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#PleaseRetweet Everything - Or, Is It Time For A Social Media Detox?


Did you know more people die from taking selfies than from shark attacks? One man even got attacked by a shark while taking the selfie. It didn't put him off taking another snap from his stretcher though. I guess he was thinking about all the potential 'likes' and 'retweets'. Getting bitten by a shark is social media gold; I'm thinking viral.

The question is no longer: "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Rather, it's: If we were at an event but didn't tell everyone on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram ... were we really there?"  

Our obsession with social media and documenting each moment is the theme of my new novel #PleaseRetweet. It's a contemporary, romantic comedy about social media whizz kid, May Sparks, who is employed to look after C-list celebrities' online profiles. Those celebrities who have a tendency to say inappropriate things. 

An ex Big Brother star (who she's definitely not going to sleep with #neversaynever), a disgraced TV presenter (who wants May to sort out his marriage as well as his Twitter account), and a woman who once flashed her boobs on X-factor, are just some of the characters who are going to challenge her to make them look good online. 

The distance between our virtual life and real life was an entertaining topic to explore. After all, who hasn't added a filter to make an Instagram picture look more exotic?  

The great thing about writing a social media heavy novel is, every time I got distracted by my social networks, I would tell myself it was 'research'. If my main character was online all day, then I could be. 

Ha. Research? One minute I was watching a video of a baby elephant chasing some birds (very cute), the next I was taking a quiz to see if based on my answers alone they could work out my age and gender (73 years old and female apparently, so partly right). It's a miracle I got the novel finished with so much research.

Since finishing #PleaseRetweet I've started a new novel three times. When I got to a tough bit I wandered off to my social networks, instead of pushing through. The trouble is it's much easier to post an update about your writing, rather than do the actual writing. Concerned by my lack of concentration and reduced attention span, I decided to do a social media detox for a week to get things back in perspective. 

I deleted my Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone and waited for the world to end. My brain, so accustomed to composing tweets, went on composing automatically. After a few days the internal racket quietened a bit. I enjoyed my week off. I was productive, sociable and my phone battery lasted forever.  When I went back on, I discovered I hadn't lost even one follower. Yes, there were notifications, but many were completely irrelevant updates.  

The experience made me realise how much time I had been wasting mindlessly checking my networks. It made me wonder how much more productive I would be if I regulated my activity online more efficiently.  Up until I did my social media detox, I had thought nanowrimo to be impossible. But maybe it isn't? I'll let you know...

How I see it, social media can be a wonderful tool for building a readership, but what's the point of an audience if it's only to show off you've been to DisneyLand, and never to share news of your new book? 

Take a little break from time to time. Get lost in your writing. I promise you, those lovely readers will be there when you get back.  

N.B Please note, DisneyLand have banned selfie sticks after a man attempted to take a selfie on a roller coaster. 

#PleaseRetweet is published today by Harper Collins (Harper Impulse), and is available in ebook and paperback.  

Emily Benet has written about the benefits of social media for writers for several publications including Mslexia, The New Writer and Publishing Talk. She runs Blogging & Social Networking Workshops and has published a Blogging for Beginners ebook guide. She blogs here, tweets as @EmilyBenet and you can find her on Facebook here.