Struggling with social media? Many people do. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you’re a creator, social media can be a dangerous time sink. It can also damage your creativity.
I’m mentoring a self-publishing author we’ll call Terry, who’s written two novels, but hasn’t published either of them.
Terry came to me because she’s given up on her third novel; she says she doesn’t have time to write. She has two small sons and a full-time job.
When I asked her to keep a time log for a week, she was shocked to see how much time she spends on TikTok and Facebook. In total, she spends some 90 minutes a day. On some days, she spends more.
“I didn’t think it was so much,” she said. “I think I’ve got an addiction.”
Social media addiction: feel-good dopamine
According to researchers, it’s possible to become addicted to online connections and interactions, because they release the “feel good” chemical dopamine in your brain.
According to this article on social media and dopamine:
…. these social media platforms leverage the same neural circuitry “used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products…”
Time vanishes when we interact on Instagram and other sites.
If you’re a creator, you need time to create. If you think you “don’t have time” keep a time log for a few days. You may be spending more time than you think on social media activities.
Let’s look at some tips to make the most of your time and create more.
1. Be more creative: create first
Many creators believe that if they create first each day, they create more. Your mileage may vary, but it’s certainly true for me. If I don’t spend the first few hours of each day writing, my productivity drops.
Terry believed she couldn’t get up earlier. “I like my sleep,” she said. However, she set her alarm clock, and wrote for an hour while the rest of the family were still asleep.
She says that if she creates first: “I forget all about social media. It’s as though I don’t need to spend time on Facebook. Maybe writing releases dopamine?”
Perhaps, but according to Your Brain on Dopamine: The Science of Motivation:
Dopamine performs its tasks before we obtain rewards, meaning that its real job is to encourage us to act, either to achieve something good or to avoid something bad.
The article (it’s worth reading) suggests that we can train our brain to release dopamine; all we need is motivation.
Writing is definitely a healthier way to get a dopamine hit than social media networks.
2. Limit your time: set a timer
If you know that you lose track of time on networking sites, why not set a timer? I enjoy cat and dog videos as much as anyone, and before I know it, time passes. So I avoid them completely.
However, I can’t avoid research, and I have a tendency to fall down rabbit holes. Before researching, I make sure I have a list of questions, and I set a timer before I start.
Terry decided to set a timer before she visited her favorite groups on Facebook. She said it works for her. “I quit as soon as the timer runs out. If I want to post a reply to something, I can do it tomorrow.”
3. Know why you’re spending time on social media
FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. We make friends on the networks and that’s a good thing. However, sometimes we spend time interacting because we’re bored.
When she thought about it, Terry said: “I realized that mostly I opened Facebook or YouTube because I was tired and wanted some relief from stress.”
She realized that cooking was a great stress reliever too, and she could chat with the kids while she cooked.
There’s no need to give up your favorite sites completely. Terry has a couple of groups she visits several times a week, but she limits the time she spends.
You can create more when you keep track of your time
Social platforms are designed to give us quick hits of dopamine. Creativity provides those same hits, and you’ve got something to show for the time you spend.
If you’re wondering where your time is going, why not keep a time log for a few days?
Writing fiction? It’s not your fault if you didn’t finish your novel
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.