Today I received a letter from a webcomicker who wanted to know what I thought about twitter, etc. He’s not getting what he wants out of it, and feels it’s sucking time away from work. Also, every day he reads something that pisses him off and distracts him. He wants to know if creators really must keep a web presence to be taken seriously by fans and pros.
I feel his pain.
Here’s my response, with some clarifications for my blog readers.
I struggle with the same things you do. In fact, there are days I have my family come and take my ethernet cord away.
I’m afraid we can’t do without social media and be pros these days, because the fans don’t seem to notice you if you are off the grid for even a short time. I stopped blogging regularly, and switched to three day a week posting on my website. My traffic plummeted. I couldn’t believe how much impact it had. So yes, it makes a difference.
On the other hand, if you get caught up in the dramas, and you don’t regulate your time, social media will just suck the life right out of you.
My advice is to stick to a strict time limit (which I also have trouble with) and avoid ANYTHING that upsets you or blocks you. Really, there is no subject online that is entitled to your time, unless it’s the zombie apocalypse, and if you’re tweeting in the middle of that, you’ll be eaten, so you deserve to die.
You have to be focused, disciplined and selective about your attention online.
I say this as someone who is struggling with this same thing. A lot.
I noticed a huge difference when I went to Australia and New Zealand this fall, and was not on my twitter, facebook or the blog regularly. I was charged as much as $1 per minute for internet service, so you understand my need to cut it short.
After just a few weeks, even though my webcomic was still posted day after day, my traffic in all areas dropped like a stone and has yet to recover. I experienced a 2/3 drop in overall web traffic.
I don’t think this has had any impact on my core audience. I am not entirely certain about sales, because I had a sale in February that went very well, but I took most of my product out of my shop shortly after due to time constraints. Mail order can be really time consuming, and drawing wasn’t getting done. So, I can’t run a real comparison against last year.
Also, even though the online sales were really good over the last twelve months, the impact on my work output as an artist dropped the more time I spent online. For about 5 months last year, I was really doing well (much better than 2006-2008, which were pretty bad, but at least I had the excuse of illness) but I see a marked drop in my ability to concentrate and be productive as an artist as I tweet and FB and blog.
For me, it is not as simple as just turning off the internet. That’s the easy advice. It’s like telling someone not to twist their hair or pick a scab.
When I am not around the internet I do not miss it. But in my office, I’ve developed terrible work habits, and I know I check my email and all that crap way too much. If something upsets me, I stay upset all day. I need a very quiet, peaceful environment for work, and the internet brings a lot that isn’t peaceful. I turn my attention to things that aren’t productive.
The solution is self discipline, but I used to be the most disciplined person I know. Of course, if I was disciplined before, I can be disciplined again. I’m doing a piss poor job of it right now, though.
If someone like me, who used to get two hours exercise a day and draw fourteen hours a stretch, can turn into a web surfing junkie, it can happen to anybody. And this transformation has just been in the last few years. It may be due to living in an isolated rural area, but I know I had periods of bad web habits when I lived in the city. I was just a lot better at snapping out of it. I know part of this is also related to anxiety issues I’ve dealt with for a very long time, too.
I find web surfing can not only relieve anxiety, it can cause a lot of it. I have not found the right balance, yet.
I am working on it.
I firmly believe almost no creative person can afford to go without staying in regular touch with their audience. I was shocked by how much my traffic plummeted after only about two months of light blogging and not doing much twitter.
On the other hand, I got a hell of a lot of drawing done. And I want that back.