A year without Facebook

A year without Facebook

One year ago, I quit Facebook.

It was driving me mad and I had to do something about it.  A year later, it’s time to draw some conclusions.

On April 29, 2013, I sent a message to all my friends on Facebook, telling them that I’d not be on Facebook in the foreseeable future and that they could still reach me via email or phone. The reactions surprised me. I got several emails asking what was wrong as if I’d been terminally ill or something.

I had to explain that I didn’t have cancer, only Facebook had become too much of a distraction. More than that, it became an addiction to be honest. I kept going back and checking the news feed. I didn’t even take most of it in, it just became the default thing to do in between tasks and, more and more frequently, I’d do it in the middle of something too. It was as if I’d been under some sort of spell and I wasn’t really in control of my actions, at least as far as Facebook was concerned.

So after sending out that message, I unfriended my 700+ friends one by one and unliked all the pages I was following.

So what was my year without Facebook like?

Truth be told, I didn’t stay entirely away from Facebook. I couldn’t delete my account as I needed it for work. I resorted to communication on Facebook a few times when there was no other way and also hit the like button accidentally. But whenever my autopilot took me back, my news feed was like virgin snow. There was nothing to see there, so I stopped going back after a while.

Initially, it was really hard and I didn’t know what to do with all the time I suddenly had on my hands. I quickly found substitutes to waste it. I started reading more news and checking email every 10 minutes. But I soon corrected and limited both of these to a reasonable amount.

It took weeks after quitting Facebook for a distinct peace of mind to set in. But when it did, it felt as if my mind had been decluttered and now there was only space and tidiness.

My productivity has increased a great deal. I have been able to focus on a single task again without an urge to get some sort of instant gratification every ten minutes.

My social life wasn’t affected much. If anything, it improved as I’ve had more time to spend with close friends. I’ve also been quite happy not to have heard of some people.

If you have any friends on Facebook that you only hear from on Facebook even though you live in the same city, unfriend them today. Your life will get better in an instant, I promise.

I’m sure I missed a lot of parties and all sorts of events that were announced on Facebook exclusively. But I don’t know what I missed so it feels like I didn’t miss anything at all.

Staying away from Facebook helped me understand the nature of human relationships a little better. I don’t cling anymore. Some friendships get stronger over time, but most don’t. They just fade away. And that’s perfectly fine.

It’s all about who you know these days isn’t it? Yes. But knowing somebody doesn’t equal to having them as friends on Facebook. Also, I’d like to see the Facebook message you send to someone you were close with one day, but haven’t spoken to for 10 years.

But enough of Facebook bashing.

Why I’m still going back after a year without Facebook

Here is the thing.

I’ve realised that the problem wasn’t with Facebook, it was with me and how I used it.

Some things are just plain bad for you. Others can serve you well if used in a smart way and in moderation. I think Facebook belongs to this second category.

There is also a practical reason. Everyone is on the freaking thing. I’ve met so many people in the past 12 months. I had to explain to all of them why I wasn’t on Facebook, which made me look like a weirdo. When I told them I didn’t have Viber and Whatsapp either, and not even a smart phone, most of them thought I was living in a cave. Not that that bothers me, but not being on the same platform everyone else is is simply not practical.

I’d be mad to go back to my old habits and let my addiction develop again though. I have to make sure that while I can take advantage of the positive side of Facebook, I create a safety mechanism that won’t allow me to go back to my old ways, even if I wanted to. So here is how I’m going to use Facebook in the future.

  • I will keep the option to add me as a friend disabled.
  • I will only add people I also see in person or would see them if it wasn’t for geographical distance.
  • I will only like a maximum of 10 pages at any given time.
  • I will limit checking messages and news feed to twice a day.
  • If I catch myself going back more frequently, I will disable the news feed entirely and only use Facebook for messaging.

I think Facebook had been great as long as it was just that: a book of faces. A place where you could easily find and reach people. Much like a phone book, only better, because it added faces to names. But that wasn’t good enough for profits. Consumption had to be introduced into the model so that people would go back for more and more.

Before the news feed, the time you spent creating content on Facebook pretty much equaled the time spent consuming content. What the news feed did was it turned Facebook into the new television. Suddenly, you’d read much more stuff than you’d write. Hundreds of millions of people got hooked. Facebook became their primary and often only source of new information.

I’m worried  about all the people who think they are just talking to friends, but actually, they, and their data, have become the product Facebook is selling to advertisers. Which is a legitimate business model, but its inherent problem is that it want’s (and makes) the user spend ever more time using it, taking valuable time away from activities like exercise, reading, making art or face-to-face time with real friends.

I’m not even going into the issue of how what you see on Facebook is decided by some algorithm, and how that might affect what you think about the world. I just want to remind anyone reading this to take a step back sometimes and see why you’re doing what you’re doing and think again whether that’s the best way to spend your time.

I will certainly watch myself carefully and only use Facebook as long as I feel in control.


 

I’d love to hear your perspective! Did you ever catch yourself spending too much time on Facebook? What did you do about it? Also, if you liked this post, feel free to share it on Facebook :)


Like this? Sign up to my private list and never miss another post.

Or follow me on:

RSS Feed
G+
Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 Comments A year without Facebook

  1. Mopsa says:

    I’ve never had a Facebook account, and have no desire to have one – which, of course, is considered quite weird by my friends!
    The thing is, from what I hear and see, people mainly use it to peek into other people’s lives, and to ‘show off’ their one lives (parties, friends, vacations!). The whole concept is very unnatural to me.
    But well, maybe I’m just weird ;P

  2. zsolt says:

    Hi Mopsa,

    I agree that, for many, Facebook has become a sort of “second life”, a parallel and idealized universe, which can be unhealthy in many ways.

    At the same time, to keep in touch with the people I’ve met while travelling, it’s unbeatable.

    If you don’t need it in your life that’s fantastic. I just have to learn to use it in a way that is good for me and not for Facebook.

  3. Sommer says:

    I felt just like you and gave up FB and my 900 “friends”. That was 3 years ago and there’s no way I could go back. This year my smartphone kaputted and I intentionally decided to not replace/fix it, went back to my old dumb phone from 10 years ago. At first I had thoughts that I would get lost without the gps or not be able to look up recipe inspiration while grocery shopping, etc. However I reminded myself that a lot of my life was not technologically connected. My life needs some planning now (like directions and recipes), but it’s not that big of a deal. Life feels slower, relationships seem more intentional and for lack of a better word, deeper. It’s awesome actually. I am also lucky that I don’t need any of it for work (Pilates teacher and studio owner), and I can see how limiting use would be better than becoming a luddite. Kind of. :)

    • Sommer says:

      Oh yes, forgot to mention about keeping in touch with international friends (which took up 90% of my FB friends – I lived abroad and wandered for 10 years, finally coming back to the US when I was 33). About 3 months before closing my account I posted what I would be doing and that I’d love to keep in touch through Skype, email, or face to face, that I’d like to have a deeper connection with friends and not just frivolous updates about my dog or that days beach excursion. People wrote saying they’d email and we’d hang, that they’d visit me, etc. I can tell you that I was sad after the first year I heard from only 4 people, out of 900. But you know what? Those ARE my friends, and I’m fortunate to have them. :)

    • zsolt says:

      Sommer,

      I’m with you on the smartphone 100%. There was a period I didn’t have any kind of phone, after my smart phone was stolen, which taught me some great lessons. It was only a two week period, but the replacement I got is the dumbest phone ever, which I have used once a month for banking.

      You’re lucky that you don’t need any of these gadgets for work…

      • zsolt says:

        I’m also familiar with the 4/900 ratio. I think most people actually believe they have 900 friends. Such an illusion…

        Now that I’ve been “back” to Facebook for a couple of days, I can see how I could never go back to using it as I once did: a convenient source of regular ego boost.

  4. Sandor says:

    I am with you. I am on facebook but lucky if I check it once a week. It is a waste of time. However, LinkedIn is a platform that you will like. Just skip the newsfeed and collect those contacts you want to stay in touch with.

  5. Marcin says:

    Long time I was not engaged so much by reading any article!

    I got my new top model smart phone just recently, and after being amazed for few weeks by its abilities, now i start to get frustrated, how much attention it takes from me. My focus goes away, productivity falls down etc.

    But as you said, we just need to learn how to use these tools. As we can set facebook to view only certain type content, share your content only with selected group, we can kind of create our own facebook.

    And Honestly i feel so much motivated seeing wonderful inspiring quotes from selected peers on my news feed, and news from those i wish to stay in touch. Its a matter of of using the tool wisely.

    Just need to do the same with new smart phone :P if anyone know how to kill it, let me know ;)

    Thank you for your thoughts Zsolt. These definitely will find a place on my wall! :D

    Marcin

    • zsolt says:

      Thanks for your comment Marcin.

      I totally get your problem with the phone, although the short time I had one wasn’t enough for me to get hooked. You might wanna read this for details :)

      Keep up the triathlon and let’s do one together in the summer!