Books, Lifestyle, New Fiction, Social media, Teen fiction, Teen Novel

Let’s get Physical

When I first published my debut novel back in the midst of lockdown, it was only ever my intention to unleash my creation to the online world.

Given the strong focus of online interaction and social media, I was certain that my book The Invite was destined only to be enjoyed through the screens of our devices.

After the initial launch I was overwhelmed and humbled by how well my creation was received. Job done then you could say. I achieved everything I could have hoped for and more through my offering as an E-book alone.

However, it was difficult to ignore the many requests from people who longed to purchase my novel in the way novels are meant to be, in the form of a good old-fashioned book.

I did manage it quite well at first and after a while the initial buzz of the Kindle dream started to dwindle and my mind began to pine for new writing endeavours.

However, I was unable to quench the thirst for new projects due to the reoccurring thought that my mission with The Invite was not yet accomplished without the printed article.

I therefore made the call to give the purist’s what they wanted!

After all there is nothing quite like wrapping your hands around a shiny new chunk of literary magic. Just the smell of freshly pressed pages and the slick, glossy and weighty feel of brain food that sits nicely in hand. I have to admit that there is a certain magic about it.

Ok maybe I’m also a purest at heart too.

I therefore embarked on a journey into the unknown in the pursuit of a physical home for my creation.

I’m not going to lie there has been lots of sweat, blood and tears involved in the process, but I’m finally delighted to announce that the finished product is now complete.

For those of you who are not yet familiar with my young adult novel The Invite, the book invites you to join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

So if you are one of the proud people who are loyal to the printed page, I salute you; and you can order your printed copy of The Invite now!

For those who of you who remain a convert to the Kindle way of life and wish to check out my online offering anyway, also on sale for purchase through the link above.

I look forward to you joining Lindsey’s virtual adventure, between both device or through the sheets.  

Books, Lifestyle, New Fiction, Smartphone, Social media, Teen fiction, World Book Day

Reluctantly Back on the Grid

The Social Media Allure

I’ve been away from social media for months now.

What started out as an experiment to practice what I preach in my debut novel The Invite surprisingly evolved into a new way of life.

The initial aim was to progressively reduce my usage over a 3 month period until I reached cold turkey.

Although the process had a few ups and downs it was ultimately a great success. Little did I believe it would strip away all desire to reignite a return to shares, likes and posts though.

What is odd about the decision, is that I’m not really sure why I became so switched off.

Ironically the only logical reasoning I can think of, is that the idea of remerging with an infinite online community seemed quite frankly, effort!

With the decision has come great freedom and a sense of tranquillity. No longer being governed by a reflexive impulse to keep checking my phone for updates or mindlessly scrolling for a 5 second dopamine hit, offered a state of happiness and released shackles I never truly believed I was chained to.

However, a time has now arrived when exciting new updates regarding my novel writing exploits are on the cusp of being unleashed, but my new lifestyle has created a dirty big brick wall to my launch plans.

Like it or not I must face the fact that there is a very slim opportunity to spread the word about my latest offering to the world, without actually engaging with the world. Near everyone lives online now and therefore I must return to their home in order to complete my quest.

And in all honestly, I’m quite daunted by the prospect.

I can say with 100% conviction that my return to social-ality will be more of flying visit rather than a permanent arrangement.

It is my hope that at the end of the journey others may also choose to join me and unplug, even if it is just for a while.

All social media talk aside, your probably thinking hang on a minute, what is the new novel exploit…?

Keep your eyes peeled for my next blog to find out! In the meantime enjoy world book day guys.

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

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Victory is sweet as 2-month mountain is scaled

64 days ago, I made the bold decision to purge myself of all social media and practice what I preach.

Way back when we were still blessed with the last of the summer sun, I found myself in an unhealthy relationship were by I would habitually scroll through various social streams and then develop unnatural feelings of envy at everyone’s picture perfect portrayals of life.

Eventually recognising that this was a problem I decided to do something about it and figured this challenge would help endorse the underlying message conveyed with my teen fiction novel The Invite.

From here I formulated a plan to ween my way off all social media streams and then omit these from my life until Halloween (aka the 1st anniversary of my debut book release).

I am truly thrilled to announce that I have reached the end of this experiment victorious!

There were quite a few occasions that offered the potential for me to slip-up, but I found the determination to maintain good mental health was enough to deter me from caving in during those moments of weakness.

Overall, I found the challenge surprisingly easy, not to come across as egotistical at all. For me it was in those rare moments of boredom or situations where our learned instinct to reach out to the phone for answers, that I came close to undoing my hard work. I’m not ashamed to admit that I did have a moment or 2 where I longed to post some content, purely in longing of attention/ approval from my peers. Thankfully this desire was short lived.

The social media platforms themselves did not make my task any easier in the end, as they resorted to sending me emails which included status updates from friends. This sneaky tactic did not sit right with me at all and just made me more determined to see things through to the conclusion.

As I now look to reflect on the impact this 2 month plus curb has had on me, the best way I can describe it, is a feeling of liberation.

When I cast my mind back to August, the thought I how I used to use social media now seems exhausting. My mind is no longer overwhelmed with constant information and a weight of expectation I felt is starting to dilute.

As I have mentioned in previous updates, this challenge has not been the miracle cure to feelings of depression at the complexity of life’s challenges. However, I would certainly conclude it has massively taken the edge off things.

In fact, I have found the cleanse so rewarding that I am yet to reactivate any of my social media accounts as yet. I don’t feel the need.

I would recommend a social media cleanse to anyone.

For those who are yet to read up about my recent 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. 

To mark the end of my challenge and the 1-year anniversary of The Invite I have some exciting news! All will be revealed in the next few weeks, so watch this space for updates …

Lifestyle, Mental Health, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 3

After yesterday’s myriad of mind games, I feel like today has been much more straight forward in terms of my emotional response to this social media cleanse.

The great news is that I have managed to build once again on yesterday’s success and in fact only used social media once all day!

In my wildest predictions I would not have expected myself to curb the habit to such an extent at this very early stage.

Oh I do hope the whole 2 months will continue in this vain.

The one time I did use social media, it was a quick 1 minute check on Facebook. I was immediately greeted once more with the social media post that has annoyed me all week and so I went straight to refresh the newsfeed wheel of fortune which decided I would like to read about a burned out car instead. How lovely.

It is worth mentioning at this stage that my partner is a bit sceptical about my methodology for this challenge.

She believes I should go cold turkey from the offset and she also doesn’t believe that I should keep Direct Message platforms such as WhatsApp available for usage.

She even believes that using my blog to post updates is in fact using social media and therefore contradicting what I am trying to achieve.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and my other half doesn’t hold back with her opinions I can tell you that much for sure.

Perhaps her observations are valid to some extent and maybe this is why I have found things rather easy so far. It is difficult to say.

In spite of this I will continue on with the same plan, but I am now contemplating whether to up the anti for the final few weeks of the challenge and simply ghost any and all online avenues until I reach the end.

Maybe I could go as far as chucking my phone out and communicating via barn owl. Who knows?

All I know is I’m feeling good at the moment and hopefully this will be a feeling that grows as the challenge goes on. Only time will tell.

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. 

Lifestyle, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 2

Success is Relative. I would like to think that all humans… | by Mitch  Massman | Live Your Life On Purpose | Medium

So, I breezed through my first day of cutting out social media yesterday and this injected me with confidence as I prepared for day 2.

All things considered my second day was another great success. Looking back at my log, I can see that I did in fact access social media one time less than yesterday which I’m ecstatic about.

I should note however that not everything was as rosy as it sounds. I experienced a strange complex whereby I found myself instinctively reaching for my phone in search of social media but then stopping myself before deciding to click on the App. Sounds like a good thing right? Maybe it is, but the problem here I feel is that this prevention tactic is actually preventing me from getting a clear picture of my social media habits. It has also meant that the few times I actually did access social media, it was accompanied with feelings of guilt and shame for some bizarre reason. 

Perhaps this is just helping me to achieve my full social media blackout more quickly? I do hope so.

Worse still the very few times I did access social media, I was displayed with the same update from an individual that filled me with anger and sadness. I felt as though Facebook knew that the post hit a nerve and decided to keep throwing it in my direction.

I feel all of this emotion is making me more determined to get rid of the damn platforms as quickly as I can, which is surely a good thing.

Another interesting conclusion I found from today is that I felt less likely to use social media as I knew it would involve making a log of it, which I simply could not be bothered to do.

Maybe I have just been overthinking things with the challenge today and hopefully tomorrow will be less tubulous and even more of a success.

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!

Mental Health, Pandemic, Social media, Technology, Teen fiction, Uncategorized

What social media doesn’t show

I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps just recently. I mean who hasn’t?

We are all still feeling the shock waves of the COVID crisis and I’m sure we will do for years to come. Naturally this might be what is causing my mood management trouble.

After all we have lost out on so much fun and a very real question mark remains over how life will be post June.

In an effort to combat my bouts of depression I took some time to really consider what might be the root cause of my suffering.

Although there was no immediate light bulb moment, in the few days that followed I couldn’t help but notice my mood seemed to take a nose dive after each and every session on a social media platform.

Although I have a lot going for myself right now, I happen to be at that awkward stage in life, where everything is in question. As a 31-year-old engaged (but not yet married man) with no children of my own, it is clear that I am becoming more of a minority as increasing numbers of people my age have now crossed that bridge. In my rational and not usually envious mind I am able to make peace with this fact and focus on what is happening in my own life rather than compare with others.

That is however until I take one innocent scroll through social media and for some reason my head becomes awash with feelings of pressure, envy and to be brutally honest, anger. Every single post I set eyes on has pictures of people parading their new born babies or bragging about how amazing married life is; and for some reason this triggers me.

The bombardment of content is so overwhelming it often results in me now throwing my phone aside. I can’t imagine the soul sucking tech giants anticipated that happening when they chose to cast their bait at me.

The problem I have though, is that I always end up coming back. This is unfortunately an outcome I’m sure that big tech giants evidently do bank on time after time.

Since recognising this effect social media has on me, I have had several conversations with people close to me, during which an unsettling conclusion was reached.

People only post stuff on social media that they want people to see! Furthermore, social media platforms only show you stuff that they want you to see. When you consider that we all have this tendency to fabricate how we really feel and paint a picture-perfect vision of how we think our lives should be, is it any wonder we fight to exceed expectations all the time? If we maximise this perfect vision by let us say 500 Facebook friends and imagine that there is an algorithm somewhere spoon feeding you this stuff for a reaction, is it any wonder that it is driving me (and all of us perhaps) to despair?

Think about it this way, how many posts do you see from people announcing the death of a family member, a failed IVF attempt or details of a violent relationship? Ok perhaps there are a brave handful of individuals who might do us. Perhaps that adds a fraction of perspective. It is sad to think in reality though, people who post about the bad stuff are often ridiculed as attention seekers, even if people do not openly admit it to their faces.

Think also about all those people who are unlucky in love, have crippling health or mental health problems or might not even be able to afford the luxury of social media due to extreme poverty?

Just because it appears as though everyone online is living the life of riley; it is quite simply NOT TRUE.

Let us not forget either that people rarely post pictures in the middle of the night when their teething baby quite simply will not stop crying or when a couple’s happy marriage is tainted by one or both having been unfaithful.   

I know this also sounds rather sinister of me. And I Just to clarify I am not one of these sick individuals who gets a thrill off the misfortune of others; far from it. The issue I have is more due to the fact there is little to no platform in which to relate and empathise with others on social media. This for me is a critical factor in helping to maintain our well-being.

Before I get berated by all the families I’m friends with online too, I also want to make clear that I have nothing against you and your children. I’m sure you all have wonderful families and that is great.

I think this crisis has come about partly by accident and partly by the sheer greed of the tech companies.

I don’t think any of us really think before we post a nice-looking picture. Maybe some of us do so out of vanity, but that is a separate issue in itself. It is hard for us to grasp the concept that our little mark on the world can actually have a negative impact on someone else. It is a deep thought to consider when you are in the moment.

I think the biggest issue of all in regards to the potential for harm from social media is that most of us simply do not realise that it is these very platforms that are causing us harm.

Therefore if this blog helps just one person to give a thought to how social media might be affecting their mental health (and that of others in fact) that for me is a start.

As many of you may know, my feelings towards smartphones and social media addiction are well documented in my debut novel The Invite, aimed at young adults everywhere. If you found my insights above of interest and you haven’t read my book already, you can grab your copy now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

I think at some point, big tech firms need to take some accountability, but in the meantime we are on our own, swimming in unchartered waters. Let us all help each other, rather than letting some of us sink.

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