About a year ago, I decided that Facebook was not contributing much to the quality of my life. In fact, I came to the conclusion that it was actually sucking more out of my life than it was adding, so I decided to simply stop using it. It had become the Anti-Social Network.
I stopped checking Facebook. I pretty much stopped posted. I removed the Facebook app from my phone. I no longer scroll endlessly through all the crap. If I really needed to access Facebook on my phone I did it using Chrome; the mobile browser experience is not as good as the app, so it’s a nice disincentive to use Facebook so often. (It also improved the battery life of my phone, because the Facebook app can be a real battery hog). When I do very occasionally choose to look at Facebook, I consciously try to spend no longer than a few minutes there. And I choose not to “like” everything because I don’t think Facebook needs to gather those signals to feed their algorithm.
I posted the following diatribe to my Facebook page on January 25 last year. I decided to repost it here, almost 12 months later, as a reminder of why I chose to limit my use of this rather invasive and consuming social network.
You may (or may not) have noticed that I barely spend any time on Facebook these days. Today is the first time I’ve logged in for quite a while, and although I have definitely missed hearing what some of you have been up to and keeping up with your goings-on, I have to say I have really not missed “the Facebook experience”.
I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook… I know there can be some great stuff happening there, but I was increasingly finding Facebook as a huge time suck that was stealing more and more hours of my life for very little real return. I, probably like you, have spent far too much of my life liking and commenting on other people’s posts, watching inane videos, or observing some of humanity’s ugliest sides in many of the discussion threads.
I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the whole Facebook experience, so I just decided to stop using it. I know I’ve gotten to that point in the past, where I’ve ranted about it, even deleted my account, etc, but I now realise it was far more about how I used Facebook than Facebook itself. (Although I still have many concerns about the way Facebook does things and the many unethical ways it deals with user data).
I still find Facebook useful as a single sign-on tool for other web services, and that is one reason I have kept my account active. The other reason is you… I am connected to many people here on Facebook, and I consider most of you friends. However, I’ve seen less of most of you over the last few years than ever before, and if that’s what it means to have friends these days, then it’s not enough for me. I’ve fallen into the trap of having friends in online spaces like Facebook at the expense of having friends in actual meetspace.
I have to say that since I have deliberately been avoiding Facebook, I’ve been happier, fitter, healthier, and have spent more time doing more things that I like doing. I’ve read more, exercised more, travelled more, and used some of that time to learn a new language. (In fact, the loading page in Duolingo actually says “15 minutes a day can help you learn a new language, what does 15 minutes on social media give you?”) It turns out that I was spending WAY more than 15 minutes a day on social media, and the truth is I was getting very little back from it.
I know some of you love this place and get great value from it, so good luck to you. Facebook is not all bad and for many of you it helps you remain connected with people you care about. I’m glad it works for you.
For me, it became a case of the more connected I became, the more disconnected I felt. I decided that there is a whole real world out there that is far more interesting and more deserving of my time than Facebook. I’m glad we are friends, and I’m glad that I can stay connected to you in some way, but it will be far less on Facebook. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, I’d much rather you call, or have lunch, or meet for a drink, or go for a walk together, or something…
I still like social media, I just don’t want it to be a permanent proxy for my real life.