Inktober roundup

 

Confession: I didn’t know about Inktober until I saw a fellow SCBWI member post about it. But. Oh,my GOD!

For those of you who don’t know, InkTober was started in 2009 by artist Jake Parker as a way of improving his drawing skills. You can read more about it here. 

I didn’t know I was going to do it – I wasn’t even sure I would enjoy it. I did like drawing with ballpoint pens, but withing a couple of days of drawing (and stalking the hashtag on Instagram) I saw so many beautiful things, done by these talented people, and they looked nothing like what I was doing.

Usually, this would have sent me flying into a perfectionist panic, along with a strong dose of jealousy. But this month something strange happened. I decided to find out more.

I did have a pot of black India ink and a stencil from when I was trying to do calligraphy/add ink to my acrylic paintings, and I have YouTube and the Internet. I looked up some ideas, got really excited…

And didn’t look back.

WordPress doesn’t allow me to embed videos yet, but in addition to posting everything on my Instagram and Tumblr, I put together a sketchbook tour and posted it on YouTube. If you look at it, you will notice the change around day 5, and how pretty soon I went full on with the prompts. I’m not gonna sit around touting my own horn because… well, I don’t have the energy to. But if anybody is feeling discouraged or curious about starting a new thing and wondering whether it is worth even trying…

It is worth it.

Even a month makes a huge difference.

See for yourselves.

Staying real in a world of travel p**n: an oxymoron?

 

I’ve had a picture-heavy post sitting in my drafts folder for months.

I wanted to put it up. It was a joyful trip, one that I had a lot of fun on and discovered a beautiful city.

I want to say that life got in the way, that I got stuck trying  to edit a book, and then got stuck trying to re-query it again. I want to say that I just lost the taste for blogging (true) and this post was one of the casualties (also, partially, true). But to be perfectly honest, every time I tried to edit it up and make it consumable, I felt reluctant.

I just didn’t see what the point of it was.

There are so many people who have been to Edinburgh and described the experience much better. Some of them even have actual travel blogs. Most take better pictures than I do, or at the very least have something a bit more sophisticated than their phone camera. Pretty much everyone but me seems capable of inserting themselves into the shot without making it look like a super-awkward selfie.

So what am I thinking, cutting in on other people’s turf? I’m not a travel blogger – I wouldn’t even be able to put up a good fight if I tried.

Plus. Travel, when you strip away the shine of “going somewhere that isn’t here”, is pretty boring. You get on a transport, you travel, you wander around a new city trying to find safe places to eat and sleep, you try to discover things without getting mugged, you eat and sleep and then you go home. Pictures and videos with catchy titles and upbeat music are all well and good (even if they wouldn’t look out of place on the website of a tourist agency) but they’re just soundbites. A highlight taken while you fought off colds, tried not to get lost, and wondered why you spent so much money on a weekend.

(The answer to the latter question is: Because it’s awesome.)

I suppose I can give you a spiel about how travel lets me catch up with myself and get some much-needed “me time”, but let’s face it – I travelled 10 hours by train (in total) to run 13.1 miles with a bunch of strangers, while desperately trying to tell my bladder we WILL use the restrooms… in another two miles, because the queue here is just not worth it.

Let’s face it – there are more interesting things to talk about on the Internet than the minute sensations in your digestive tract as you run. Or the fact that no matter how much you try to smile to the official race photographers, the only images of you that they have are ugly, distorted snaps that your own mother wouldn’t pay 17 quid for.

I suppose I can tell you about all the weird, quirky, and frankly strange things that I did or that happened to me on this trip.

I could tell you how I read books by myself at restaurants while the wait staff looked on with raised brows.

I could tell you how I went for a half marathon and then walked all over the city centre and Edinburgh Castle on the same day.

I could tell you how after the race I couldn’t find a place to change, or the fundraiser’s tent, so I went off to the side of the path and stripped down to my sports bra so that I could put on a dry shirt. (Hardly an interesting sight, at a running event.)

I could tell you how meters before the finish line I stopped to pick up a man’s iPod, nearly getting stomped on in the process, and then ran to catch up with him. (It messed up my time, but that’s okay. I’m not a fast runner anyway.)

I could tell you about sharing a table with 3/5ths of a family on the train back, and, catching the dad looking at porn on his phone. (I’m telling myself he was checking the history after one of the kids used it.)

I could tell you about meeting a Teri Terry fan in a Waterstones in Edinburgh who didn’t know she had a series after Mind Games.

I could tell you about this divine lasagna I had right before race day, but I would rather try to recreate the recipe first.

I could tell those stories but like pictures, they are just soundbites and highlights. Good for a quirky novel, not so interesting in a blogpost/picture diary that doesn’t have a plot, a climax or an epilogue.

Well… and epilogue beyond: I want to go back.

And possibly live on the marina.

At the end of the day, travel diaries aren’t that interesting to read. Far better is when you actually go and do the thing, and sit in the weird, beautiful, uncomfortable feelings it inspires. Far better is to look through the pictures and find one that is so eye-catching, it inspires you to make art. Far better to make friends and try out different things and walk the streets until the soles of your shoes wear through. To sit in dark pubs and have a veggie burger under an Ouija board, or to sit in cafes while waiting for the nice bookshop across the street to open (just because they have cards you can’t live without.)

Writing about it… quite frankly, I can’t do it without sounding like a complete humblebraggart.

Feelings hangover

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Earth Angel. Acrylic on paper. Prints can be found here.

Recently I’ve been struggling to wake up.

Maybe not physically – coffee still wards Morpheus away, if only by a little – but I’ve got a permanent weight that I can’t shake off. You might have noticed – my posts have been rather sparse lately.

It’s like a hangover, except of the heart instead of the head.

A feelings-over.

A hangover of feelings.

It’s like I’ve reached my saturation point, and cannot care anymore or else I will burst.

I’m out of fucks to give.

Desolate landscapes are a recurring theme for me. I think I painted my first one about six years ago. It also had a woman overlooking a bright day outside, except I don’t think I bothered hinting at a desert, or even a ground, outside her window. It was like she was standing at the edge of the world.

Of course, these days I add some wings. A desire to fly, I think, comes with appropriate equipment.

You can follow the link in the caption if you’re interested. As it stands, have a few more pics of how this work came to be. And enjoy.

Craving approval isn’t narcissistic

 

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Source: Instagram

One of the most common criticisms levelled at social media users, (especially young people), (ESPECIALLY artists) is that they are raging narcissists who will do anything for likes, anything to get those little hearts soaring.

And no, unfortunately, it’s not just Sherlock from “Elementary” that says this.

I get it – we are being bombarded with content every time we log on somewhere. Everyone wants us to like, subscribe, comment, share, share, share. It’s like you can’t have an account online without someone trying to sell you followers, or weight-loss smoothies, or ask you to check out their art, or their self-published book, or their really, really amazing line of hand-made jewellery. (My favourite is when you follow someone who said something interesting in a chat, and they immediate DM you asking you to check out their book page, and maybe buy it.) The Internet is big and vast and we all have very limited fucks to give.

(Should I say fuck on this blog? Is this going to bring down my readership?)

(Probably. Oh, well.)

I like to think it’s not all that bad, though. That there is some benefit to people – and creatives especially – to share their work on social media.

Stop me if you’ve heard of this one: a person likes to make a thing – clay pots, for example. They enjoy what they do and they’re okay with forking out however much they need for materials. But the stuff is starting to accumulate and they’re wondering if they can move some around. Maybe make a little bit of money. (If they’re a child there is a chance they will drop the ‘maybe’.)

Then some well-meaning person (or persons) tell them that they shouldn’t.

That clay pots are fine for a hobby and good for them, but can they really make money off it?

That there are only so many clay pot makers that the market can sustain at a given time.

That people don’t buy clay pots anymore anyway.

And let’s face it – their clay pots need a lot more work.

There are creative people who politely listen to that advice  and then go on to do their thing. There are creative people who defy the odds, and there are creative people who find success is different from what they expected it to be, but it is still nice.

There are creative people who overshoot the mark and let their egos get the better of them, and sadly burn a few bridges too many in the process.

But there are also many, many, many creative people who let the doubt get them down. They make fewer clay pots or paintings, because they really are out of space, or because they need to focus on their career. They might go get some new supplies at their favourite shop, but find that the raw materials don’t inspire the same joy they once did. The excitement, the spark of anticipation when imagining what you could do with a new type of clay or ink is gone. Instead, they frown at prices and sigh bitterly whenever they are told of someone else’s blinding success.

Sometimes the bearer of that news is the same person who dissuaded them from putting themselves out there, and the irony meter breaks.

I can tell you all of this because I have been, and still am there.

I’ve drawn and painted and moulded clay (it was first grade) with the abandon of a beginner.

I’ve been told I’m not good enough when I wanted to paint; told I’m too old to learn the piano; told that writers don’t make money; told that knitting makes me unattractive to men (true story!); told that no matter what I do, or how hard I work, there will always be someone better than me, and why would a customer settle for something less than number one?

You hear those things enough times, you take them into yourself and you make them a part of your landscape. Can you imagine going through life with so much bitterness? And don’t think for one moment that this won’t bleed into other aspects of your relationships and career. Once you believe you are not good enough, it’s hard to convince yourself otherwise.

Enter the likes.

Enter the Instagram hearts.

Enter the people commenting with generic “love it”s and “#goals” under your posts and pictures.

It seems like mindless fluff and maybe it is. It seems like stroking someone’s ego and who knows, maybe it is.

But it is also a reprieve to a beaten-up, disillusioned person.

It is evidence – ephemeral as it may be – that there are people who like what you do and appreciate your efforts.

Maybe your first art teacher will see it and send you a note, or a FB message: “Well done! I’m proud of you.”

And maybe it will encourage you to put more of yourself out there. Maybe it will encourage you to learn more about the industry.

Maybe you will realize – and believe – that someone else’s success doesn’t mean there is less for you, or that you are a failure. (That last bit is from “The Art of Asking.” You are welcome.)

Maybe you will want to make a realistic estimation of yourself, rather than relying on the bully in your head to tell you if what you do is worthy.

Craving approval isn’t narcissistic.

It’s actually pretty fucking human.

 

Red Bubble Artist

shop-window

Photo (or rather screenshot) credit: Me

Hitting the publish button – is there anything scarier than that?

(Realistically speaking – yes. If you’ve been told your whole life nobody would give a toss about your art – probably, but it ranks pretty high.)

I was mulling over the best way to say it – I’m here. I’m a Red Bubble artist! – but to be quite honest, it is the sort of cake that works better without the icing. (Think lemon drizzle rather than a wedding gateau.)

I can tell you about the ingredients*, but there is a reason why those are printed at the back.

I can tell you about the process*, but if people care about that, they look it up online, or in books.

I reckon that at first meeting, it’s the look and taste that matters most.

So here we go. My lovely, weird, beautiful monsters are available in all forms to buy on Red Bubble. If you’re planning your next major writing project, need some room decor, or need a new journal, why not head over and check out the wares? It’ll help pay for my therapy.

 


*If you do want to know about the ingredients and the process, just pop me a comment below and I’ll hop to it.

Book subscription services: Is it for you?

 

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Blast from the past, when my mailman hailed me to give me a package after I missed him.

These days, there seems to be a subscription service for everything.

Literally. Everything.

Beauty products. Period products. Mental health support kits. Kiddie toys. General lifestyle.

Really, a book club was a natural progression, when you think about it.

Now, subscription services have been around for long enough for hype to build up, then die, then kind of plateau. Once upon a time, it was The Thing, until we realised we were paying for a bunch of samples that a company couldn’t otherwise move, and we were better off streamlining our lives, Mari Kondo style. (Which is now experiencing its own backlash. Plus ça change…) At the end of the day, it’s a question of whether it is something for you, and whether you want to spend the money on it.

So is a book subscription service for you?

First things first, as I’ve experienced it, this service doesn’t cheat the customer on price – the novels I got were brand new, in pristine condition, so they were worth as much as they would if I bought them at Waterstones. They came wonderfully wrapped within their proper mailing packaging. (As you can see, it was the Willoughby book club.) According to the website, in addition to the books and the swag, every purchase also gets a book donated to Book Aid International, which I like.

When we are thinking about the cost of this service versus something you would get on a whim on Amazon, Amazon might seem cheaper, especially if you get all three books at once so that you can qualify for their shipping. BUT! Amazon isn’t a personalised service, and thus does not incur any of the associated costs. And if you are someone who cares about sustainable buying and supporting small businesses… well, you know what I would choose.

Of course, the most obvious selling point to a book subscription is the element of surprise.  Unfortunately, that means if you hate surprises (or you’re buying a gift for somebody who hates surprises) you are better off going to a bookstore and picking out something yourself. I will say, as someone who has read quite widely, I was worried I’d get doubles. And I did – once. But the customer service was excellent and sent me a replacement within the week. And they let me keep the one I had a double of, to hand off to a friend.

I don’t know whether all services do that, but it is worth mentioning if it is a concern of yours. 

So who is this for, then?

People who want to discover new authors.

People who might want to discover a new genre.

People who want to introduce their children and teenagers to some varied literature.

People who want to give a present to somebody they know very well. (You do have to give them a hint about what to send to them.)

People who just plain like to read, anything and everything.

People who like a personalised approach.

People who like an element of surprise.

People who actually have time to read.

Aside from that double I got sent, all the books I got were new to me and I enjoyed reading them. I also got a discount off my first order, and was offered a discount for renewal within a certain date. As far as my experience goes, it was an A+++.

So why haven’t I renewed it? Moving. I’m moving again. (Makes whining noises.) And much as I would love to buy all of the books, new and old, I do actually have to read up as much of my TBR as possible and make space for my move – a slow venture as the PhD is kicking my arse. See… I believe books should be enjoyed, at their own time. And because I’m so busy, I haven’t even gotten to the last book I was sent (pictured above) which is a crying shame because it sounds awesome.

Maybe next year.

Once the dust settles down.

If I’ve captured your interest, the Willoughby Book Club has actually sent me an affiliate link, which you can use to get 10% off their site. DISCLAIMER: If you do end up buying a certain amount on their website, I get paid. If you don’t like that and don’t want to use affiliate links, here is one to the website that won’t link back to me.

(Don’t ever tell me I’m not transparent, people.)

Have you tried one of those services before? What was your experience? Share in the comments for people to know.

 

Supporting your artist friends (a guilt-free guide)

 

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Source: Death to the Stock Photo

So you have an artist friend.

They’re smart. They’re talented. You’re not just saying that.

You’ve seen them work hard on their craft and, after much deliberation, they have ventured into the big wide world trying to make money off it. You’re incredibly proud of them, and admire their work ethic. They bow their heads and mumble their thanks.

You wish there was a way to help them out.

The most obvious thing is to buy their stuff, but let’s face it – you probably have received a piece from them, as a gift, and they will do their best to sell you their wares at a discount because that’s what friends are for, and anyway, who needs a big margin. When you do the math, especially if your friend is just starting out, they won’t make much profit from one sale – not with the expenses they are mostly incurring.

And you can’t just buy off everything they ever make. For the majority of us, that is just not realistic. Some people can’t even afford the purchase – they might have kids, or ailing parents, or student loans, or they might be artists themselves.

AND even after that, the question remains: How is your friend going to get their name out there if only their nearest and dearest buy their stuff?

I am not for a second going to argue against family and friends buying my stuff – by all means, Mum, get 10 calendars to hand out to your friends in their Christmas present, I will sign them all and thank them personally if they hang it up in their house – but! There are more ways to help out your artist friends. Some of them don’t even cost you anything.

Just to clarify though – these are ways you can HELP your friend. If you believe artists are no-good layabouts who should just get a regular job and don’t deserve any support, this post (and the rest of this blog) will not be useful for you.

Consider this my merchant’s warning.

The rest of you people who believe your artist friends deserve to make a living wage, here are some ideas for you:

First and foremost, help spread the word. Got a social media account? Thought so. Does your artist friend have a business website? Or an online store? A Facebook page? Do they tweet pictures of their art or announce they’re taking commissions? Are they a writer using their blog for visibility? Have they monetised their videos/blog so that they get a little bit extra cash through clicks?

Then SHARE. THAT. You think that Google algorithms care about talent? Naw, man, it’s a series of commands to get one software to understand another software and help users find what they’re looking for quicker. (They’re not always successful.) Like attracts like, so when you share your friend’s accounts, you’re increasing their chances of being noticed.

“But… isn’t that a bit tacky?” I hear you say.

Well, guess how your friend must feel. Fact – most artists already fear they are frauds. We struggle for legitimacy in our own heads, and we HATE beating our own drum, even when it is our livelihood on the line. Can you imagine a doctor or a lawyer feeling like they can’t have their name listed on their practice website, or take patient recs, because they don’t feel good enough? No. Just the artists.

So beat their drum for them. Beat it as hard as you can bear.

Let me beat someone’s drum right now. The lady in the photo above, Kashmir Thompson, is an Atlanta-based visual artist who does some fantastic stuff, with a very distinct style. Check her out. Love her. Then go back to reading the rest of this post.

On the subject of social media, you could gently offer some direction, if the mood feels right. You know your friends best, you will be able to tell if they’re up for this kind of suggestion or not. But. If they are the type of person to sell their wares online (on Etsy,  though a copy-writing agency, Red Bubble, Society 6, etc.) you should help them build a solid social media presence that is separate from their personal accounts. (Very important. Business account. Personal account. Keep them separate and keep the latter private.)

If they are on YouTube or WordPress, or another service that allows ad revenue, it might be worth suggesting to them to monetise those channels. It isn’t a lot of money but if they do get clicks (because you routed traffic their way, and then YouTube algorithms did their magic and bumped the video up too, for example) that’s a little bit extra they can use to restock their kit or take a mental health day or get their kids a new sweater. We gotta do what we gotta do. Ads may be tacky, but they pay for all the free content online. Your friend works hard – they ought to be compensated.

Also, do they have Patreon account? Can you spare a pound? It’s a way to support them without ending up with 1000 handmade potted mugs in the process. (Unless you like potted mugs. And have sufficient space to display them, and no pets or children who can knock them down.)

Holidays and birthdays – ask them what they need. Maybe someone needs to restock their kit. Or they really want to go on a course with their favourite author. Or they want to upgrade their drawing tablet because their current one is a total piece of $%%^. Ask – then see what is doable. Maybe you can get a bunch of people and you can all chip in for something. Maybe you can get them a giftcard for a store that sells what they want.

If all else fails, we never turn down some good old-fashioned friend time. Movies. Food. Drinks, if they drink. Maybe you can offer to babysit their kids so that they can have a date night with their partner once a month – depends on where you are at and what you can afford.

Most importantly – ask them about their job, and let them offload once in a while. I know, our rants can get annoying. They can get really, really annoying. But if your friend allows you to offload about your boss, or your colleagues, or that barista in your local Starbucks that always puts skim milk in your morning Americano – you get the idea.

To your friend, the art is the job. It’s not always a fun job – even when something fulfills you and brings you joy, everyone has their bad days. I do. You do. They do. Let them offload, be there for them, and give them a hand when they need it. They have to work a different structure than you – no colleagues, no promotion opportunities, no health insurance, no pension plan. (If they have a day job, they have to juggle that with an art venture so that quality doesn’t go on either end.)

It can get stressful.

Let them get it off their chest – at least when you’re together.

 


 

On that subject: You can find my art on Red Bubble.
Also, this will be cross-posted with my art Tumblr. Follow for updates on paintings, sales, and my adventures doing Inktober 2016.

YouTube is awesome… but I won’t take its shopping advice anymore

 

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Source: Death to the Stock Photo

There is something truly mesmerising about YouTube videos. The beauty and fashion community in particular is populated by the kinds of beautiful, awesome women my teenage self imagined might make the best of friends. I can spend hours – days even – just browsing around and getting lost in the content. (It makes some of the best background music for my painting and knitting.)

It’s inspirational. It’s aspirational.

I’m someone who bloomed pretty late (if “blooming” is even the word for it) and I didn’t really develop an interest in beauty and cosmetics until I was in my twenties – therefore, a bit too old for the “beginner” advice out there. So I turned to YouTube for guidance and support.

It started off well – I learned about why I should use moisturiser and SPF, for example – and I even started my own beauty blog. I was getting *read* beauty advice from *real* women – consumers like myself who just wanted to talk about their favourite products. I discovered some amazing things off YouTube.

But somewhere along the way, things changed.

It wasn’t just that I was hoarding stuff that, quite frankly, I didn’t need – there’s been enough ink spilled on that matter – but also, a lot of the stuff that I was getting… just wasn’t doing it for me. And I could not understand why.

These days, I’ve diversified my watchlist a bit. I’ve moved away from the Gleam Futures family and started watching people with smaller channels; older YouTubers; people who are or have been employed in the beauty industry, either on the manufacturing side or the marketing side; people with some background in chemistry or just people with loads of experience in cosmetics who actually know what they’re talking about. And I discovered that, while my favourite YouTubers are great entertainers and content-makers, they aren’t exactly knowledgeable when it comes to product recommendations.

Here are some things that I wish I’d known:

It takes more than a couple of weeks to see results from skincare.

Makeup has an expiration date.

Some people take money to do sponsored content – which is fine – but they weren’t always upfront about it. 

Some people just don’t bloody do their research beyond the press release – thus side-stepping issues like animal cruelty, exploitative employment practices, and pinkwashing. 

I am far from the most socially conscious person in the world. Sometimes I am at an emotional breaking point, I need to pull back, or else burn out. Sometimes my wallet just can’t handle the sheer cost of ethical buying, in addition to daily expenses like petrol money and food. Sometimes I just want to live my life painlessly without criticism from all the imaginary others in my head, telling me I should be a better person (thank you, anxiety.)

But I confess, there is a lot of cringing I do now, too.

I cringe when I see Asos hauls, because I have read about what is going on at their shipping centres.

I cringe when I see sponsored videos on skincare, knowing full well that this blogger wouldn’t actually be using this as part of a long-term routine.

I cringe whenever I’m told I need something in my life when both I and the person telling me this know, there is no conceivable way for me to use up ANOTHER neutral eyeshadow palette by the time it goes bad, and then I have to run the gauntlet of eye infection versus feeling like I wasted my money.

I cringe when brands “team up” with bloggers, not because I hate the products that come out of it – I don’t buy them – but because it promotes more of the same “buy, buy, buy” mentality that drives unethical manufacturing practices.

I cringe when bloggers say that this is their true opinion and they really believe in the brands they advocate for – because even when it’s true, I still don’t feel like I can trust them. “These people may act friendly,” I think, “but they don’t know me, and yet they speak to me as if they do.” It’s one thing to have ads at the start of your channel – by all means, monetise your video, earn some money – at least I know what it is and what to expect from it. But then you’re supposed to watch someone who is “just like you”…. and it is quickly apparent that this is not the case.

I love YouTube and I hate it. I love it because it helps fill the silence and keeps me afloat when I’m feeling down. But I also hate it, because it’s quickly turning into a marketing tool, and I’m sick of having products shoved down my throat. It’s good that I took up knitting recently – it keeps me from scrolling around websites.

 

Internet addiction: It may not be a thing, but we’re not exactly making it easy for ourselves either

 

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Source: Death to the Stock Photo

 

(Found this in my archive. Not sure if I posted this here before, or anywhere else, but if I didn’t – here you go.

 

(Also, I’ve moved my art to Tumblr. Come give me a follow and get updates on sales and new products.)

Wherever I turn to these days, either reading about social media culture or participating in it, the words “Internet Addiction” get thrown around more often than peanuts in a party. And I’m fed up with it.

And I’m fed up with it.
Let’s set aside mainstream media and its tendency to sensationalise events for the sake of getting more views. Let’s also set aside that relative who just discovered online messaging boards (there is one for every family) and must tell you about this friend of a friend whose daughter or son had to go to the hospital because they couldn’t stop texting and developed insomnia. Let’s talk instead about the difference between habit and addiction, and dealing with the pressure to post if you’re not really a social media person.

First things first, the word “addiction” can be used in not one, but three ways (source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/addiction) – biological addiction, which is what happens when the body becomes dependent on something (usually drugs or alcohol); psychological addiction, where there is not physical need for the drugs or alcohol, but you still feel a draw to them; and then there’s compulsive behaviour, whereas you turn to the drugs or alcohol (or gambling) as a means of coping with stressors in your life. (If you want a more descriptive account, I highly recommend Marian Keyes’ “Rachel’s Holiday”. It’s also a great book to procrastinate with during exam period.)

When talking about “Internet addiction”, the feeling that I get from other people is that they mean the kind of compulsive, mindless browsing that we’re all prone to doing when we’re bored, stressed, procrastinating, (or, in my case, haven’t had our first coffee of the day and daaaaaaaaaamn, roomie, how long are you going to hog the kitchen for?) That… doesn’t sound like addiction. It sounds like a habit.

And while we can use ‘habit’ to describe drug-related behaviour, isn’t necessarily the same thing as full-on addiction.

My own social media habit reached its peak around September-time when I read a lot of Jaron Lanier and danah boyd and compulsively read articles on, ironically, “Spending Less Time on the Internet.” As any good acolyte of well-being culture, I eventually understood the message my subconscious was sending, and I acknowledged it by disabling my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

How did that go?

Well, I did NOT experience withdrawal symptoms, and while I was slightly more bored with myself than I was previously (perils of doing a Ph.D.) I eventually got around that. If anything, not being on social media helped me let go of some anxieties I had about my “friends” there, and how I felt obligated to maintain the connection, even if they were not good for me.

And then, about two months later, I got right back on it.

Not for any epic reason, mind you – but my sports team was gearing up to go to a competition, and Facebook was where the organising happened. I had to be there, or else I’d be left out of the loop completely. I eventually worked up the courage to sever any ties with people I didn’t like, but it took a while, and it was hard.

Which brings me to my final point: even if Internet/social media addiction isn’t a thing (in the most literal sense of the word) we are collectively acting like there is no other way. It’s convenient, and hey, it works for so many of us, so why change a good thing? Why waste time to prove the alarmists wrong? Luddites gonna Luddite, amirite?
Fair enough.

If it works for you, it works for you. If it’s good for your group, it’s good for your group. I’m not going to bore you with the politics of social media and the economics of Facebook because quite frankly, Jaron Lanier was there first and I’m out of space for recapping his arguments. And I know that for every frustrated person looking for better connections online, there is a socially anxious one who has a strong network precisely thanks to the Internet; or, there is someone struggling with disease, addiction, or trauma, who finds solace in anonymous support. Everyone’s experience is valid, and you do what works for you.

However, not everyone is a social media person, just like not everyone is a cat person, or a sports person. If we have come to accept that not everyone likes cats, can we not make some allowances for people who don’t enjoy the Internet in the same way we do?  (Of course, these days, it might be worth calling dibs on your name, just in case… more on that in another blogpost, but let’s just say, a digital trust fund isn’t just for newborns anymore.)

If you are not happy with your social media usage, if you think it’s a waste of time, if you’re uncomfortable with the pressure to upload and share and revisit old memories, if you’re sick of native advertising and 10-point lists of “how-to-become-less-anxious”, if you get unbelievably angry with people claiming all Millennials have an “Internet addiction”, here is an experiment for you:

Don’t get off the social networks. But try to get together outside of them more. Meet your bestie from home for coffee next time you’re in town. Don’t tweet or share pics immediately from your night out/social/really boring lecture, but let them sit on your phone for a few days and then pick out the ones that you wouldn’t mind seeing again. Go through your contacts and block/hide/delete the people you really don’t see yourself talking with at all, and whose posts have been irritating you for months. Don’t use Facebook to organise study groups. Try to make more face-to-face meetings. (Unless the matter can really be resolved in an email or text message.) Write longer emails. Ask questions. Listen to the answers.

Call dibs on your name on the big platforms and make your acconts private just in case. You can always go back and do some selective sharing if you’re worried employers might be looking at it.
But. Most importantly, stay curious. Figure out what works for you and for your friends. Don’t feel pressured to join every hot new platform because that’s where all the professionals hang out, or you think it will impact your chances of getting a job/placement/summer internship. There are other ways. There are always other ways.