I started a Facebook-fast around the the new year (Dec 23, 2017 is the last item I found that I posted). I wrote a blog post about it on March 24, 2018 and now that roughly a year has passed since my last real Facebook activity, I wanted to share an update.
First off, I have to admit that it wasn’t a 100% blockade of Facebook. So let me outline the cheats that occured over the year.
- My wife did tell me about certain things other people had posted on Facebook if they were especially relevant. “Oh, So and So are had a baby” sort of stuff.
- I used Messenger. It was my Dad’s communication medium of choice and several people initiated conversations and group conversations on Messenger which I wasn’t going to ignore. The goal wasn’t to become a hermit, it was to take a break from Facebook. There were also a few people that I didn’t have current contact info on that I used Messenger to contact.
- I responded to people that wished me a Happy Birthday on Facebook. Most just got a “Like” on their well-wishes and on one or two I said something like, “Thanks.”
- I referenced Facebook a few times to get some information I needed. Like, looking up the last time I posted something for writing this blog post or to find someone’s email or phone number.
- I still received birthday reminders via email from Facebook.
- Out of habit, a few times I clicked on the link in the previously mentioned birthday reminders and posted a message on sometime’s timeline. This happened maybe 5 or 10 times throughout the entire year.
The final items could go under the “cheat” heading but I think it was more of a necessity.
- My father passed away this year and I did reach out to a few people via Facebook either to let them know he had passed or to thank them for messages they posted to either myself or my Dad.
- Similarly, a friend of mine from Thailand passed and a mutual friend organized a get together in Bangkok, which I could not attend, but wanted to show my support for.
Other than that, I’ve been pretty Facebook-free.
Has my life changed? Did I see marked improvements in mental cognition? Did it give my skin a radiant glow? Can I leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Mind you, I was never a Facebook power-user to begin with. I wasn’t someone trying to break a 4-hour a day Facebook habit. If I used Facebook 4-hours in a week, that was a lot for me.
But the lack of radical change doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any change. These are the areas where I recognized the greatest impact.
Change #1 Reaching Out More
I reached out to people more. If it was someone’s birthday, I sent them an email or a text or even a message on another social media platform. This, in turn, seems to have resulted in more substantive replies given that my greeting not being on Facebook made it more unique than getting 200 “HBD!” wishes on your Facebook timeline that you can just click “Like” on and acknowledge.
Change #2 Reaching Out Less
I reached out to people less. There were a lot of people that when I went to type that email or text message, I realized that I don’t really feel I need to. If we knew each other in high school and we haven’t spoken since the last reunion, it just didn’t seem worth my or their time to send them a birthday greeting and then forget they exist for another 12 months.
Change #3 Snippets Aren’t Satisfying
I’ve tended towards more long-form content where you can dive deep into a topic. I’m reading more books on my Kindle and listening to more books on Audible. I’ve been trying to consume less snippets, clips, and stuff that acts like informational crack cocaine.
I found that long-form content was much more satisfying than tons and tons of memes and other informational snippets.
Change #4 Quality > Quantity
That also leads to seeking quality over quantity. If you’re going to spend 15 minutes reading an in-depth article or a few hours reading a book, you tend to be more selective about what you read. Whereas with Facebook’s timeline, you’ve already consumed the information before you can even judge the quality.
Change #5 Freed Up Time and Mental Energy
I started tinkering more. Even if you only spend a few hours a week on Facebook, I think the distraction level is even greater than the actual amount of time you spend staring into the screen.
For instance, if you post a photo and that takes you 3 minutes to do, and then you check to see if people have liked or commented on it 10 times over the next 5 hours, spending 1 minute per check, you’ve lost more than the 13 minutes you were staring at the screen posting and checking.
The impulse to keep checking is eating up some portion of your attention the entire 5 hours. You don’t have to be sitting there thinking, “Oh my gawd, I need to check, I need to check” for it to be distracting. All it has to do is sit just behind your conscious level and make you not want to get too engaged in something else lest you get distracted and forget to check again in 30 minutes.
That’s where you get your time back. You’re not getting back 13 minutes of your life. You’re getting back 5 hours that you can spend on something else and be fully engaged in that task.
And I’ve used a lot of that time to get back into tinkering with everything from my Harley to setting up a NAS (network attached storage) server in my house.
Change #6 Less Social Media Overall
As I started noticing the positive aspects of being freed up from Facebook, I also took the time to free up other time that I was spending on Twitter. I’ve locked my account (no new followers) and deleted most of my previous tweets (in case I’m ever asked to host the Oscars).
I created a list on Twitter that is mainly news related and that’s pretty much all I look at. It’s a quick way to scroll through a bunch of headlines and links to interesting articles without getting dragged into the Twitter drama pool.
Well, the point of this experiment was to take a break so I could assess what it would be like without Facebook and I think I’ve accomplished that mission. I have a better understanding of what kind of role I want it to play in my life.
I probably won’t install Facebook back on my phone. I’ll use Facebook on my desktop. Log in, do what I need to do, log out.
I will do another Friend purge. Not sure how extensive it will be but when I do use Facebook, I want that to be a place where I can communicate to people I actually consider friends rather than every person I’ve ever met.
Other than that, probably won’t change much else. I didn’t miss Facebook that much and don’t intend to crank up my usage much other than I’ll quit calling the times I do use Facebook “cheating”.