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No more Facebook on my Phone – A Mid-Year Resolution

August 25, 2014

I recently read this article and paused to think.

In an essay on Emily Dickinson, the poet Adrienne Rich once wrote, “It is always what is under pressure in us, especially under pressure of concealment—that explodes in poetry.” We live in a time in which little is concealed, and that pressure valve—the one that every writer is intimate with—rarely has a chance to fill and fill to the point of explosion. Literary memoir is born of this explosion. It is born of the powerful need to craft a story out of the chaos of one’s own history. One of literary memoir’s greatest satisfactions—both for writer and reader—is the slow, deliberate making of a story, of making sense, out of randomness and pain. In the inimitable words of Annie Dillard, “You may not let it rip.”

Dani Shapiro wonders whether the constant need to fill the social media with out lives’ details robs us, especially the authors, of that feeling of ‘need to say’ ones’ story in the book form. Where is the need for writing a memoir when almost everything has been told on Facebook? Writing a book is a laborious process while updating status or tweeting or blogging a 500-word post is enjoyable and grabs instant attention.

In the words of the author,

I haven’t shared my story, I want to tell them. I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite. In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me. I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that our feelings—that vast range of fear, joy, grief, sorrow, rage, you name it—are incoherent in the immediacy of the moment. It is only with distance that we are able to turn our powers of observation on ourselves, thus fashioning stories in which we are characters. There is no immediate gratification in this. No great digital crowd is “liking” what we do. We don’t experience the Pavlovian, addictive click and response of posting something that momentarily relieves the pressure inside of us, then being showered with emoticons.

I have no plan to write any memoir, unless my life turns immensely interesting tomorrow. However, I do want to say stories – stories that I have been gestating inside my mind for long. Recently, a tag was doing rounds on Facebook where one had to share a certain portion of one’s manuscript or work-in-progress. I was tagged twice but I refrained, despite an urge to share a snippet and gain some ‘likes’. My baby is still infant and shy. It is not ready to face the world yet.

While I mostly agree with Dani’s views, I wish to disagree when it comes to blogging. My blogging and writing are poles apart, even though they are connected. Blogging helped me in getting my writing voice back. Blogging led me to write more and more short fiction and get recognition, which in turn, brought the confidence to attempt a long one. For that, I shall forever to grateful to my blog.

However, social media (minus blog) is harmful for a writer in many other ways, in my opinion. I have realised I wander into Facebook every time I take a writing break. I spend more minutes going through the album of a recent Europe-returned friend than on researching for my book. I click on every article, every video posted on Facebook and lose track of time.

But sometimes, Facebook brings gems like this article and forces me to think about what I am doing.

I toyed with the idea of going off Facebook (I am hardly on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc) for a certain length of time and see the effects. But a lot of information on writing, contests etc have come to me through Facebook, which I do not want to miss out on. So I decided on a middle path – I have decided to delete the FB app from my phone and log only through laptop. Once I have finished FB-ing, I would switch off the wi-fi and open the word document. Once earlier, I had to go completely off FB due to lack of connectivity and I became accustomed to living without knowing every single detail of others’ lives. I hope to do the same again, this time for the sake of my writing.

I am blogging about it so that it is out in the open; so that I cannot cheat. There, I have said it.


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