Facebook is a great socializing tool, but sometimes it offers more to writers than they need, reminding me of the old saw about too much rope and strangling one’s self. It is bad enough when writers feel they write best on a computer. (J.K.Rowling says she writes her first drafts by hand, and I am willing to bet any points I have ever won in Mafia Wars that she gets more done that way than I do with spell check and automatic save.)
Connie is better than I am: she hides in another room with a computer that is not connected to the internet. She may not hide from her three dogs and five cats (I only have one dog and two cats), but she hides from the technological age, which cannot sniff her out unless she is on a modem.
Habits are hard to break. I have always liked letters, and even though they are mainly electronic nowadays, I have a hard time not looking at my mail box first thing in the morning. I am almost obliged to do so, considering that some of my writing students may have emailed me in the night (they have odd hours; they are young) to ask help on something. How can I look at one mailbox and not open the non-student mailbox? Suffice it to say that Facebook and IM chatting are only a click’s distance from both. Eeeeeeeeeeek!
So what are writers and other artists supposed to do? Work on our self discipline. We will not write anything that gives us satisfaction without learning to make that kind of writing our priority. There are only 48 half-hours in each day, and a half-hour goes by with the blink of an eye when scrolling down and making pithy comments in boxes on the Facebook newsfeed.
Yet keeping Facebook, MySpace, or whatever other tools we use to effectively promote our writing and stay friends with people who care about us and about whom we care is essential. We cannot blame these programs any more than we can blame our babies or toddlers for calling us away from piano practice. If Facebook or its cohorts steal from our inner lives, it is because we have exchanged being writers for being social doodlers. Mind you, I mean no criticism against social doodling, so long as it is defined this way and not as something that is against the law and will get you pinpointed on a map of offenders with the result that no one with small children wants to live next door to you.
( With thanks to henrikeger.com for duck cartoon.)