A Facebook Addict’s Confession

This is Cal Newport. Not only is a better person than you, he's better looking.

This is Cal Newport. Not only is he a better person than you, he’s better looking.

The Story So Far

I wrote 1000 words of fiction after billing 4 hours, so, I’m letting myself blog. I ate two half-frogs. Google ‘eating the frog’ if that makes no sense.

To recap: I’m in week six of a social media hiatus as prescribed by Cal Newport—famously efficient efficiency expert on writing efficiency novels efficiently while being a tenured MIT computer-science professor and having two young kids who he plays with every night for hours.

Yeah, Cal is a better person than you are. Get over it. Move on! I’m trying to.

Still, I’m using his slightly infuriating and smug assertions from Deep Work to work on my writing, which means working on process, which means working on habits, which means working on behavior, which means working on my brain. My self. The core of my identity.

So. No pressure.

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I have related in this series of pieces the horrific withdrawal pains I’ve experienced. Let’s do a bullet list recap:

  • Insomnia
  • Full-body itching
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Word pressure

Let’s drill into word pressure; it’s a term generally used to describe schizophrenics. (I’m not, by the way.) What this means is that every conversation I have had for weeks, with everyone, I press to its maximum allowable length, and then, a bit more.

I’m exhausting to be around. I piss people off. To my writing-workshop friends and family. I’m sorry. This is still a work in progress.

I had a 2-4 hour-per-day social-media monkey on my back, and I’m hurling those lumps of excess mental monkey-chatter at everyone around me like an outraged poo-flinging orangoutang.

How did I get so sick?

I let myself believe that my social network had value; that those relationships were somehow, monetizable. Even though, at this date, my only monetized relationships grow out of a SF convention in the 90s and my real-world, meat-space writing workshops.

Maybe I’m bad at social media. Maybe I’m better in person. At any rate, the hundreds of days spent in social networks over the last five years have done nothing for me financially. I make one tenth of what I did in the 90s, when I worked in the tech bubble… overselling the internet… and the value of social networks…


Here’s the thing about monetizing social networks; you need hundreds of thousands of people for them to be worth more than pocket-change, in the mass-market sense. While a few dozen or hundred people, in the right field, can get you a great job, it takes hundreds of thousands of citizens to generate enough money for you to live on.

Most people playing the social media game get to a few hundred people and get stuck. Now, here’s the horrible horrible thing; a few hundred social media friends feels like you’re doing something. And you are. You’re making fifty cents a day for Facebook. Or twitter. Or Instagram.

So they want you to keep at it.

But to clarify, you are doing nothing, nothing that will ever help you. Unless, as I said, you’re looking for a job, and then, really, use LinkedIn. The only way your social media will help you is if you become, wait for it, another nod to Cal who is better than me, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Social media is like kindling. If you have a spark, it can help that spark catch fire and go viral. No amount of kindling by itself ever ignites. So, look it’s ok to connect and share with friends and family and colleagues and your two fans on FB or twitter, that’s great, if you’re not an addict. Enjoy. You have my blessings.

But until you get good at The Thing Itself, social media isn’t going to help you; and if social media eats 90% of your free time, you’re never going to make it. Your 10,000 hours will be spread out over decades.

Mine were. Learn from me. Learn from Cal, really, but from me, if you find him insufferable.

Do your work; head down; joyfully, in the knowledge that your 10,000 hours will one day create a steel so hard that  you will be able to repeatedly strike a spark.

You’ll be able to gather kindling, when you need it. Keep the little pile you have, but don’t sacrifice more than an hour or two a week to do so.

The thing itself. Your music. Your art. Your writing. Tend to the thing itself. Don’t be a social media addict. Just say no.

I can’t believe I said that.

But just say no.


Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide
One comment on “A Facebook Addict’s Confession
  1. Bruce Bethke says:

    I guess this explains why you didn’t respond to my reply re “The Monster’s Girlfriend.”

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