If social media has you down, here’s a guide to slowly but surely walk away, temporarily or for good.
There’s a lot of different types of social media out there. Whether you’re into the image sharing at Instagram, the pithy textual tweets of Twitter, or the uber-networking of everything social at Facebook, they’re all more popular than ever.
But they are also under fire as much they’ve ever been. Do you realize that the first “Quit Facebook Day” was held almost five years ago? The social network was barely out of diapers at that point, and the backlash had already begun. Today, Facebook is the whipping boy of all things wrong with social networking, and maybe for good reason. But it doesn’t matter what network you’re into: when it takes over your life, it’s not a good thing.
Here’s my dirty little secret—about the same time that Quit Facebook Day was commencing, I realized I had a big problem with Twitter. I was following fewer than 200 people, maybe half of whom actively updated—but I was utterly obsessed with never, ever missing a single tweet. I had third-party Twitter apps on my phone, desktop apps running on the side of the screen, SMS alerts, email alerts, you name it. If someone said something clever with 140 characters, I had to know.
Then, one day, I didn’t. Well, I did…but the amount of work I wasn’t getting done, and the number of real-life friends I was ignoring wasn’t worth that. I had to do something radical. So, I cut myself off.
I didn’t miss out on anything world-shaking, the globe kept on spinning. Eventually, it felt utterly normal to not be on Twitter all the time.
These days however, I have the same problem with Facebook—and at least there, I actually know most of the people.
So, knowing I have a radical chance coming, I analyzed why it’s a problem, why it’s not that big a deal to take care of it, and best of all, the steps it takes to go off social networking, either piecemeal or cold turkey.
Why quit Social Media?
There was a time when we were all getting conditioned to think of our social standing online as our self worth. Remember Klout? In 2012, we reported that there were employers actually hiring based on people’s Klout score. Nowadays, that particular form of whuffie doesn’t appear to be a factor for most tech jobs, or have much going on period—but still, we persist in constantly engaging in the social.
Let’s face it, this is really all about Facebook, so I’m just going to write Facebook here. But the basics apply to any social-networking service, be it Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vine, Tumblr, etc. (Maybe not Google+, since no one’s there.)
If you need reasons to quit, here’s a few. And they’re not nonsense, like those paranoid calls to action you see bandied about on your mom and dad’s timeline, where hoaxes are such an issue that Facebook is now issuing warnings about them. (For more on that, check out 10 Huge Hoaxes That Fooled Facebook.)
You probably check Facebook a few times a day. Assuming you don’t fall down the rabid rabbit hole of reading status updates, clicking to see more, then updating your own, it might only be five minutes. If you do that every hour of an eight-hour workday, that’s 40 minutes. In a five-day week, that’s 3.33 hours. In a year, that’s 7.2 full days. If you’ve been on Facebook since 2007, that’s about 7 ENTIRE WEEKS. Almost two months of your life gone—at minimum. Because you know you’re spending more time than 40 minutes a day on the Facebook.
That said, if you’re honest with yourself, you know better than anyone if Facebook has become a monumental time-suck that is ruining your productivity and social activity.
Tracking every like (and more)
Facebook isn’t altruistic. It’s a corporation that is beholden to shareholders to make money. And it makes a lot of it (north of $3.2 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2014 alone, for example). It does that by selling not just advertising that you have to see (and there’s plenty of that) but also selling you. Facebook is tracking everything you do on the service—if you “like” something, it knows, and it shares, and it makes cash with that sharing of info.
You can’t trust them
If you think all that stuff in your profile you’ve marked as “private” is private from Facebook itself, we have several bridges around Manhattan to sell you. Cheap. Facebook will, of course, use that info to better target ads, at the very least. But it’s also manipulating users in other ways. Remember the emotional manipulation scandal last year? It’s just a minor thing—but emblematic of what Facebook can and will do in the future if it continues to be so all-encompassing.
It’s not helping you
How does it really make you feel as the voyeur to all those status updates? It’s been described by some as a “bad reality show” that’s on 24/7. Worse, it’s not real connection or real engagement with other people. You can update all you want, even if every single person you know is on Facebook—you’re still going to have that conversation that goes like this:
Them: “Hey, what have you been up to?”
You: “Didn’t you see my status update?”
Them: “No, I was out doing stuff. In the real world. With people.”
That’s assuming you even still communicate with people in the real world.
If you don’t believe, there’s a study on “social comparison” (where people compare their lives to the updates they see online from others) and overall, being on social networks apparently just makes people feel bad about their lives. (Another way to look at it: obviously it’s better to be sharing than to be shared with.)
Another way to consider if Facebook is helping you—Akshat Rathi at the The Health Care Blog asked the question, “Out of the approximately 10,000 status updates, links or photos that you have accessed on Facebook in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business.” Consuming things (posts) that are “new,” it turns out, is easier than consuming something truly relevant. He also says Facebook acts like a drug, inhibits creativity, increases cognitive errors, and is literally toxic for your body.
Look, there are worse vices than Facebook, certainly. But I can’t get you into a 12-step program, this isn’t an intervention, you don’t even need rehab (probably)—this is just to assist you in self-awareness. You may be able to take back a lot of your life by reducing, even eliminating, Facebook from your routine.
The question for the addicted is…how? How to quit social media?
Here are a set of steps you can take that will slowly move you from dependent to free when it comes to Facebook (or any social network; adjust accordingly).
Track your usage
Chances are you don’t have any idea how much time you spend on Facebook. If you’re mainly using it via the desktop, you can check how often you log in using programs like TimeRabbit (free, Windows) or Facebook Runner (free, multi-browser extension). On Android, you can use the App Usage Tracker (free). If it’s worse than the U.S. national average—40 minutes per day on Facebook, a number BusinessWeek called “higher than the amount of time spent on pet care” —it’s time to consider further steps.
Eliminate gas bags
We all have friends on Facebook we shouldn’t. Negative, irritating, annoying, or worse, totally banal. This is the time to be rid of them.
You can unfriend if you want, but you also have the option to block them. They won’t know. You can still be “friends” while avoiding their boring, disgusting, or irksome posts. Do that with 50 percent of your friends list, and Facebook may almost become useful again. (But probably not.)
Take a sabbatical
Walk away from the service cold turkey for just a short amount of time. Try a day, or three, or a week. At the very least, try it for the 8 to 12 hours you’re at work. Don’t make a big deal out of it, announcing it on your timeline and so forth. This isn’t supposed to be about you looking for attention, show-boater. Just walk away for a little while.
Keep careful track of what happens next. It’s almost guaranteed to be absolutely nothing. You won’t have friends who are angry with you, they won’t have left you in a huff, you probably didn’t miss out an invite to the biggest party of the year. (If you did: your real-life friends suck.)
Turn off notifications
If you can’t walk away under your own power, put technology to work. Head into your Facebook settings and turn off all the notifications you get. No more emails, SMS messages, beeps and boops, little red badges, banners on your phone’s lock screens, etc. In other words, don’t make it possible for Facebook to reach out to you. It might blow up in your face, so to speak—without notifications of communication from others about your every status/comment/like, you might check it twice as much. But if they’re the bait you always take, shut ’em down.
Block Facebook entirely
There are lots of ways to block Facebook. You can go into your home router, find the domain filter option (every router is different), and make sure that “facebook.com” isn’t allowed. Parental Control software can also do the trick. Give your significant other the password so you don’t get around the block like your kids always do. (This won’t work on mobile apps.)
On mobile devices like iPhone and Android handsets, it’s a little harder—you have to have the discipline to not use the app. Even if you do have that inner strength, it’s still possible to call up the service on the mobile browser. Thankfully, since iOS 7, there’s been built-in website blocking features. Go to Settings>General>Restrictions and turn it on. Scroll down to Websites, and you can turn off access to specific sites. Again, let someone else have control of the passcode and you’ll be Facebook free. On Android, try the app Focus Lock—it makes it easy to block specific apps for specific amounts of time.
Time to get truly proactive. If you’re ready to give Facebook a nice, long break instantaneously, deactivate your account. It couldn’t be easier. On the desktop, just go into Settings from the upper right drop-down menu, click Security, and you’ll see “Deactivate My Account” link at the bottom. (Here’s a direct link to use while logged in.) Facebook doesn’t take this lightly—it’ll do whatever it can to keep you around, even some emotional blackmail about much your friends will miss you.
The thing to keep in mind: “Deactivation” is not the same as leaving Facebook forever and ever. Your timeline will disappear, you won’t have access to the site or your account via mobile apps, friends can’t post or contact you, you’ll lose access to all those third-party services that use (or require) Facebook for login—but Facebook doesn’t delete the account. You can reactivate it later. (Just in case, you should download a copy your data on Facebook—posts, photos, videos, etc. —from the settings menu (under “General”).
The nuke-u-lar option
To fully delete an account, go to the Delete My Account page. Just be aware that, per the Facebook data use policy, “after you remove information from your profile or delete your account, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere to the extent it has been shared with others, it was otherwise distributed pursuant to your privacy settings, or it was copied or stored by other users.” Translation: if you wrote a comment on a friend’s status update or photo, it will remain even after you delete your own profile.
But that won’t matter to you. You’re free my friend. Free. With all the time in the world to tweet about what you’re binge watching on Netflix
(article by E.Griffith)