T.A. Barnhart

carpe bucko

diverted attention

2018-07-12 diverted.png

I came out of a very emotional therapy session on Tuesday, and the first thing I thought was how I’d report it on Facebook. I am not in therapy to develop online content. Health is my goal, and converting every experience into a Facebook post is not healthy.

It’s not even good writing.

I realized – I had been coming to this realization for some time; it snapped into place on Tuesday – that I was viewing my life as material for social media. Talk about a lack of mindfulness, of diverted attention. I need to view my life as what I am living right now, not as a rough draft for half-assed writing that a few people will read and then it will scroll down into the abyss.

That moment was a little over 48 hours ago, which isn’t a huge amount of time, but it is the most time I’ve been off Facebook in ages. I continue to have the first sentence of posts skip through my head – France will overrun Croatia in the WC final; there goes the country & democracy; I haven’t posted to Facebook in over two days! – but I am now dismissing them for what they are:

Bits of noise my brain generates that I am choosing to let go of. 

I don’t know how long I am going to stay off Facebook. I have decided that what I want to focus on is blogging; it’s where I first started writing regularly, thanks to BlueOregon, and it brought a lot of good things my way. Like most other BlueOregon contributors, however, I shifted my efforts to Facebook, and it’s been a mixed blessing. I can say a lot more, a lot more quickly, and I come across the thoughts of others.

It has done my writing skills little good, however. I didn’t edit the hell out of my BlueOregon posts, mind you, but I put more effort into those than I do on Facebook. I frequently did research; not always thorough or rock-solid, but enough for my kind of mix of fact and reasoned opinion. With Facebook, it’s more like playing Fortnite: drop, start running around, and then start shooting before a sniper blows my brains out.

So I am going to focus on my blog, even if readership can be counted on the finger I use to keep my nostrils open. Thinking of readership is another way to divert attention from what matters: writing. As Harlan Ellison said, and I often repeat (guiltily): Writers write. You can’t publish if you don’t write. You can’t gain readers if you don’t write.

I know I want to write. I am enjoying writing this piece even though I know perhaps only one or two other people will read it. The #1 reason I am writing this is for myself. I know that I will learn more as I write (“divert attention” was not something I had thought of until I typed the words, and those two words clarify a lot for me). I know that if I keep writing for my blog, I’ll get better as a writer. Having an audience doesn’t improve writing; writing improves writing.

I think I will use my Facebook page for the Carpe Bucko blog at the least, but it will be the kind of use social media savvies say not to do: one-way traffic. I’ll post a link with an introductory blurb and leave it at that. In other words, I’ll take some small advantage of Facebook’s marketing potential. I am not focusing on readership, but it does no harm to make some effort in that regard.

When will I start reading my timeline again? I don’t know. The last thing of import I learned on Facebook was of someone’s divorce I had missed. Anything else I need to know, people will ensure I get that info. Honestly, outside of family events, there really isn’t much in this world I do need to know that I won’t pick up through online news and podcasts. 

In other words, Facebook isn’t essential to my life.

And right now, it’s not good for my life. Facebook isn’t inherently bad; it’s just a tool, and it became a tool I was misusing. For now, I’m setting it aside and concentrating on the other tools I have; in particular, my blog. (Actually, multiple blogs under the one roof I pay for at Squarespace.) Rather than participate in the ongoing melée that is Facebook, I’m going to write in those blogs, use Facebook as a notification service, and see if I can train my thoughts to remain what they are and not as online fodder.

Writers write. They don’t do cheap tricks for an audience that really doesn’t care that much.

T.A. Barnhart