Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The winter of discontent -- with social media -- is it making us less human? Books...Movies...Great Writing Opportunities

Okay, from time to time I'm going to do a long, rambly post. Take a peek at what you're interested in...and I hope you'll leave a comment...


An author friend recently told me that facebook has been throwing her off after about five minutes. I said: "Good!" This is an author whose face appears on my facebook feeds in one long line every time I check facebook on my phone (the only time I use facebook, twitter or google+). My author friend is amazed at how much more writing she is getting done -- she has two books published and is working on her third. Social media definitely interferes with our writing schedules...and lots, lots more.

Facebook and other social media -- let's face it -- are fun! Usually! (If we put aside the cyber bullying, trolling, hacking etc). But social media robs us of writing time, reading time and interacting with 'real' people time, doesn't it? Here are my observations for what they're worth...

I go to a cafe with my husband and one or two of our children or friends -- we sit, we pour water, we discuss the menu, decide what to eat and drink -- then, powie! We all get out our smartphones, log onto the free  wi-fi and...

a) check facebook/twitter/instagram/google+ etc updates
b) update facebook/twitter/instagram/google+
c) take a photo of the marvellous meals when they arrive, play with photo art, then post updates
d) are inundated with tweeting birds, bells and so forth as the notifications come in -- what do our 'friends' think of our status/photos/witty comments...then we reluctantly put our phones down and laugh at how silly we all are before proceeding to sip, eat and chat. We slip seamlessly between 'virtual' friends and 'real' friends.

What's wrong with the above scenario? Some would say nothing -- it's modern life. But it niggles at me how we often put our 'virtual' friends before our 'real' friends and family. I think we're kidding ourselves if we think our 'virtual' friends really care for us except on a very shallow level; they're not going to be there for us in an emergency. We could drop off the planet, drop off facebook, drop off our blog/s and most of us really wouldn't be missed, would we, except by a precious few who we've made a deep 'virtual' connection with? If we don't post updates, our 'virtual' friends just think we're having a social media break, or our phone fell in the ocean, our computer broke down...or they may not notice our absence at all :(

'Our new ways of communicating are making us more likely to forget others...' according to New York novelist Jonathan Safran Foer (quoted in the Queensland Weekend today -- it's okay to read amongst friends, isn't it?). Foer goes on to say we are less likely to give our undivided attention to the people around us when our focus is on social media. He argues that we use technology to save time, yet it makes the time 'less intimate'. Foer scarily says (and he's probably right), that with each new communication technology, we move further away from each other, we are losing the bonds that make us human. Connection to the world via technology instead of lived life makes us sadder, not happier, he claims.

Have you ever tried withdrawing from technology -- except from your writing, of course? It's like giving up coffee, tea or Mars end up with a headache and become all twitchy...well, I do anyway. What happens when the internet crashes? Eek! Fix it quick!! What happens when blogger isn't working properly? Bad blogger! So much time is spent fixing technology. (Took me months to fix my blogger feed). Yes, I was blogging, but you wouldn't have known -- no updates were appearing and few noticed.

As a traveller, one of the first things I check when booking online is -- is there wi-fi? We've just got to stay connected! No longer do we have to wait to get home from holidays to bore our family and friends with our marvellous pics -- we upload them daily and bore them while we're on the move. We do live in the age of instant gratification, after all.

So I try to limit my social networking -- try to write first, and often mull over which social media I could delete (linked in first I'm currently thinking). Here is a post from an author who has just deleted his Twitter account, deciding it's just a waste of time. As he says: Twitter wants your life. Don’t give it up so easily. Think about it -- most of us are bloggers, have at least one facebook account, a twitter account, a Google+ account, are on linked in, instagram, goodreads...authors have Amazon Author pages, separate Author pages on facebook and goodreads that they ask us to 'like' or follow -- plus, plus, plus...

We really don't have the time for it all, but writing books means marketing and we've been convinced we need all these networks to sell our books, but even this makes us less human if it all becomes about selling our book and not caring or returning favours to others who're trying to do the same. We obviously need some social media, but which is the most effective? If we spend too much time social networking, soon we'll have nothing finished to network about.

Twitter is one of my favourites. I'll blog about it another time..
Facebook is only updating our status to 10% of our followers. If you want all your followers to see your posts, you have to pay to promote!!
  • Authors, what do you consider the best social network tool?
  • Everybody, how important is social media to you? 

I finish about 6 books a week. I don't need much sleep so I read well into the morning. So I'm going to start jotting down some of those I finish each week...e-books and print books, fiction and non-fiction.


A great read by Joy Campbell. Loved the little girl's voice as she suffered at her stepmother's hands, then saw violence little children shouldn't be subjected to. It was disturbing on many levels, but well worth reading for its strong voice, good plot and satisfying ending. Well done Joy.

Buy it on Amazon here.

What I learnt about writing: Readers may be involved with more than the main character. Reassure them occasionally.

Great YA novel which is aimed at young, animal-loving girls, but as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it. The mc Kitty is someone young girls who feel a bit on the outer will relate to. It's a suspensful story well told by Charmaine Clancy. Love Spade, the mc dog. Lots of interesting characters (humans and dogs).

Buy it on Amazon here.

What I learnt about writing: Good research pays off. Know your topic.

Print books:

Loved this powerfully-told tale of a woman, Yvonne, who returns to the place where she honeymooned with her husband, now dead. I was hooked by the setting, Datca, a once-beautiful coastal village in Turkey. Yvonne hoped to immerse herself in memories of a happier time, but is quickly confused by the house she has rented and the owner and his bold wife. Escaping the house she finds friendship with a local boy  Ahmet which leads to tragedy and amazing experiences in the north.

Buy on Amazon here.

What I learnt about writing: Keep the reader saying: 'No! Don't!'

A heart-warming story set at the beach in chilly Cornwall. I can't imagine shivering away in the water here, but plenty of Brits and tourists do. After inheriting the funky beachside cafe from her beloved aunt, everyone has advice for Evie -- mainly, sell it. Always a dreamer and drifter, Evie finds her niche by turning her back on her boring boyfriend and boring life in Oxford, and heads to Cornwall, where she is determined to make a success of her cafe despite seemingly impossible odds. Love the character. Love the story. Love the setting.

Buy it on Amazon here.

What I learnt about writing: Keep the disasters coming, but eventually have good things happen!

  • What have you been reading lately? Tell me about it.

The Great Gatsby

You either love or hate Baz Luhrmann. I love his movies. GG didn't disappoint. I teach this book every year to my senior students and thought Baz stayed pretty close to the spirit of the great novel by F Scott Fitzgerald. Leonardo di Caprio was his usual winning self, and I was charmed by the young Aussie, Elizabeth Debicki, who played Jordan Baker.

Man of Steel

Brit Henry Cavill is a great Superman, but the script didn't give him much of a chance to shine. Russell Crowe humanises the early scenes as Superman's father, Jor-El, but the adult Clark Kent as the directionless drifter lacks earlier incantations where Superman helped everyday people, romanced Lois and actually seemed to enjoy himself. The second half of the film seemed to only care about thrilling the impresses for awhile, but ended up sapping my spirit with all the gratuitous destruction of buildings which just went on and on...yawn...yawn...

  • Seen any good movies lately? Do you agree/disagree with my quick reviews?

Front Porch Romance has a Special Call for Submissions. You have until October 2013. Novellas, novels, themed writing...I'm in! 

Quirk Books "Looking for Love" contest. A $10,000 prize for the best quirky love story of 50,000 + words. Visit the Quirk Books website to download the entry form or for further information. Quirk Books was founded in 2002 and publishes around 25 books each year. Their bestselling titles include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. (Soon to be a major motion picture)Entries close October 1, 2013. GOOD LUCK! 

Escargot Books is expanding its catalogue and are now accepting submissions. Crime fiction (dark thrillers to cozies), women’s fiction, wealth and fitness, children’s, sci-fi and dystopian. All books will be published in digital format. Some books will be chosen for print and/or audio as well. Escargot Books does not offer an advance, but they offer higher royalties than traditional publishers, especially for direct sales from their website, as well as editing, formatting, promotion, and the company of bestselling authors. They have some big name authors and a good track record. Here’s their online submission form


  1. Today I am mostly reading blogs I haven't visited for ages, and yours is one of them! I was amazed that I actually managed to complete NaNoWriMo last year - I did it by severely limiting my social media time. I 'thought' I'd use this new found skill after November had finished, and sometimes I do... but not often. I really must try it again, thanks for the prompt :-)

    1. Great to see you again Annalisa. It often makes the difference during Nano to limit social networks.

  2. I've heard that the more connected we are with our computers, the lonelier we are. I know I'm online more than I should be, but I also know how to go connect with real people. I've also limited my social sites, despite the fact everyone seems shocked I'm not on Facebook.
    As for the scenario in the cafe - yeah, that's sad, isn't it?

  3. Great post - I completely agree with your points on social networking. I also happen to love the director of Gatsby - haven't seen it yet. Looking forward to it!

  4. Ha! I've been on a sort of mini-blogging break this week. Been trying to edit pages AND write, so something had to give. I don't do Facebook, but I enjoy Twitter and the blog when I have time. I can honestly say, though, that this current WIP has taken me twice as long to write as it would have if I hadn't started blogging. Social media definitely eats up a chunk of my time. But it's the price of being a modern writer. You gotta be connected online, especially when it's time to start marketing. Finding the balance while writing is what's tough, though.

  5. Great post, Denise. Unfortunately it is a necessary evil!


  6. My husband will swear that today's youth do not know how to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone. It's all about email and texting with the kids he deals with.

    I once heard that we should pick the social media tools that we enjoy and feel comfortable using. Personally, I'm horrible at Twitter. Condensing my thoughts into 140 characters? Pfft. Being funny/witty/charming/cute while doing it? Pfft. Pfft. Willing to drop everything so I can "converse" with someone instantly while doing the previous two things at the same time? Pfft. Pfft. Pfft. I like Instagram (pretty pictures). I'm comfortable with Facebook. Love Goodreads, but I don't use it like a social media tool.

  7. People say that social media is bringing the end to society, or at least the written form, but a hundred and fifty years ago they were saying the same thing about the telegraph. It was so easy that no one had to think about what to say, and the art of writing would be lost forever. It was lost so much that it's 2013 and more people than ever know how to write. And as for the technology taking over life, it's not much different than television bringing about the end of the world because almost every family had one in the fifties. We managed to survive that, too.

  8. This is so true! And that friend sounds very familiar... I think I have friend like that too ;)

    I could easily give up Facebook, and almost all the other social media applications, except my blog - I love blogging! I am having more fun with twitter lately, and wish more people would use it to communicate and less blasting advertisements.

    And I love that you make yourself conscious about what you learn from novels you read! Thanks for including mine :)

  9. That was a lot of stuff in there :) I've checked out Escargot before. Still thinking on them.

    I don't tweet, but I do have FB, G+, goodreads. Blogging is my main social media - aside from texting on my cell phone.I talk to friends and family personally (yep, phone is personally when distance separates). Sometimes FB is a blessing because I can see pictures and stuff from family. But I don't feel guilty for not reading every post on any of the online accounts.

    Recently a blogger friend asked a question something like "how do blogger/authors with full time jobs keep up the writing, blogging, tweeting, work, family, sleep?" I told her that I don't keep up, and stopped feeling guilty long ago. Can you imagine visiting and talking with EVERYONE of your offline friends and family everyday, every time they have a thought in their head? Ridiculous! So why do we pressure ourselves in here. If my blog friends unfollow because I only check in a couple times a week - or a couple times a month - then I guess I can handle it.

    Not like I have anything all that important to say on a regular basis anyway :)

    You sure did a lot in a week girl. I think I'd be exhausted.


  10. Hi Denise .. I hate the interference of smart phones - they irritate me 'to hell' ... ok I don't have kids - so no need to check in and I usually make my arrangements so don't need to do much in that direction - except perhaps to find out eta if friends are coming ...

    If I use the train I take my iphone for the photo taking bit .. but hardly ever use the phone for a phone!

    I want to use my brain and my head space ... it's valuable to be without connectivity - yes if I travel I don't like leaving my baby (the blog) too long!

    - but also I hate it when others don't even understand my minor (perhaps major) interest in the net .. and all it offers ... such is life ..

    I did see two movies this week - one I'll blog about tomorrow .. and the other was Summer in February - about the Cornish artists .. in the are I posted about earlier this year: Amongst Heroes ... the same artists are featured in the film .. and there's a National Portrait Gallery exhibition on featuring one of the artists ..

    I read GG - and hated it .. please don't tell anyone! But I will see the movie!

    Cheers Hilary

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  12. Should have proofed what I wrote before I hit send! I didn't say much, just that this is a great post, so much for Bloggers to respond to. And that I just sent you a long email....

  13. The more connections we have, the less connected we really are with people.

    Seeing families together where the kids are all on their phones drives me crazy. Parents need to step up and tell them to put the phones away.

  14. Lots of ground covered in this post, Denise. Half the time, I forget I'm supposed to be interacting on social media and when I do remember, I spend way too much time on Fb and Twitter.

    Thanks for including Christine in this post.

  15. I can't agree with you more. I'm not on twitter or facebook or instagram, goodreads, etc etc. I just yesterday made myself an author page on amazon because I published a book on kindle.

    Every time I tell someone I'm not on facebook they give me a look of horror. "But how do you keep up with all your friends?" they ask me. And I say: "I talk to them."

    At some point I'll have to join facebook and twitter. I know I will. But I don't want to! I'm resisting as long as I can.


  16. Terrific post, Denise. Social media can be overwhelming. I don't have a smart phone yet, but I don't imagine I'll hold out for long :) I currently only blog and have twitter, but I'm considering FB once my books are out. We'll see!

  17. Social media can definitely take up a huge chunk of life. My home internet is rather slow, so I rarely get online at home. In fact, I don't want to touch the computer when I'm at home, which is good for the technology break but very bad for my writing since I hate writing by hand. Instead, I tend to veg in front of the TV too much then, but that's a whole other list of problems. LOL!

  18. You are so right. I think its dreadful when I see people together in public using phones or whatever and not connecting with the people they are with. But then I also make sure I can get wifi or, I have just sent for a router so I can pick up wifi on holiday. Place we are renting has cable but not wifi.

  19. Is it making us less human?

    I woke up this morning questioning everything because a young man is dead and my heart is in pain. How does this happen - did it begin years ago when a president went to war with the 'wrong' country - or with the men who make laws regarding a woman's body with no regard to the woman - or a country that cries our for equality but only allows it if you're white - or did it happen when the law gave the ability to anyone to kill because all you have to do is instigate a fight pull out your weapon and call it self-defense - the rich get 'welfare' and the weakest and most needy get the 'shaft' - is technology making us less human - or has technology allowed us to ignore the truth for a virtual world of lies.

    Sorry, I went to sleep with questions and awoke with a wounded and broken heart and no answers!

    Great question, thoughtful blog!

  20. you have a point but it beats watching reruns of coronation street out of boredom mind you I never take pictures of food I am not that patient ...

  21. I've adapted to the online way of things way to easily. it's hard to unplug but when I do, it's always so refreshing. And yes, I feel weird and twitchy when I do. It's like detox.


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