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, New Fiction, Social media, Technology

Social Media Cleanse Diary – 2 Weeks to Go

Incredibly the end is almost in clear sight!

A whole 2 months of my life has been dedicated to the purging of social media and it is with sheer delight to announce that I remain on track to succeed in remaining t-total.

I’d love to predict that I’ll coast towards a triumphant victory in 2 weeks’ time and although everything has unfolded better than I could have envisaged so far, I dare not become complacent.

Once again, I am proud to declare that I am yet to succumb to social media since the 30 day mark; not even for one cheeky check on Facebook.

Although I have found this treacherous challenge easier and more rewarding than I had initially anticipated, I would be lying if I said there has not been instances where I’ve almost slipped up.

As per my previous observations, it is always in those moments of boredom where the urge to kill time kicks in that a strong and almost automatic impulse to check social media invades the thoughts.

Thankfully this hasn’t been too bad to overcome since I deleted all of the social media apps from my phone. This allowed time for rational thought to muscle in.

The other challenge I have found on occasions in previous weeks is a slight annoyance at being unable to utilise social media for some of the usages that are actually of benefit, such as finding out data to assist with my book promotion or to use the Marketplace function on Facebook to help me buy and sell during the process of our house move.

I guess it could be argued that I am now regarding social media for practicalities rather than simply to mindlessly kill time (in most cases). Perhaps this reflects a slight shift in my Psyche?

I guess the killer question at this stage is how do I feel?

Now I have given this thought a lot of consideration over recent days as I would love to say I feel great. Unfortunately, I can’t say this is the case. I think I am perhaps at an awkward stage in my life, a crossroads if you will. But what I can conclude is that I still feel better than I did before I started the challenge. And when I think about how I might have felt if I continued to bash social media during this phase in my life, I can only predict that I would have felt much worse.

I think to truly reap the rewards of not using social media is to give it up for good, or at least for a much longer period of time. And I can honestly say that I would be open to such an undertaking.

Anyway, as my world continues to remain hectic, I think this will be the last social media diary I log before I reach the end.

I’m confident I will manage to stay of the social until then, but make no mistake I will be keeping my wits about me to ensure I remain on the path of riotousness.

Wish me luck and see you at the finish line. 

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!

Climate change, Social media, Teen Novel

The silent victim of our online addiction

In the midst of the lockdown boredom a few weeks back, I resorted to mindlessly flicking through the TV channels when I stumbled across a programme that really grabbed my attention.

It was a Dispatches programme by channel 4 entitled ‘Is Your Online Habit Killing the Planet?’.

The programme title immediately didn’t sit right with me at all. This is because we often regard both elements here as two separate beasts.

Of course, we are well aware about climate change and understand that we need to cut our carbon footprint in order to manager it. We all know about social media too and the impact it can have on our mental health and human behaviour. 

Vary rarely however do you see both these monumental dilemmas latched together in the same context.

I’m sure if we all embarked on a journey into our thoughts, we could summon a bond between the two problems, but I’m sure (as I have done before) the thought could be dusted off as being a trivial one. After all there are much graver concerns such as plane travel and gas guzzling cars, right?

Well after watching this disturbing 30 minutes of information it would seem as though we should all be much more concerned about a momentous problem that we didn’t even know existed.

The bottom line from the watch is that pretty much all of us are motoring through a ton of climate damaging fuel in order to maintain our unhealthy habits with our devices.

What is such a big deal I hear you ask? Surely it can’t be that bad if there are less cars on the road and planes in the sky. Surely just a quick peek on our Instagram every now and then isn’t exactly the crime of the century. And when you consider the improving function of the batteries of smart devices, I pretty much felt the same way.

But here is the thing, apparently it is data storage which is the hidden killer!

It is not necessarily the constant usage of the devices which is necessarily causing the dire situation (although I am sure it doesn’t really help) but it is in fact your online footprint that takes an almighty toll on the earth’s resources.

Every time you stop to take a cheeky selfie or watch a video on Youtube, this data is stored and also activated on mass physical hard drives based in giant storage facilities which are powered day and night to maintain that one innocent little picture or load your favourite music vid.

Apparently, there are literally thousands of these machines, under constant strain to deliver our online demands. As you can now probably guess, these things are not run-on unicorn dust.

The documentary highlighted a few disturbing facts which to be honest blew my mind. The first related to our habits with emails. If anyone is the same as me, then you might receive a stack of emails on a daily basis. 99% of which are probably garbage that you don’t even read. The thing is (again if you’re a bit lazy like me) you probably won’t bother to delete them and stay on top of your inbox.

If I now told you that every single one of those (yet to be deleted) emails is stored on one of these machines that works non-stop 24 hours a day, what would you say? You wouldn’t believe me right. Well according to channel 4, that is exactly what happens. I found myself scrolling like a madman deleting hundreds of emails straight after learning that.

The next fact I learned which actually burst my bubble if I’m honest is that working from home, where we all meeting via zoom these days, may actually produce more greenhouse gas than the car drive into work. This depends on the length of the journey of course and also the amount of individuals on the Zoom call. I must admit this fact made me feel sad, learning that the one good thing to come out the pandemic (less car emissions) is actually not necessarily saving the planet at all.

Now I’ll leave you with this one final fact from the show. Apparently just one average Instagram post by footballer Christiano Ronaldo, uses as much energy as it takes to power 10 houses for a whole year!

You can check out the documentary on demand now @ https://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/on-demand/71182-001?fbclid=IwAR3SJGgfdIEz_a4ybqM9hfS4BivW55Z6S5t_oVRSo7NVxjpmlEg0TBVO1bk

This all sounds very sinister indeed I must admit and I’m sure you will agree. But on a positive note, the solution seems quite clear to me. We just need to stop using our devices 24/7. Let’s switch them off for a few hours. I do wonder how many of you will get straight onto the email accounts after this and start hacking away at the mass of junk. I know I would and obviously did.  

Maybe before reading this you haven’t even considered the amount of smart device usage as being an issue. If not, I do get it. It has become a way of life. But you might want to check out my book The Invite to see if this offers an alternative view on things? It is available to purchase now through Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

Hopefully one day soon when this awful pandemic is over, we can go out and enjoy the real world again. But until then I would just try to remember one thing; make sure you use your smart device but don’t let it use you! Because if you do, it would seem as though it is our earth that pays the price after all.