Why Did I Start This Again?

I have a confession. I feel a bit gross about it.

I have been sneaking back onto Instagram this week. Just on my browser — I didn’t go full hog and install the app again (I deleted it in September and holy Moses has that been good for me) but I just really wanted to check up on a few things, ya know?

The problem with Instagram is that I can’t just check up on what I wanted to know and then be done.

No. I end up falling headfirst into the vortex and surface miles downstream with an upset stomach and a headache.

It’s so immersive that it literally makes me forget what I was doing before — even stuff I’ve been deeply focused on for months.

I find it shockingly distracting and almost impossible to extricate myself from once I’m there, which is obviously bad news for my focus and ability to get any writing down.

Today I had my email open to start writing this message to you, and hopped over to Insta ‘just for a minute’.

20 minutes later I realised that I still hadn’t started, and I couldn’t remember why I started this newsletter.

If that’s not enough to scare me off the ‘gram for good, I don’t know what is.

(There is a wealth of research about how our ability to think criticallymake active choices and stay connected to reality is drastically impeded on all these platforms and devices.)

But of course, Instagram — and all the socials for that matter — present writers with a paradox.

They are the perfect platform to highlight our work. They gives us unrivalled access to audiences. They provide people considering working with us an easy shorthand about our reach, influence and process.

And so the unavoidable fact of working as a writer or creative in this brave new world is that you’re probably going to have to be somewhere.

It’s up to you, of course — you can opt out if you want. Not being anywhere is certainly great for your focus; you can get a lot of work done when that’s the only thing you have to do.

But that’s going to make an already challenging line of work even harder, because no one will know what you’ve been working on.

You don’t have to be on all of them. You can focus on an email list or a private community instead, but the more public forums tend to build up faster and can make it easier for new people to discover you.

This quandary is not something I have an answer to right now.

I blocked my Facebook newsfeed with this plug-in years ago (which allows notifications to come through but no updates, and can do the same for many other platforms), so I don’t feel menaced by that particular beast any more.

Last week I totally reconfigured who I follow on Twitter — goodbye bro marketing, hello publishers and literary festivals — and that’s helped reduce the distractions somewhat.

But Instagram is the platform that feels easiest and most engaging to me.

I want to figure out how to use it in a way that allows me to keep engaging with friends and readers and doesn’t turn me into a junkie.

If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. Is this a struggle for you? What have you done to cut down your distractions that eat up your writing time and make you feel crazy?