quit this addiction, for it is an addiction …help Betsy!

  3. Oh, no. I went to a few AA meetings with a friend about a year or so ago. I have had one drink in the last 20 years, so booze isn’t my current problem. After the second or third meeting, I said “Hi, my name is [legal name] and I’m addicted to Facebook.” They all laughed at me, but it’s no joke. If you drive drunk and go to prison, you can write a book while you repent. But you can fritter your whole life away on Facebook and never even realize what you’ve lost. Or realize it and keep on frittering, seemingly powerless to stop. I’m never creatively blocked on Facebook (I’m only blocked by those who don’t like my opinions), and I always have readers. It’s instant gratification, an instant numbing of anxiety, which is death to any artist.

    • Yes, I realize how pathetic that makes me sound, but have you looked up my FB profile yet, Betsy?

    • Yes! It is the instant gratification that kills. Death. And lately I’ve been into chatting. Oh god, it’s worse than that. I have a small bit in a big book and while I got my two hundred bucks already and don’t get a cent in royalties so have no personal stake in promoting this book, I’m all in believe of the topic, the mission of the book. So not only FB, which I have used like nuts, but welcome to the world of Google Plus circles and groups and LinkedIn (activated that account again), and if you tell me about something else I’ll do that too. No instagram. I think I opened a Pinterest account but don’t know how to use it. Plus a new blog and lots of emails with book people and other people and the constituency related to the book topic, so my aol inbox has a jillion notifications about TBI’s and PTSD and veterans and, oh, I have Parkinson’s now so get notifications from FB pages about that. And what else? God knows. Relatives. Old friends who just discovered me again. And then my justice passion which I’ve switched into high gear.

      For somebody who has written, because of my brain injury, “Not only do I not multi-task, I don’t even task,” this is out of control. Can I stop now?

      And trying to write on the novel. Ha! And friends visiting from out of town!

      Can I stop now?

      • It’s not Facebook, it’s us. Self-control, discipline, all that. At least you’re using Facebook to your work. For me, it’s the main tool of avoidance.

      • *to promote your work. (See? At least Facebook let you edit your comments.)

  4. As long as you still refer to it as Assbook, you (and we) will be fine.

    Late last year, when my first piece was about to come out, I decided to do it – but as Me the Writer i.e. with pen name, just to have another way to push my shit out to the few people who ‘do’ FB and might want to read it. I still hate it in part because I don’t get it. I took a picture of the ‘helpful’ search bar options that once came up: Friends of my friends who live nearby who like (Me); Friends of friends of my friends who like (Me), Friends of my friends’ friends who like (Me)… Hilarious and horrible.

    Also, it’s a major issue to have a first ‘name’ of initials, when you actually want the second one capitalized. To protect the People from haters hiding behind initials, I guess. So I just post the occasional pub link on the (small business – a detail of registration) page I created, scratch my head over the nuances around like/friend/follow etc., and – forgive me – save one-on-one conversations for one-on-one media and practices. I’m there but not really.

    I am more positive about Twitter, actually, though still only dabble. Love that editor’s challenge of 140.

    Don’t beat yourself up too much. My advice would be to allow yourself one 10-hour marathon and then set the timer from here on out :)

  5. One kid said, Mom, “you gotta be on FB”.
    The other kid said, “…don’t you dare.”
    Since the first one was my favorite that day, (a couple of years ago), I went on.
    The dance between me, what I wanted to post, and friends, what I wanted to read, was pretty interesting; now, not so much. It’s changed or maybe I have. I am less than satisfied with what it has become.
    The honeymoon is over, the thrill is gone. The passion has morphed into a kind of uncomfortable comfortable. (No, I’m not talking about my marriage.)
    Now…if I could break the time-sucking habit of reading and posting on blogs such as this, I’d be okay.

  6. No Assbook, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog, or website for me. Surfing, mainly for research, and emails, for sure. Lola, on the other hand, has found and stayed in touch with friends there, and I have passed a message or two through her. Good on all that.

    My take is that unless we reside on different planets- a distinct possibility here- we all have roughly the same number of hours in each day. When I say “I didn’t have time.”, I’m not being completely honest; I should have said “I made other choices.”.

    This year I’ve worked, traveled some, sailed in weather fair, foul, and dangerous. I’ve come close to destroying Elsie, my beloved boat, she’ll soon be mended. A bamboo raft is under construction now, and I’m doing it all, from cutting the bamboo to making the lashings and sail.

    The crowning jewel on this calender is the time with The Older Lad and His Family. It was the sweetest of times, and our five year old grandson
    showed me that he not only knows the cardinal points of the compass, but can box it, and point out many constellations. He really is the son of a son of a sailor, and I am awed.

    There was much, much more, including a painful and expensive root canal and emergency eye surgery. I confess that I’d choose Facebook over either of those.

    Time is currency, and we’re all going broke.

  7. I’m conflicted about it. On one hand I like seeing pictures, and reading comments. But sometimes the pictures/comments are a turn off – too much me, me, me’ness. Another turn off – I hate rants with the ensuing opinions/arguments and zingers flying, trying to one up the other. They put me in a bad mood. Then I hate it. I always think WHO CARES? Dont’ we have enough debating on the damn TV?

    I took time off – about 2 yrs, and for some reason, I logged in again, and resumed a “presence.” Mostly a lurking presence.

  8. “How much time do you waste on FB instead of writing?”

    Too much. I crush it up and melt it in a spoon held over a candle made from wax dug out of the ears of freshman creative writing students, then I shoot it straight into the main vein. Spend the rest of the day nodding over the keyboard, dreaming of lolcats and all the girls on 4chan.

  9. Not a lot. I figure it’s less frustrating than checking my numbers on Amazon, and people do say funny things sometimes
    .

  10. I’ve tried a couple of times to get into Facebook. But all those emoticons against that homogenized backdrop make me paranoid, like I’ve been thrust into some gigantic Stepford wives scenario. There’s nothing real to engage with, no angst, no poetry. It’s just life with all the interesting parts left out.

  11. I was an early adaptor. At first, FB was intriguing. I managed to track down and friend every palatable person I’d ever met. Today, I reluctantly maintain a presence, mainly using it as an electronic address book. I rarely visit and hardly ever post. This way, I feel “friends” won’t feel dissed when I fail to “like” a photo of a meal/dog/child/vacation selfie. One concern: missing out on important news such as serious illness, accident, or even death. One “friend” gave daily updates on his deteriorating health right up until the day he moved to the great beyond. I missed that part and asked a mutual acquaintance how he was doing long after the FB posts had ceased. I think FB has damaged our fragile support system. It reduces most communications to tiny bytes of “entertainment.” I am so over it. And I have my life back.

  12. Collecting “friends” like baseball cards. Fun while it lasts.

  13. No. No Facebook for me. I’m not a people-person and all that faux happiness is lame, so what’s the point? Besides, the internet zaps my creativity so I limit it to 20 minutes/day, if that. I need inspiring experiences during my day, not draining ones.

    • November, you are my hero. I’m down to less than two hours a day, writing more, and doing lots of other stuff.

      • Thanks, Frank. And what’s better than being on, or near, water for inspiration. Seems like you’ve discovered the secret. A nice way to grab some solitude, too.

  14. I have to admit I like it, and my hands shake a little when I haven’t had any in a couple days. The key to prevent it from being a time-suck is to master speed-reading your newsfeed, so you pass right over posts about someone mowing the lawn or making crepes for breakfast. Be sure to never play a single game, in case you discover you like those, too. (Yet I can’t resist taking those quizzes to find out which punk band I am, which Games of Thrones character I am–even though I’ve never seen the show or read the book–or which lunch meat I am.)

    I’ve found it to be a terrific tool for gaining new readers. And, in between a fair amount of insignificant crap, you come upon enough interesting posts, links, photos, and people to make it very worthwhile.

    Just be sure to puff and not huff.

  15. Facebook? If I cared about others, would I select the monologue as my favored communication?

  16. FB is like being stuck in 5th grade for all eternity. Do they “like” me? Why not? Will they let me sit at their table for lunch? Do I look right for school picture day?

    • Fifth grade? Perhaps, minus noogies. I think those insecurities never fully leave us. We’ve had some memorable catfights right here in the comments of this blog, buttressed by behind-their-backs emails raking over the coals of People We Don’t Like. The human condition on a good day resembles fifth grade (lol!).

      Then again, there was that dramatic incident in which the real-life friend of a friend (a young man whom I’ve never met) attempted suicide, posting real-time commentary on his Facebook wall as he swallowed pills. His friends were either too stupid or shocked to do anything other than say things like,”I love you man,” so I spent the better part of a Saturday morning tracking down the municipal authorities (fortunately, his hometown was provided on his About page), and it all ended well. Unfortunately, social media bullying is implicated in the suicides of young children, so even fifth-grade angst isn’t always as trivial as we might suppose.

  17. Yeah, I really like tjhe music videos on there. My new favorite is Neil Young singing in a phone booth (remember them?) size recording box that Jack White has set up at Third Man records. What’s that? Oh. My little girl just told me I’m thinking of YouTube. So I’m not on facebook I guess. The Neil Young videos for “Letter From Home” are still worth checking out. Damn, no matter how you slice it, I’m spending too much time in front of this friggin screen.

  18. Quite a bit. But it keeps me company when it’s 3 o’clock and I’m freelancing and I haven’t talked to anyone but my dog all day.

  19. It’s quite a chicken-egg thing, that. And it makes me really think about the division. Like, are you a writer because you seek attention? Or are you a writer because you passive-agressively lurk invisibly, stealing pieces of humanity because that’s all you can bear?

    I am firmly in the latter camp, but, oddly, FB has become a sort of compensatory medicine, forcing me to be more of a *smile* people person.

    I was never very good at cocaine for the same reason that I’ll never be truly addicted to Facebook. Too much phlegma. Too much skepticism.

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