Monday, 16 February 2015

a month without Facebook

This isn't one of those gloating posts about how improved life is without Facebook. I hope. If it is, tell me - I'll delete it.

But because this is my blog and I write about myself here (big head) I can tell you that having a break from Facebook has been a key ingredient in - but not the whole picture of - a really productive month or so.

I like FB but, as I said before, "I am also a bugger for getting lost in it and that can make me feel a bit lost from myself."

Have any of you ever 'deactivated' your Facebook? I have, several times (sometimes for years at a time) so I was ready for what FB would do. Once you click that button to leave, it does its best to make you stay by showing photographs of you having a great time with various people on your friends list. It tells you these people will miss you. It names them. Siobhan will miss you. Ian will miss you. etc. Only a lot of the photos it showed me this time were with people I haven't interacted with in ages, so it wasn't that effective. FB needs to update this algorithm (that's the first time I've ever used the word 'algorithm' - no idea if it's right). I still would have deactivated, but I would have liked in that moment of going to have paused and reflected, with sadness, 'Yes, Ashley WILL miss me.'

For me, life without FB is easy. For something that can take up hours of my week (or hours of a day, even), it actually leaves no hole. Sure, my friends will be having funny conversations without me, and after a night out I don't get the 'Oh god let's see the photos/videos' moment (or maybe that's a positive), but really - I find it's what-you-don't-know-you-don't-miss. I might reactivate at some point. I probably will.

But this Facebook-less month has succeeded in making me feel more connected. I've written more, read more, and made more story submissions than I ever have in a month. Looking back at my submitted stories records for the past year, I averaged 1-2 submissions a month. But this January I made 5 submissions, and have made another 2 so far in February. A few of those were new stories, a few were rejects which have been edited and polished, and one was a pitch for a commission for a blog residency at a magazine I love. I sent work to an oh-so optimistic place, and some to a new magazine I discovered and really really like

And I wrote something for radio, for the BBC Opening Lines. I also researched the kind of stories they go for, and found this gem from Claire Fuller. Because my time online hasn't been dominated by looking at social-media, I've had the impetus to follow links to short stories to read with my morning coffee, instead of FB news feeds. I'm just making my way through the 6 stories which are available to read online from The Sunday Times Short Story Award. So far, The Referees by Joseph O'Neill is my favourite, but I also really liked The Ways by Colin Barrett. 

I've been reminded how useful, and sobering, and inspiring, it is to read the stories that are winning the big prizes. This year's Costa Short Story Award winner, Fishskin, Hareskin, by Zoe Gilbert, is just amazing. 

But my increased productivity hasn't just been down to no Facebookin. I'm pretty sure that the news I had at the start of year about my shortlisting in the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize (the results were announced at the weekend- I was awarded a 'Highly Commended' prize), and the longlisting at Bare Fiction, have been useful pushes / prompts / confidence nudgers.

And then there was just the sense I had that I wanted to get some stuff done. So stuff is getting done. Hope your stuff is too.