On July 28th, I had one of those big blow out fights with a Facebook friend over politics. It got ugly. I got angry, really angry and ultimately removed that friend from my friends list. I also made an announcement that I’d be leaving Facebook for a while and that the best way to reach me would be by phone or Facebook Messenger — since like a lot of people there are “friends” on my list that I don’t actually have any contact information for and who don’t have my phone number.
I stewed over this event throughout the weekend. The committee in my head told me all sorts of things about this person and all sorts of things about myself. I was stressed out and not handling myself well. I’d lost my serenity. And I was still posting on Facebook. A friend in my 12-step group noticed and mentioned that he’d noticed — in a kind and loving way.
I don’t recall exactly when the conversation happened, but my wife suggested that perhaps, just maybe, I didn’t need to engage in Facebook. Or on Instagram, or on twitter, or read the New York Times daily. Her logic was that these things weren’t really adding value to my life. In fact they were stressing me out and I was not that great to be around.
I committed to reducing my interactions with Facebook. I held that twitter was essential for my recovery — which I believe it is — and that Instagram wasn’t that bad, since it’s only photos and I don’t follow many folks who post memes and such on Instagram. I committed to removing the Facebook application from my phone and tablet, and did so the very next morning.
My Facebook usage has dropped significantly. Whereas I was constantly checking in looking for an update, any update in the past, these days I may check in once or twice a day and I rarely comment. I haven’t gotten into a single argument on Facebook. I have posted only one political post on Facebook in the past month. And I’ve been much more happy as a result.
I believe this is largely because I am more conscious about it. The Facebook experience in mobile safari sucks — which means that I get bored and frustrated with it quickly on the small screen. Since I spend much less time with the laptop than with the phone, I am by default spending much less time on Facebook.
I did not uninstall my Twitter or IG apps from my phone, but anecdotally it seems that my usage dropped along with the drop in usage of Facebook. Twitter’s analytic pages show me that in July I tweeted 449 times, but in August I have only tweeted 303 times (to date). Over the past 28 days, my average number of tweets is down by 15%.
While Instagram doesn’t provide analytic information, I have noticed that it routinely takes me a lot longer to find an image that I’ve already seen in my feed. That’s likely due to the fact that I’ve not checked in as often.
On the news front, I still occasionally check the NY Times and did not uninstall it on my phone. But I’m also not check it as frequently. I think this is in part because I’m not looking for content to send to Facebook but also because I’m not using NY Times to “fact check” the bullshit that comes across my feeds in the form of click-bait.
There are a few ideas that I’ve been mulling over recently:
- If an application is on my phone it becomes easy to use and abuse it. Judiciously removing non-essential applications is a great idea if you feel you’re having trouble with them.
- Disengaging from Facebook has been hugely helpful in my overall happiness.
- Disengaging from Facebook seems to have had an impact on my overall social media usage.
- I haven’t missed much of consequence by not checking in on Facebook regularly.
- Keeping abreast of the news is important, perhaps even essential, but it does not need to be an exercise in social media.
- By not flexing the social media news muscles, one can avoid distasteful rat-hole discussions on social media that are really two sides shouting into the void.
- My social media and news usage really does have addictive qualities — and it’s good to recognize that as well as take action to minimize the addictive nature of these platforms.
- Decreasing my usage is a sort of “recovery” in it’s own right, see item 2 above.
This does not mean that I’ll abandon the platforms completely. They do serve a purpose — indeed there are some very great people who I only know from these platforms. There are folks who use Facebook to keep up with this blog who I otherwise might not connect with. There are also people who, while I may never pick up the phone and call them or ever even see them again, it’s nice to have a loose connection with them. And still, there are people who may not be worth my time and perhaps should be culled from my social media friends lists.
Additionally, there are many applications on the internet that use APIs from these social media sites for login information. That’s a whole other can of worms, but it’s one that I’m willing to accept at this point. I’ve already got too many logins in my password vault.