You probably have a Facebook account. Or maybe you don’t, and look down upon those who do as lowlives. We all know that Facebook can be slightly addicting and time-consuming once you’re pulled into its web.
Well, I’m not here to lecture you about how horrible it is. It’s okay to have Facebook. I’ve had my account since 2004, when only those who were affiliated with one of four universities were eligible to sign up (I actually waited for quite some time to sign up to make sure it wasn’t just a passing fad). I do like that it makes it easy to keep track of events, and message most of my acquaintances without having to know their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Sometimes there are fun/interesting discussions. I’m not obsessed with keeping up with everyone’s life, but it’s nice to know what’s going on sometimes, especially with my family and close friends all over the world. Besides, I use Facebook to promote my blog posts (such as this one) and my posts on Matchingfreak.
However, recently I’d gotten increasingly worried about the amount of time and brainpower I was spending on checking my newsfeed. Over time, grabbing my phone and opening the Facebook app became something I did automatically, before I even realized I was doing it. And it wasn’t for any of the good reasons to have Facebook that I listed above. Once I became horrified by how often and for how long I was wasting time on Facebook, it took me a few tries to come up with a solid strategy to optimize my Facebook usage without having to resort to deactivating my account. After all, deactivating an account is admitting defeat to yourself, isn’t it?
Here’s the magical recipe that worked for me.
1. Read these two blog posts by Cal Newport: Why I Never Joined Facebook and Why I’m (Still) Not Going to Join Facebook: Four Arguments that Failed to Convince Me. When I read these, I wasn’t necessarily convinced to eliminate Facebook from my life, but it’s some food for thought. Stew on it for a few weeks.
2. Read some tips on How to Quit Smoking. While “internet addiction” is a fairly new concept that people are trying to understand better and it’s not perfectly analogous to substance abuse, some of these tips are translatable. For instance, actively think about what circumstances trigger you to check Facebook, and make note of how you feel after each time you check it.
3. Break the infinite scroll. Check Facebook at such a frequency that it is not fathomable to scroll all the way down to where you left off last time (usually this is 1-2 times a day). It’s kind of like the opposite of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” method. Break the chain!
4. Remove the Facebook icon from your smartphone’s home screen. At first I thought about deleting the app off my phone, but I wanted the convenience for when I “needed” it (e.g. looking up event details while I’m driving to it, emergency messaging people). So I moved the icon to the very last page of my apps. I have to flip through seven screens to get to it. I must say that this step is what worked best, because I’d made it a deeply ingrained habit to check Facebook on my phone. For the first week or so, I had to do a double-take every time I subconsciously tried to tap where the app used to be.
5. Get e-mail notifications. I know, junk mail sucks. But what are the top things that make you paranoid about missing out on something? For me it was Messages and Event invites. So now I get notified when I get those. Everything else can wait.
6. Whenever you are drawn to check Facebook, stare off blankly into space instead. What you need is a mental break. And, really, the latter is far more productive.
In the beginning, when I resolved to decrease my Facebook consumption a few weeks ago, I let myself indulge only once per day for about a half hour. After a week of doing this, I actually forgot to go on Facebook for a few days. Now I spend slightly more time on Twitter, but not as much (a few years ago I broke free of the Twitter addiction by the same “break the chain” method). I’ve been reading more books and getting more sleep. The balance isn’t perfect yet, but I’m definitely going in the right direction. I encourage you all to question your current Facebook habits.