Pink and Blue Diaries: When Is Social Media a Writing Nutrient, and When Is It Doritos? Take the Social Media Cleanse Challenge with Me and Find Out!

Deborah Siegel gives up the green juice and kicks off a social media cleanse.  


It’s a myth that a writer’s cave is dark, quiet, and Internet free.  When writers are doing research, for instance, we often find ourselves productively toggling between Internet and Word doc.  But most times, let's face it: when we sit down to do our WRITING and instead find ourselves BROWSING, the Intertube is just one big suck.  


This week, as I’ve been clearing decks, I’ve been reading about the consequences of technology overload, which has prompted me to inaugurate the Social Media Cleanse Challenge—a 7-day experiment in being more mindful about my social media usage.  The goal?  Create more white space here in the cave.


Everyone and their sister seem to have a Challenge going on right about now.  I’m inspired by Sharon Salzberg's 28-Day Meditation Challenge, and by Kris Karr’s 21-Day Crazy Sexy Adventure Cleanse (which I actually tried; I made it to Day 3, drinking only green juice, as pictured above, til noon; then I caved).  I’m inspired by thinkers like Gwen Bell (, who looks for the humanity in technology, and by Jeff Vandermeer, author of Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, who encourages creative types to adopt a balanced technology diet.


But I really, really hate diets.  I hate most of all how it's usually women who are going on diets.  Yet it’s an apt word through which to assess our social media consumption.  Sometimes social media is Fluffernut, other times it’s protein or Vitamin C.  It’s up to us to know the difference.  How rarely do we stop to think about it, or contemplate what’s at stake.


What’s at stake, writers?  Why, your WRITING.  Your CREATIVITY.  And that most precious of all commodity, your TIME.


“Balance,” writes Vandermeer, is about “working smarter and more imaginatively for greater creative satisfaction and gain….By simply responding to information that comes to you from conduits, you feel you’re closer to achieving goals.  But there’s the nagging sense behind it all that instead all you’re doing is treading water.  The goal’s still on the horizon, and you’re expending a lot of useless energy.”


Stop treading water and take this Challenge with me.  A quick caveat:  I’m hardly one for abstinence, so any “challenge” I design is going to be gentle and filled with compassion (and probably chocolate).  Sound like your cup of tea? 


Then let’s go.  It’s pretty simple. 


Just 7 rules.  The Challenge will begin on Monday (any Monday, but it you’re reading this now, then Monday February 7, 2011).


Over the next 7 days (beginning Monday):

  1. I pledge to be mindful about my social media consumption. 


  2. I will set aside some time (even just a few minutes, on the subway or while walking to get coffee) to think about which social media outlets feed me and which feel more like a drain.  I will spend less time at social water coolers and more time at nutritious troughs that nourish my writerly soul (like She Writes, doh!).


  3. I will work on letting go of that feeling that I’m missing something, or missing an opportunity to be responsive, if I’m not checking email at my usual pace.  The impulse to check email is rote and reactive.  I can do it less.  People can wait.


  4. Since this isn’t an abstinence thing and since I’m still ambitious, I will concentrate on growing my social media presence this next week on one channel alone. (For this next week, for me, that will be Twitter, because I’m finding it the most useful place to dip into the news stream on topics I track– follow me if you like:


  5. I will cleanse my participation at other channels. (For me that means categorizing my Facebook “friends” by creating a few lists, and adjusting the status update flow so that I’m only seeing updates from the friends and Influencers I really care about following)


  6. I will get outside as much as I can.  The cold, crisp air helps me reset my mind; the stimuli out there are a welcome change from a computer screen.  Along those lines, I will be physically active as much as I can. (For me, that means yoga)


  7. I will forgive myself if I fail at any of the items above.  And I will eat as much chocolate as I like.  (See? I promised you there’d be chocolate.)

If you’d like to commit to this Challenge with me, “sign” the pledge by simply commenting on this post (just saying “count me in” in a comment counts).  There’s something to committing in public.  We can hold each other accountable.  I’m not going to create a group on the site where we can talk about how we’re doing, because, well, that might be antithetical, for some folks, to the Challenge.  But please do feel free to check in here at this post to record your progress, see how others are doing, and shout out some support!


As ever, if you know others you think could benefit, please spread word.  Here’s a tweet:


Take the 7-day Social Media Cleanse Challenge w/ @deborahgirlwpen @shewritesdotcom. Intentionality can set you free.


Feel free to replace my Twitter handle above with your own.


Don’t forget: we start on Monday.  Have a good weekend, ya’ll!  (Go Bears?  Er, oops.)

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  • Rosey Goodman

    Count me in of course but I shall say that this is something I do think about everyday being an inveterate social media can be quite useful in our line of work.

  • Sarah Pinneo

    I'm in!  I too have been limiting my internet usage.  In November I was off the 'net.  I did this again for much of January.  Both months were correspondingly productive.



  • Jane Galer

    Perfect! Although I have to say, shewrites is also part of the problem, too much promotion too little real nuts and bolts interaction. So, count me in!

  • Ann Rodela

    Thanks Deborah!  Well I checked all of my emails, my favorite sites and I am signing off for the rest of the day.  Happy writing! :)

  • Ok, Challenge starts TODAY!  One thing I'm realizing in my attempt to be mindful: I'm fighting the urge to check back here repeatedly for comments -- they're like a "hit".  My mind is painfully aware of that today!


    I support you in letting go of the gif Ann.  Good strategy, and happy writing to YOU!

  • Ann Rodela

    Thanks Deborah! I'm taking this challenge.  I have lost some sleep over this the need to check the email, post a comment.  The feeling of not catching up.  Take a breath, embrace writing.


    You would not believe how I lost time? I tried to post animated .gif  photos and the glitches kept me trying over and over.  I was aware of time slipping through my fingers.  Worrying....ahhh... 

    My solution is to forget about posting an animated .gif.  Just make it as a video...That always works.

    Keep writing and and watch out for the time drains!

    Happy writing! :)

  • I love hearing how some of you are already balancing your social media diet --  Facebook only on Fridays, a Twitter break for a month, etc.  You spur me on.


    I feel like we really can all learn from each other here.  @Patricia and @Kory:  I'd be curious to hear about how these changes affected your writing life. Did you notice a difference, and if so, what?


    @Carolyn: I enjoyed reading your post! And I hear you on not being ready to cut back.  


    Tomorrow starts the Challenge -- I'll check back with ya'll then!

  • Carolyn Barbre

    You are really good at this Deborah. You have just sold She Writers on cutting back on social networking while listing a bunch of links to other sites as well as your own, and no doubt lined up more Twitter followers. This is an excellent sample of self-promotion. My comments are not meant to sound snarky. I hope they are not taken that way. (I hate it when that happens.) 


    I think I just posted a counter argument blog, also using Doritos as a search word on Super Bowl Sunday. It is by following good blogs that I am learning what works. I'm starting to get more hits that I hope will create a platform for my book when its ready. I don't tweet although pretty much everyone says it's important to do so. And I don't spend much time on Facebook because it automatically posts my blog teaser, but I did waste a lot of time there initially. Today most of my e-mail is She Writes posts along with some great blogs, all publishing related.


    Thank you for the uplifting post, even if I don't sign up this time. First I want to try to get as proficient at social networking as you are, truly.

  • Kory Wells

    This is great, very good points, Deborah...coincidentally, I just made a pledge on Risk a Day, where I blog, to stay off Twitter for a month, as it's become one of those things that feels more of a drain than anything. Here's my take on the issue, with a nod to Annie Dillard: How We Spend Our Days: Adjusting My Social Media Balance

  • Patricia Caspers

    I've been doing a version of the media cleanse since the new year. I only allow myself to go on Facebook on Fridays. It's definitely good for my writing, but I've realized how isolated and lonely I am at times. I should probably limit the rest of my online time as well, but maybe I'll wait until the snow melts. Good luck to all of you!

  • Marjorie Robertson

    I'm taking the cleanse! Thanks for this wonderfully written and thoughtful post.

  • Patricia A. McGoldrick

    Deborah, what an intuitive post!

    I feel somewhat more in the balance of things, already!

    Just stepping back from the whole social media aspect gives a perspective

    that writers, need, it seems to me.

    Thanks for the call to take a breather from the internet fury!


    PM_Poet Writer 

  • Rachel Kramer Bussel

    Great post, Deborah. I am definitely a little addicted to my social media, and could use a break too.

  • Amy Wise

    Oh I sooooo needed this push!  I'm on internet overload!  Yes, yes, yes! 

  • Cheers to ye early adapters, below!


    @Cathy: Nooo don't give up She Writes!  (See item #2 above!)  She Writes is, as ever, our all-you-can-eat-healthy-snack buffet.


    Ok, signing off for now, til Sunday.  (I do Saturdays offline.)


    See you all very soon,


  • Christina Weigand

    Sounds fun, my biggest problem is being distracted by email and facebook while I should be writing. Seven days seems doable and maybe I will actually get some work on wip done.

  • Kim Miller

    count me in, and thank you!  Ive used your idea of the writing cave to be more focused about starting a new chapter of my book this month.  looking forward to your next post!

  • Kerina Pharr

    Count me in! Good luck, and god speed...

  • Kierie

    I'm so in! I've been finding that my creative time becomes consumed by checking out interesting link (which may be nutritive but is certainly not moving my story along) and at worst playing bejeweled blitz.

    I'm in for reclaiming my creative time and space!!!