Stepping Away From Facebook

written by Don Albrecht on 2017-12-04

Over the summer I started to notice just how much time I was spending on Facebook. Partly, I think it was my reading of Ben Thompson's Stratechery that made me most acutely aware of it. Facebook capitalizes on attention; it succeeds on mobile by giving you something to do in stray moments. It was there on the train, in the elevator, sometimes even on the toilet. 2 years ago, it was a godsend. Facebook's feed provided me a lifeline when I was trapped in the house and too sick to do much of anything.

But, the drumbeat against social media from researchers has been pretty loud and I've heard it. In short, it seems Social Media is usually a net negative for you as an individual. It encourages a mutant form of keeping up with the Joneses and creates the empty illusion of connection with others. Yet it doesn't provide most of the benefits of true connection. It's shallow and often circumvents deeper conversations.

So mid-summer, I decided to wean myself off of Facebook and I took the simplest first step. I uninstalled the app from my phone. What shocked me, is that this didn't work. Within a few days, I was spending more time on Facebook.com from my desk and I had started visiting the mobile site on the train each day. After a few weeks, I realized I needed to take more drastic action. So, I turned on parental controls on my phone and explicitly blocked facebook. I continued to allow messenger, but this second step seemed to work. I started spending more time chatting with people on my phone, reading, and writing. My incessant news consumption faded away in favor or my morning flash briefing (thank you Alexa) and a quick evening skim of Quartz.

I still consume my RSS feeds every few days, and work to stay on top of tech. After all, that's the Red Queen my career is tethered to. But the net impact on my mental health is tangible. I'm more present, more reflective. The regular writing is definitely good for me and the deeper conversations have really helped me feel grounded and connected in a way the shallow stream of facebookland hasn't. Do I still read facebook, sure! I'm probably skimming it every day or two for a couple of minutes, but I'm looking for the weddings and baby pictures mostly. I don't click on listicles any more and don't really care about food and vacation porn. That's not the point and there isn't really enough of the content I care about to warrant more of my time.