Books, Lifestyle, Social media

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 30

Screen Time | How Screen Time Works

I feel supernatural forces are in motion this year; hell bent on playing with the passage of time.

Only a moment ago I posted an update from day 5 of my social media challenge. Now here I am looking to catch up on my progress log, only to realise I have made it through an entire whirlwind month already. It has passed in the blink of an eye!

To be fair it has been a manic month as I have embarked on the exciting and also stressful journey of moving house.

Thankfully I have just about had time to keep on track with my tally of daily social media hits.

Given the lengthy delay in dishing out the dirt on my social habits, there was potential for this post to transpire as an essay style confession regarding my array of struggles encountered, accompanied with a huge list of social media useage logs.

I’m thrilled to use the word ‘potential’ as the past month has been anything but a disaster.

I can honestly say that my social media exploits have been practically non-existent since my last update. I still have to pinch myself to believe the words I write right now.

Here is an overview of how things have panned out over the past few weeks.

During week two of the challenge, I used Facebook twice for 2 minutes on each occasion, Snapchat once for 1 minute and Instagram once for 1 minute.

Now I could reflect on this with critical eyes, considering how well I had done in week one. The main plus here however is that social media usage has still reduced by about 30%.

Week 3 is where the magic really started to ignite. I only engaged with any form of social media a grand total of 3 times all week. This encompassed 2 minutes spend on Snapchat and 1 minute on Facebook.

I was in full stride during this period of time, fully absorbed into house viewings and mortgage discussions. This meant that even the idea of accessing social media, didn’t cross my thoughts for the most part.

Regrettably as the craziness from previous week simmered down ever so slightly I did regress a little bit in terms of my progress during week 4. I used Snapchat on 3 occasions for about a minute each time and Facebook twice, one of which to wish my grandad a happy birthday. I must admit the birthday thing did get me questioning this odd habit we have developed. Rather than actually saying happy birthday in person why do we feel obliged to send a Facebook message. This is something that may never have occurred to me in previous times.

Anyway this slight relapse just confirmed to me how insidious social media can be and how easy it is to fall back in the habit of having a cheeky check on it every now and then; particularly during times of boredom. This realisation prompted me to delete every social media App downloaded on my phone, with the exception of WhatsApp. And for the past 4 days I haven’t looked back.

In terms of how I’ve been feeling mentally during this whole time, it would be too good to be true to say that I’ve felt a million dollars every day of the week, but yes on the whole I am feeling pretty good. I am starting to no longer feel those strong feeling of envy that were becoming common place before and (if anything) I am actually finding peace in knowing other people are experiencing big moments in their life.

I don’t want to jinx it but I genuinely don’t think that the second half of my challenge will prove to be an almighty battle. I refuse to declare this with any certainty as I am all too aware how powerful the allure of technology can be during times of weakness.

As long as I keep working on my head space and sticking to my guns I’m hopeful this challenge will end in successful and enlightenment.

Regardless of the outcome I’m sure there will be some more twists and turns as I approach the end of this journey and so I’ll try and be on the ball a bit more with the updates from here on in.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits.

Books, Mental Health, Social media, Technology, Teen fiction

See you later social media, time to practice what I preach!

Isn’t it ironic how I created a work of fiction that explores powerful themes on how social media has the potential to cause harm, but yet social media is my main outlet in which I use to promote it?

A bit controversial I know and maybe this makes me a hypocrite? On second thoughts don’t answer that!

In my defence I feel the world we currently live in left me with little choice in this matter if I was serious about reaching my intended target audience.

None of us can seem to live without our trusty platforms and so for months now I have bit the bullet and utilised them more than I should, in spite of my beliefs.

From the start of my self-publishing journey, I have pleaded with myself to approach the book promotion with a military mindset, go in, spread the word and leave. There would be no lingering to snoop on everyone’s latest Insta post or scroll mindlessly through Facebook.

And for a long time, I convinced myself that I was doing just that.

One day however it struck me that book sales had well and truly simmered down and I hadn’t posted any meaningful content of relevance in ages! In spite of this it occurred to me that I was still spending the same amount of time (longer even) on all the usual social media suspects. If I wasn’t promoting my book then what was I doing I hear you ask…?

In truth I’m not entirely sure. Looking back, I think the best way to summarise is, I would almost instinctively go on each platform and scroll mindlessly at content at random intervals throughout the day. At first, I think I assured myself I was doing it as a way in which to build my networks. Maybe at first, I was. But after a while it became clear that the network building had come to a complete halt.

So what is the big deal I hear you ask…?

I felt terrible is what. For months now I have been battling with depression and I’m all but certain social media has a lot to answer for in making me feel this way. 

All things considered I figured it was time to set my own example. I have therefore come up with a challenge to cleanse my soul of social media and keep a daily diary of how I feel to record the experiment.

I figured it would be a cool idea to tie this is to the 1st Anniversary of my book The Invite on 31st October- aka Halloween.

The plan is to undertake a gradual withdrawal of my screen time over the coming months until I reach the stage where I am T-total. Research suggests that this is the best way to obtain a healthy benefit from the online break.  

On September the 6th I will embark on my 2month-long quest which will include a phased approach to my ultimate goal of achieving online freedom. I have created a week-by-week plan, which (fingers crossed) will proceed as follows:

  • First week – Figure out the problem and note down how many times I used a social media platform, detailing which one was used and when
  • Week 2- Try and reduce overall useage by half
  • Week 3 – Delete the platform I use least and try to reduce useage of the others by half again
  • Week 4- Limited social checks to every other day
  • Week 5- ‘Cold turkey’ This will be the time to delete all social media. I will only be keeping chat options such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
  • Weeks 6-8- Remain social media sober

To monitor the impact of my challenge I plan to create a daily diary which will outline the specifics of how I am finding the experience and more importantly, how my mental well-being is being affected.

I will post my daily entry right here on the blog (which will hopefully be the most online interaction I have throughout the 2 months) but will refrain from engaging with any kind of responses my updates may summon.

It is going to be a fascinating and possibly excruciatingly difficult task, so do come back to check out my daily up and downs in just over a week’s time.

In the meantime, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

All that is left to say is, wish me luck!

Books, Dogs, Lockdown, New Fiction, Smartphone, Technology, Teen fiction, Teen Novel

Plodding on with my new pooch

Poppy is an author’s pup

How in god’s name are we approaching May already!?

I find it hard to comprehend how time can whizz by so quickly when we have all been stuck in lockdown for 4 months. Perhaps that is a good thing, who knows. I think the term ‘time flies when you are having fun’ definitely does not apply here!

Not to act up like an angry old goat or anything, but oh my days, has this year been a sack of stale cow dung! I mean the previous (I don’t even know how many) lockdowns were painful, but this one has cut the deepest. I don’t know if everyone else feels the same?

The endless days of bitter cold, working like a robot without any play and simply being made to stare constantly at the same four walls have sucked away my very soul!

Thankfully there has been a shining little light that has helped guide me through the dark times. At the end of January this year, myself and my fiancé decided to extend our little family to three and bought home a 10-week-old Cocker Spaniel, who we named Poppy.

Now don’t judge me for following the lockdown puppy craze. I can assure you the decision was a long and informed one. It just felt right!

I’m ashamed to admit I am not historically a big dog lover; however, the other half had a lovely Labrador which completely changed my perspective on these wonderful creatures.  

The moment we first met Poppy she melted our hearts and we just knew she had to come home with us.

As amazing as the whole experience has been so far, little could have prepared me for the extent in which it would turn our lives upside down. I was offered a fair warning about the commitment, but I figured this was just an exaggeration. It was not!

I have not been blessed with children in my life just yet, but I can imagine having a puppy is comparable to having a baby; except puppies also have sharp teeth and love to bite EVERYTHING!

It is safe to say that it has been an absolute mad house here for the past 3 months. Sleepless nights, multiple toileting accidents, lots of destroyed furniture and one major scare which cost us a hefty vet bill.

The good news is that there has been little time to fester in an ocean of self-pity when there are walks to be taken or military style training to conduct.

The bad news however is that I have had next to no time to reflect on my debut novel The Invite, let alone focus on writing anything new.

Now I have finally had time to breath again, I have decided it is time to get back to the bread and butter. And when I look at the continual avalanche of online hate that plagues us, I think getting the word out there about my teen fiction novel has never been so essential.

Factor in the disturbing figures surrounding mental health in young adults, I almost feel that it is my duty to spread the word far and wide about my fictional interpretation that drills into issues surrounding smartphone addiction.

For those who are yet to read The Invite, this debut novel of mine takes readers on a twisted journey with troubled teen Lindsey Hoodwink who is treated to a night full of virtual horrors that tap into her unhealthy obsession with her smartphone. Let’s just say the boundaries of technology and real life, become unbelievably blurred…

You can get your copy of The Invite now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

To be honest I doubt there will be a better time to pick up a copy, as I have decided to offer my pride and joy for FREE, for the May bank holiday weekend only!  

So now things start to return to normal (majorly touching wood right now!) I plan to keep on with the writing exploits and although I have been somewhat occupied over the past few months, I may have a little new writing project that has been sometime in the making over lockdown…

More details to be revealed soon.

As an end note, I can’t believe this might actually be my last blog before we return to real life. Do I dare the dream? We can but hope!

Chris

Books, New Fiction, Teen Novel

I invite you to join my debut novel adventure

Seeing The Invite on sale for the first time

How on earth has a month passed by already since publishing my first ever novel?!

I mean seriously.

It feels as though I am frozen in continual state of disbelieve at what I finally managed to accomplish. And now that its over it feels surreal.

I’m awful for returning to my amazon account on a regular basis to see how things are going and to simply remind myself that it wasn’t all one big, crazy dream.

I’ve been so caught up in the madness of it all I’ve only just found the time to sit and reflect. This has also been hindered by my long-awaited return to work after my 7-month stint on Furlough.

It is safe to say that it has been a manic month!

On this cold, December night I can at finally cast my mind back to how the book launch unfolded on a night full of trick and treats.

Halloween was the day I decided to deliver the goods. It only seemed fitting as this frightful night of celebration 2 years back was the day I finished the first draft of The Invite. Scary how fast the time has gone.  

Myself and my partner Jenny had a jam-packed day of treats and spooky activities planned for the occasion. I was so excited for the big day but soon after it began this nervous energy began to boil over.

I had created a countdown to the big release for 12pm and it wasn’t long before I felt restless, nervous to ensure that everything ran smoothly for the big moment.

I had little time to dwell on my thoughts though as Jenny had me working like a slave in the kitchen as we prepped a wicked afternoon tea.

In what felt like an eternity (in spite of being busy) the clock eventually informed me that I had 2 minutes to go before the final mission. 

I took off my apron and fired up the laptop.

After a quick social media update, I began to undertake the final steps on Amazon to set my dreams into reality.

After years’ worth of preparation, I only had a few buttons to press, but my mind seemed to have melted like hot butter and it took longer than it should have.

I was finally greeted by the invitation to publish my book to the world and after a mere moment of holding my breath, clicked ‘ok’.

I was rewarded with a message congratulating me on the published work, but my heart quickly sank as the small print said it could take up to 72 hours to appear in the Amazon store.

I had promised excited family and friends they could purchase their copies in a matter of moments and now I was faced with the unbeknown and embarrassing job of updating my prospective customers with news of a delay.

I was furious but did all I could to appease people. Afterall it was only a couple of days added to many month’s of waiting. 

I posted an update on social media and then tried to force the issue from my mind and crack on with the fiendish fun.

After a couple of hours, I couldn’t resist having a cheeky check on Amazon on the off chance that The Invite had bypassed the waiting time and I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was there.

Clear as crystal my book shone out on my screen, patiently waiting for new customers.

Except it hadn’t been waiting at all. I further check on social media confirmed that a couple of people had already bought the thing before I even knew it was on sale!

From here on in the day was a whirlwind of excitement as I shared the news and people embraced my journey to make the event more of a success than I ever could have imagined.

I was pretty much on cloud 9 as evening approached, but this was soon shot down somewhat when Boris spontaneously invaded all of our celebrations with grave news of a second national lockdown.

Even this shoddy news couldn’t break my spirits though and we celebrated with fizz and our afternoon tea. I think this is the first time I have ever been toasted an achievement and it was a humbling moment.

Toasting the release

We then had fun all evening watching scary films, carving pumpkins (mine was Harry Potter themed) and then fancy dress before enjoying our latest zoom quick with the in-laws; Halloween themed of course.  

After what had been the most amazing yet bizarre day, the following days (or weeks in fact) were spent observing all progress and spreading the word before a nervous wait for feedback.

The first finished reader comments came from immediate family and friends who loved it. They could just be being polite, but I welcomed the kind words anyway.

During this time, I was busting a gut back in the office, enduring long days in retraining whilst helping to train a new addition to our team. It was so frustrating when all I wanted to do was shout about my book.  

Even though I couldn’t spend too much time promoting, the feedback has continued to trickle in and I’m ecstatic to state that I still maintain a 5-star feedback rating on Amazon. I can’t thank those of you who have taken the time to download a copy, read it and then leave your constructive comments.  

Now the initial launch is kind of coming to a close I am torn between spreading the word about The Invite some more or starting a new book from an archive of ideas that I have accumulated over the years.

As authors we can’t keep away from the pen for too long, so no doubt I will end up doing both. Looks like 2021 is going to be just as crazy as this one. Hopefully with a little less Covid this time though!

If you haven’t checked out The Invite already, you can grab your copy now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

Books, Lifestyle, Smartphone, Technology

Smarten up on the dark truth

Teenagers chained to their phones

After sharing an update on my new book release, I received a comment online that intrigued me.

It was a suggestion to watch a documentary on Netflix called the Social Dilemma.

I was told it would blow my mind… and it did!

This production was suggested due to a strong overlap of themes to my book release, The Invite.  In my haste to find out exactly what these might be, I decided to watch it that very same evening.

The first thing I noticed is that the documentary was being presented by original employees from tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. I immediately thought this was unusual and so did not expect the content that was to come.  

The whole thing was cleverly done and quickly turned from being light-hearted and conversational to deeply disturbing.

The best way I can surmise this unnerving watch, is as a stark diagnosis and warning about our relationship with social media. The content focussed primarily on the sinister psychological methods of social media technologies to manipulate us, the people. We were educated about the use of clever algorithms that learn our behaviours and exploit them to the achieve the goals of the tech companies.  

The key message was that we are the product and social media companies will do whatever they can to keep us plugged into their pages.  

Without giving too much away, some of the shocking topics discussed included revelations such as how your phone knows what you are looking at, for how long and then feeds you info related to this.  

Scarier still, these algorithms conveniently refrain from showing you content that may contradict the opinions/views that you are being spoon-fed. When you factor in that social media sites do very little to filter out fake news, which in fact often enhances consumer engagement with their sites, it is very easy to see how many of us can develop a warped and extreme view of the world.  

There are various key messages conveyed throughout the short film, but rather than verging any further into spoiler territory, I will zip my lip there and strongly recommend you give it a watch. https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81254224

The more engrossed I got into the documentary the more I realised how the content directly mirrored a lot of the dark themes presented in my own book. When you consider my story is fiction and this is real life, that is a rather terrifying conclusion.   

The warning conveyed on my screen made me realise that the release of my book might actually be the most important thing I ever do and is needed right now!  

Thankfully I can announce that my book is ready to make us all think about online addiction. You can actually order The Invite now by visiting  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

In the interest of objectivity, I should say it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The narrator’s believed that it was never the initial objective of tech companies to brainwash society. Like any other business, they just want to make money. It is just that somewhere along the way, things have got out of control. The key message I guess you could say, is that we need to get it back! 

Books, New Fiction, Teen Novel

Get ready for The Invite!

My debut novel The Invite is just about ready to go and I’m excited to announce that the release date has been confirmed as 31.10.2020, Halloween. 🤩🎉📘🎃

The book will be available as an e-book through Amazon and I will share a link to the page on the day of release.

It is only…

2020-10-31T12:01:00

  days

  hours  minutes  seconds

until

Lindsey’s unbelievable adventure is unleashed to the world

Books, New Fiction, Teen Novel

Trick or treat its time to complete

The journey towards launching my first ever book has been eventful. Just like the virtual reality theme that lies between the pages, anything can and has happened.

When the first sparks of inspiration illuminated my brain with the idea for The Invite, I had no clue what this adventure would have in store and how long it would last.

Now after 4 years of fun and games, I am finally on the verge of being awaken from the long slumber and it feels surreal. In the time that has passed, I have worked at home, fought redundancy, experienced redundancy, battled mental heath issues, started a new job, got offered another job, went back to working from home and then faced many months on Furlough due to the pandemic.

Its safe to say it has been a rollercoaster few years, but through it all The Invite has been a constant fixture, offering me a much-needed focus and escape.

In the several years of development, it is safe to say that my book has been on an adventure of its own too. What started out as a concept for a short story perhaps, has turned out to be more than I could have imagined as characters and content continued to grow and evolve by the day at times.

I started out with a simple message that I wanted to share with the world and as the last couple of years have passed, this message feels stronger and more pertinent than ever. I can’t wait to share it with you!

My baby is now on the cusp of being unleashed to the world and the reality is a bit scary to be honest, but I know the time is finally right for it to spread its wings.  

In my last update I was about to embark on a final proofread and I’m pleased to say that this is now complete. I have since created all the artwork and finalised a blurb, pictured below.

Final designs for The Invite

The only thing left to do is undertake one final read through and then I will reach the final destination.   

In what seems like quite a spooky coincidence, I completed my very first full draft of the book on the Halloween before last and my timing for finishing the whole thing fits rather nicely with the 31st October being a suitable pre-release date.

Some might say that this timing is an ominous omen, but I think there is something quite mystical about the whole thing.

Only time will tell if I’m missing a trick by publishing at this time. One thing I am hopeful of though is that anyone who does pick a copy, will be in for a treat.

I’m excited to announce that my next blog will include full pre-sale details for The Invite. Feel free to follow me below for an instant notification on my next update.