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Want More Time? Get Rid of The Easiest Way to Spend It

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For the month of May I time-traveled back to 2007, when social media platforms were still just websites you visited. I removed Facebook, Twitter and Reddit from my phone. Throughout the month, if I wanted to use those platforms I had to log in manually at my desk.

This decision came after experiencing a through-the-looking-glass moment while listening to an interview with Tristan Harris, former “design ethicist” at Google. I had always known it was easy to waste time on social media, but I hadn’t quite understood how engineered our social media habits are.

The big services are designed to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities, particularly our need for frequent signals of approval from others: thumbs-up, gold stars and hearts. These small hits of pleasure are enough to keep us checking in early and often, so that our attention can be sold to advertisers. That is the business model. (More here: How Billionaires Stole My Mind

I didn’t want to quit outright, as many people have. I just wanted to get away from the ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. I didn’t want them in my pocket. I didn’t want to find myself swiping through them without having decided to. I wanted them to return to what they used to be: fun websites you may or may not visit on a given day. 

What I learned

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was nothing difficult about not using these services once they were off my phone. I didn’t miss them, but I did find myself, many times a day, taking my phone out and absently swiping through it. This impulse usually came at moments when there was some waiting to do: when food was heating in the microwave, when a friend had departed to the bathroom, or even when a website was loading slowly on my laptop.

By Day 6 my phone had become a much less interesting object. I took it out much less often, and spent little time on it whenever I did. The absent-minded swiping impulse, whenever it still happened, became a reminder to either get to whatever responsibility I was avoiding, to wait mindfully, or to read a book or an article. (I made good use of an app called Pocket, which stores online articles for later reading offline.)

Whenever I did log on to Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit, I found them quite boring, and even kind of repulsive. This is how I put it in my log:

…after taking even a little time away from these platforms, whenever I check in I can’t help but see them as repositories for stray feelings, and energy that we don’t want to spend on anything consequential. They seem like places to go when you’re bored, or when you’re actively avoiding the thing you know you should be doing. I know a lot of this feeling is pure projection—I have certainly used these platforms that way.

Since the experiment began, I’ve felt an abundance of time. Part of this is the 45 or 90 minutes I’m no longer spending frivolously online every day, but it’s mostly that I’m no longer constantly recovering from interruptions. I stay with offline activities for longer stretches, and become immersed in them more easily. An hour seems like a longer unit of time now. (Because I know someone say something if I don’t, I’m aware this phrase “spending time” seems to contradict this recent post, but it doesn’t—its point is that “having/spending time” is a language convention.)

Social media was serving, at least for me, as a sponge that wicks up any stray attention—and with it, time—and then keeps drawing more of both until you consciously break away from it. And of course it does—unlike reading, working, physical activity, or real-life socializing, social media is an activity that takes no effort. It doesn’t require any confidence, resolve, or intention, and doesn’t entail any risk.

Essentially, I had removed the easiest way to spend time from a long list of possibilities, so that all that’s left are activities that require at least a little commitment and resolve. I’m reading more, walking more, socializing more, and working without so much self-prodding. I feel freer than ever to do these things, because there’s no ultra-easy competitor undercutting them. And there’s all this new time.

Facebook knows you have better things to do

It was around Day 9 that the most telling thing happened: Facebook noticed my absence. When you stop posting things, eventually the stream of notifications dries up, because there’s nothing for people to Like or reply to. Typically I would log in and see no notifications, quickly scan my news feed, and close it up.

One day, I was surprised to find a few notifications. My first thought was that somebody commented on, or liked, some old photo or post of mine.

But nobody did. I was being shown a new kind of notification: “Check out Jim’s comment on his photo” or “Jane commented on her status” as though someone else using Facebook is something I ought to be notified about.

These contrived notifications were the “Emperor wears no clothes” moment for me. It became obvious then that Facebook knows its users have better things to do, and quietly hopes they don’t notice how little they get out of it. It knows that most of the value it delivers is on the level of lab-rat food pellets: small, scheduled hits of gratification we’ve learned to expect many times a day. Facebook hasn’t been about its original purpose—keeping in touch with friends we might otherwise drift away from—since the mid-2000s, when:

  • we had many fewer ways to keep in touch
  • Facebook made no money
  • we hadn’t yet discovered that maintaining hundreds of superficial online relationships doesn’t really enrich our lives

“Notification gratification” isn’t all people get out of Facebook, of course—we do want to see our friends’ photos (sometimes), and cute animal videos aren’t unwelcome once they’re playing in front of us. But those things aren’t persistent enough incentives to keep users checking Facebook multiple times a day—it shouldn’t need to be said, but Facebook’s customers aren’t its 1.3 billion daily users, but its five million advertisers. The little number in the red circle is the first place our eyes go when the page loads. It’s the reason we come back so frequently, and the reason advertisers are willing to pay what they do.

Do I really take my phone out of my pocket while I’m waiting in line somewhere because I’m suddenly struck by an urge to see my friend’s vacation photos? No, it’s because I’ve learned that in my pocket there is an ever-renewing promise of a small reward: someone may have mentioned me, or liked something I said. If, after that, I go on to peruse photos and articles and short diatribes, that’s merely incidental.

Even my beloved Instagram is jumping the shark. There are increasingly more ads, and now they’ve begun to jumble up the feed chronologically, so that you see your friends’ posts from throughout the week—a picture from ten minutes ago, then one from six days ago, then one from eight hours ago, and so on. Ostensibly this is for “bringing users the experience they want” even though Instagram’s users unequivocally do not want this and still have no option to turn it off.

What this unwanted change really does is ensure a steadier stream of waiting notifications, as users’ posts are dripped out to followers over the course of a week, instead of spiking immediately and dropping off quickly. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for a billion dollars.

What now?

So social media has kind of lost me, or at least its 2017 version has. I’m not quitting these services, but I remain committed to using them 2007-style: deliberately rather than reactively. I’ll use them to share things I think people will want to see, to get in touch with people when there are no better methods, to send and receive invitations to real-life events, and to see what people are up to when I consciously decide to see what people are up to.

But I’m done using them as an unwitting Pavlovian dog. They’re off my phone for good, I’ve deleted the quick-launch icons in my desktop browser, and I’m prepared to memorize passwords again. In spite of all of Facebook and Twitter’s attempts to make it difficult, I’m going to use them like websites.

***

[If you’re interested in another person’s experience, my friend Cait did a complete social media detox last month too, and had some interesting revelations.]

Photo by vodaphone medien

 

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Jeanette Metz June 12, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Wow, great recap! I love when people do these kind of “experiments” and hearing how things changed for them, especially having more time and feeling present. It is really interesting to think about these things in a time when social media is on the rise more every day. What are we really getting from social media if we are not on the advertising side? Thanks for sharing!

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 8:49 am

I think we’re reaching a critical point, where people are realizing that social media is taking more from them than they’re receiving back, and it will be more common to scale back use.

Barbara June 13, 2017 at 2:22 am

I like not being on the side that does not fit for me. Real lovely place to be.

Anne June 13, 2017 at 2:31 am

Fascinating and challenging, David – thank you. I’ve been aware recently of how I use social media to give myself those “hits” and to drown out any momentary feelings of loneliness or discomfort. Which doesn’t help my continuing seeking of self-knowledge, integrity and wholeness in the way I live. I think I may have to follow suit – and the reluctance I feel to even say that is also very revealing.

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 8:52 am

Facebook and Twitter have succeeded in securing an enormous amount of our attention, but most of it is held only by these streams of tiny “hits” of gratification. It’s not a very good reward for all that time. Taking it them off mobile makes it much easier not to spend so much time.

Heather June 13, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Anne, I think you hit the nail on the head. When I think about drawing back, I cringe at the thought of facing those moments of loneliness and discomfort without this crutch.

The challenge now is to resist the urge to judge myself or others for responding to our loneliness and discomfort this way. Summoning compassion requires more of that intention and energy David helpfully points out that social media doesn’t ask of us. Unlike judging all of us, which, now that I think about it, delivers a pretty similar reward pellet as seeing people have “liked” my posts.

Greg June 13, 2017 at 3:31 am

Useful waste of time: I’ve added the Duolingo app for learning languages on my phone, and now, when in mass transit, I still get “hits” (the app will give a little one-arm bandit like sound when you complete a lesson) but I feel it is useful since I am learning a language. In any case, it is better than playing some game where jewels drop down a screen or liking someone’s post about a dog.

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 8:53 am

Duolingo is a good example of how we can make the easiest activity on our phones a useful one. I am using Pocket for this — if I’m going to turn to my phone to hold my attention, at least I’m reading articles I wouldn’t otherwise get around to.

Vishal June 13, 2017 at 3:56 am

“…. I can’t help but see them as repositories for stray feelings, and energy that we don’t want to spend on anything consequential….. places to go when you’re bored, or when you’re actively avoiding the thing you know you should be doing.”

How true David. I had tried a similar experiment in 2016 with reasonable success. Unfortunately, the lure of social media was too high. I made excuses and reinstalled the apps.

I was shaken up by Tristan Harris’ post on Medium when he equated smartphones with portable slot machines. I’ve turned off all my notifications, but it does little to stop me from opening the apps.

Thank you for this post. I’m gonna uninstall my smartphone apps before you read this comment. I want to live like it’s 2007 too, those good ‘ol days.

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 8:55 am

Uninstalling Facebook, Twitter and Reddit did it all for me. It’s good to have some kind of useful app (I use Pocket) so that when you do turn to your phone for comfort/entertainment you’re at least gaining something of lasting value. Another commenter mentioned duolingo

Rag June 13, 2017 at 9:28 am

What about Instagram? It’s the only social media app I have on the phone since many of its features aren’t accessible in a web browser. (Story and messages)

But since deleting Facebook, Twitter and Reddit off my phone I ALWAYS jump straight to Instagram. :(

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:19 am

I still use instagram. It never took much time, and it never led to distraction for me. I also like that it shows what people are noticing in the world around them, rather than what they’re ruminating about.

Priscilla June 13, 2017 at 4:44 am

Thank you, David, for doing this experiment and documenting it for us. I wasn’t too surprised at your findings until day 9 when the contrived notifications started showing up. I know FB is just trying to make a buck, but that left a bad taste in my mouth. Thanks again, it was informative and helpful.

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 8:57 am

Yeah those notifications were a huge revelation to me. It made it clear how tenuous Facebook’s grip on us really is, and how afraid they are of losing it.

Chris June 13, 2017 at 5:03 am

Yep! My friends don’t get it, but that’s OK. I’d rather be experiencing moments with my kids than on my phone. Definitely not perfect, but actively working on it all the time. Just try to explain that to my grandmother who wants to brag about how awesome her great grandkids are though… my cousins post non-stop… yet my wife and I feel like we are the successful ones and don’t have to get external validation on our ways of life.

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 9:03 am

I have been thinking a lot about the custom of posting “We’re off to the beach!” photos and stuff like that. I don’t want to be judgmental — I don’t know exactly why people post that kind of stuff, but it seems to me like at least some of them are commemorating these activities on Facebook because the activities themselves aren’t as fulfilling as the idea of them is… There’s a certain kind of post, where someone posts something like a picture of a margarita in their hand, pool in the background, with a caption like “Nowhere else I’d rather be!”. This just seems so strange — if it was as satisfying as it’s supposed to be, why broadcast it? There could be a lot of reasons I guess, but I think a lot of people use Facebook to convince themselves they find their lives satisfying.

Joseph June 13, 2017 at 9:27 am

You bring up an interesting point that I have thought of often over the last few years about posting things on Facebook. I believe it is a “keeping up with the Jones'” need to compete with others. To make a declaration that “my life is better than yours.” Facebook, at its best is a highlight reel of life events. I have dug into a few of the more vigorous reels and found that by and large people that posted continual “poolside” updates were the most unhappy (or maybe unfulfilled is a better word). In one case I know a woman who lives in complete contempt of her abusive spouse but constantly has the updates on Facebook of sitting in the sun in a swimsuit, drinking or “throwbacks” to vacations. As if the projected jealousy of others makes up for the day to day nightmare. Those little notifications of approval, right?

Burak June 13, 2017 at 7:38 am

Great! I had quite similar results few years ago. Congrats on your new way of using social media.

And thumps up for using Pocket! Yay! :)

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

Pocket is great

Bob June 13, 2017 at 7:45 am

I still don’t have a Facebook account. As an outsider looking in, the more I hear about Facebook, the more I’m glad I don’t have an account. I keep in touch with people through email and text messages.

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 9:06 am

In its defense, it does do some things email/text doesn’t do well, particularly organizing offline events. But they deliberately make it difficult to use it only for that purpose without developing other habits like scanning your news feed, etc.

The Tepid Tamale June 13, 2017 at 7:52 am

David, thanks for sharing all of this! ‘How Billionaires Stole My Mind’ was really eye opening for me. I have also been using social media sparingly for quite some time now, I did dip into Facebook on the phone, but I am back out, prompted by your challenge! It is something I continually monitor, but right now it mostly brings value, the few friends I still follow are those far away (like Thailand, while I am in the US), and it is a great way for me to follow their journeys. So, with careful use, and I am not good at that yet, it is possible to get some value!

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 9:08 am

Yes, I agree. Facebook is particularly good for keeping track of people you meet traveling, and people who live elsewhere, when a direct pen-pal like relationship isn’t appropriate. Keeping it off mobile is the key I think — all of its “good” purposes can be served without mobile apps.

Mrs. Picky Pincher June 13, 2017 at 7:59 am

What a great experiment! It sucks because I have to keep social media connected to my phone for work, or I’d consider a similar experiment. We did no-TV Tuesdays for a while. Mr. Picky Pincher HATED them, but I thought they were very useful. TV is a time-sucker and you don’t even realize that you’ve spent an hour mindlessly watching something.

There are plenty of hours in the day. We just have to make better choices of how we use them.

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 9:11 am

TV is the original “easiest thing” and it we have been wasting our lives with it since 1950. I haven’t had TV for so long that I’ve forgotten about the role it used to have in my life — removing the “easiest thing” would have to include that too. It’s telling that a culture that complains about having no time watches so much TV.

Ani Castillo June 13, 2017 at 8:49 am

Dear David, as per usual, you’re a genius! haha

I got rid of Facebook 2 years ago, I deleted instagram from my phone around 6 months ago and it felt as if my eyes were opening for the first time in years.

But your idea of logging out from my desktop apps is the best. Just did it today. Another step towards freedom, weeeee!

David Cain June 13, 2017 at 9:12 am

It’s amazing how a tiny bit of resistance (like typing in a password) can make something seem not worthwhile — it sure shows us how much we value it.

Lorraine Beauchamp June 13, 2017 at 9:12 am

The show 60 Minutes just did an investigative piece on this, and it seems that algorithms are training us to be good social media pets! We click, get a dopamine release, click again…. and they have clinically measured the human brain to prove that each time we hear the “ping” of a notification, it releases cortisol into our system as a shot of anxiety. This, to me, constitutes the best reason to avoid these traps – cortisol is a colossally damaging chemical, which contributes to a number of bad results, including Alzheimer’s. So the best thing to do is AT LEAST turn off your notifications, keep the smartphone far away from your habitual reach, and if you can, avoid social media with advertising at all costs. The bots are coming to get us!

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:25 am

A big part of the reason for this experiment was noticing the effect social media (particularly twitter) had on anxiety levels, which I guess is cortisol. When you are flipping through 200 reasons to be angry per minute, what chance to we have *not* to get stressed out? Many people argue that this stress is the cost of “being informed” but I don’t think social media does a great job at informing us in useful ways. Too many sources, too little verification, too many rants and accusations. And when we let this form of information interrupt our days, by way of notifications, we’re causing ourselves huge problems for little gain.

Rebecca K. Horton June 13, 2017 at 9:33 am

David,
Spot on. I’m doing the same as I really need the time I’ve been wasting put to better use. Thanks!

J June 13, 2017 at 10:03 am

Good timing with this post. One thing I *have* found Facebook useful for is support groups (e.g. parenting, etc.). The way to make this work is to unfollow, unlike, or unfriend everyone and every page except your groups — this gives you a blank timeline. Then you can manually select a group (or a friend) and see the posts there when you choose to. I do something similar with Twitter using the “lists” feature. If I follow someone, I mute them and add them to a list — then manually go to the list when I want to see what’s going on. It forces a layer of mindfulness onto these apps and makes them infinitely more useful (and yes, more like websites, as you said). Turn off notifications and add two-step login verification as an extra layer; this allows you to keep the functionality of the apps should you need them.

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:29 am

Groups and events are useful, yes, and as you say they do make you do a fair bit of curation work in order to use those features without running afoul of the others. The news feed seems to be the primary tool for increasing “engagement”. And if you look, the “trending” stories on the sidebar are clearly the stories that are most polarizing, not the ones that are most popular. It’s clearly not set up to allow users to use only the features they want.

Dharm Kaur Khalsa June 13, 2017 at 10:56 am

We are the same we have been since before social media and the internet. The speed and connectivity is now just highlighting what has been there all along. The concept of ‘good old days’ can be a convenient screen from seeing what is happening now.
For example, the habit of swiping indicates an internal dissatisfaction. It is that dissatisfaction that is calling for attention not that it is expressed as swiping. If you stop swiping and checking, then the dissatisfaction will manifest in yet another outward behaviour.

The challenge now is to increase our awareness of what is actually happening. Just as giving up one addiction does not change the addict. They are many dry drunks in AA. This is spawned movements postAA that emphasize ‘thriving’ after addiction vs. only stopping the behaviour.

Are we reading to learn or escape our boredom? Are we meeting up in person to support or share gossip?
When we are awake, then we can act effectively to bring about real change.

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:33 am

> If you stop swiping and checking, then the dissatisfaction will manifest in yet another outward behaviour.

I agree with you, but I think it’s important to recognize that we have quite a bit of control over how easy we make it to fall afoul of our tendencies to cling. There may be no easier way to reinforce the impulse to seek pleasure than to have gratifying smartphone apps at arm’s reach all the time, and getting rid of them makes a significant difference. But I do agree that awareness practice is the only real liberation we’re going to find from this general tendency to seek satisfaction in fleeting things.

Steve Hawkins June 13, 2017 at 11:32 am

I couldn’t agree more with your article. I stopped using Facebook about 4 months ago. I realized that I was in that boat of subconsciously waiting for likes and notifications. What a truly shallow and worthless way to try and find contentment.

When looked at from a critical viewpoint, scrolling my news feed was a colossal waste of time. In general, I would have to scroll through a hundred posts to find one that I truly wanted to see. That doesn’t even count the ads (“sponsored posts”) that relentlessly appear.

I realized that if I died today, probably well less than 5 percent of my Facebook “friends” would come to my funeral. In my months of being absent, only 3 “friends” have noticed that absence and have taken the time to check in with me. That pretty much confirms the shallowness of Facebook relationships.

When I asked myself why I was engaging in this behavior, the answers weren’t there. I couldn’t justify it any longer so I just stopped. Frankly, I haven’t missed it one bit. No more boring, obnoxious, offensive and/or idiotic posts (and ads) to filter through. Dumping Facebook has been one the least regrettable decisions I’ve ever made.

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

Many have argued that online “friendships” can feel like a substitute for real ones, which has the effect of making us lonelier and more isolated, even while we don’t notice how few real connections we have. And even with real-life connections, social media often gets in the way — how often have you been talking to someone and their attention keeps going to their phone?

Cassie June 13, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Loved following this experiment. Wonderful wrap up! I am so sad that my beloved Instagram has changed so much but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise as I spend much less time there now. I have no more apps on my phone for social media and I do try to carry a book with me. If I do pull out my phone I find myself looking through my feedly reading blog posts, like this one :)

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:39 am

Thankfully, Instagram never took much of my time. I check it several times a day, post a picture maybe, and the whole thing takes maybe 4 or 5 minutes. It’s been my favorite platform because most of what people post are photos of things in the world that caught their eye. To me that seems like a much better way of communicating our values than crafting pithy tweets or facebook status rants.

Magicona June 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Thank you for the great article! Made me dig out something I wrote last year and smile once again:

SOCIAL MEDIA
We tweet, youtube and instagram,
We google and facebook,
And stream and download, and spam,
One click – and on the hook.

The net connects so many dots
From place to face to pin,
Socializing on the spot
We chat and stay unseen.

‘How cool that you are on this site,
Amazing, lovely, sweet!
Oh, wait, my schedule’s kinda tight:
I instagram and tweet.’

Ideas, pictures and networks
Communities and blogs-
The virtual world of super beings
That drives the likes and stocks…

Support and share.
Optimize. Format.
Communicate.
Insight providing
Advertise.
Link-in and
Moderate.
Evaluate the product sales,
Discuss the latest social tales.
I love you all, but wait!
A reaL human ‘eye-tO-eye’ has neVer fElt so great!

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:40 am

Haha… I’m a super being in real life, I swear

Marisa June 13, 2017 at 9:48 pm

Really great article David, thank you. I think we all feel that social media manipulates us and ‘steals’ from our lives, yet it can be hard sometimes to see that as clearly as we need to in order to make changes. You’ve brought home all the most important points. I certainly feel better off for having read this, and more resolved than ever to manage my social media involvement healthily.

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:41 am

Good luck with it. The vital thing for me was getting it off my phone. That completely changed my relationship to it.

Jess June 14, 2017 at 2:21 am

Thanks for the inspiration David! I currently only have Messenger on my phone and occasionally I have the Instagram app on my phone too, I run a business so I need to keep tabs on! I don’t have notifications on for any of them so I find myself going in to check if anyone has messaged me – I often think I check way too much! I’ve found that I definitely don’t miss Instagram when I’ve taken it off my phone, I also don’t miss Facebook either. When I re-install Instagram I find myself spending way too much time on this app, I also really dislike all the new sponsored content and I also hate how nothing appears chronologically anymore! When I do want to check it and get my ‘hit’ when I’m on the road I’ll go into Safari and check there. I was thinking about de-activating my account this week but then I reminded myself that I had some events that will be coming up soon (for work purposes) that will be created on Facebook that I need to know about. So I’m going to keep it and give that experiment a go some time down the track.

I’m so aware of my addiction and I often find myself quickly closing down apps or closing down Facebook as I wait for them to load – because I know that I’ve opened them up for the hundredth time that day and it’s an automatic move I’ve made without any conscious thought at all. These social media apps know how narcissistic us human beings are, we love the praise we receive when people like our posts and comment on them.

I’ve downloaded an app for my Mac called Self Control, it allows you to blacklist certain websites for a set period of time – it works a treat, especially when you need to get some serious work done!

Thanks for the post, I love reading about this kind of stuff and reading other peoples comments too. It’s a conversation that really needs to be talked about more!

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

I have done that too — closed FB or twitter while they’re still loading. I think this is a good sign, because it means we’re becoming aware *very* early in the chain of behaviors that this might not be something worth doing just because we have the impulse.

Kristine June 14, 2017 at 3:42 am

This post gave me the little reminder I needed to sign up by email, rather than relying on seeing Raptitude updates whenever I sporadically check facebook.

My phone has been broken for weeks (battery crashes if you do anything for long stretches, but particularly demanding things, and won’t turn back on until you find somewhere to plug it in), and it has been such a blessing in disguise. I’ve had to cut way back on everything if I wish to have a reasonably operative phone people can reach me on if we agree to meet somewhere. It’s back to messages and phonecalls and very little else.

I would like to get a more reliable battery again. But I won’t miss all the other time-wasters.

David Cain June 14, 2017 at 9:50 am

Email is a more direct way to get online stuff you want because it comes right to you, and it doesn’t come embedded it a bunch of other stuff you don’t want.

It’s interesting how happy accidents like your phone’s issues can show us how much better it might be to change some habits.

Kocoanut June 15, 2017 at 4:32 am

I got on facebook for the 1st time recently. (I live in China). It really does suck, then X that by 4? Everything has to be re-posted, twitter, instagram.
Initially, Facebook account setup was to begin a Facebook marketing program to target our niche market of people who are crazy enough to NOT use condoms. But it’s been crazy learning about the social media experience in the USA. It’s baffling for all the reasons you listed in your excellent piece above. ~Koco, Project Jiftip

David Clark June 15, 2017 at 7:01 am

David, social media has its place, but as you’ve stated, we must master it rather than it mastering us. Thanks for your take on this. Very well written.

Tina Willis June 15, 2017 at 7:22 am

Hi David. Thanks for writing an outstanding article. I’ve gone back and forth installing Facebook on my phone, and also use a desktop app called “Cold Turkey.”

First let me share that I highly recommend Cold Turkey for the desktop.
This allows you to set a regular schedule, or a one-time block out timer,
for certain websites. Unlike other similar apps, you can’t simply un-install the extension to get rid of the schedule limit. Your computer truly cannot reach those websites if that’s how you set the program.

Unfortunately, although there is a Cold Turkey phone app, it doesn’t work nearly as well. The phone app shuts down your entire phone for as long as an hour. That’s terrible for a number of reasons, including that you might want to receive phone calls, and this prevents access to apps that you might want to use. I truly wish the phone had an app that would limit access to specific apps for a certain period of time. Does anyone know any developers who might have that talent level? I’d pay good money for that kind of phone app!

I agree that turning the app OFF your phone has a wonderful impact on your life. Unfortunately, some of us use Facebook for business. And one thing you didn’t mention is that the mobile version of Facebook is the only way to access Facebook Live, which just rolled out a new audio feature. (You can access FB Live video via other paid apps on the desktop, but not within FB itself.)

Here’s why that’s a problem for me. FB Live can be used as a business marketing tool. And I’m part of a group of lawyers online who are using FB in just that way. So I have really struggled with how to keep my phone FB time limited to only that use.

Since I haven’t found a phone app, my rudimentary “solution” has been to install and uninstall FB every time I want to use FB Live. I might also eventually rely on my backup plan, which is to have my husband change my FB password, then have him sign me into FB on my phone when I want to use it. That would “protect” me from memorizing my password, then frequently installing or uninstalling to get that fix your discussing.

I believe this is a huge societal problem. Like television, if we aren’t careful, we are going to look back on our lives and realize that we spent them in front of screens, rather than having meaningful experiences.

Hopefully greater realization of the problem will create solutions that allow us to fight back. I’m still waiting on that perfect phone app to come along!

Shehu Sada June 15, 2017 at 7:47 am

I uninstalled the facebook app on my phone months ago, i was fed up with the notifications and distractions. now i have to log in anytime i want to see what is happening.

آموزشگاه زبان کرج June 16, 2017 at 7:18 am

hi
i read this post.
thanks for sharing this post

ساخت اپلیکیشن June 16, 2017 at 7:21 am

great post
thanks for write this
i like it

ساخت اپلیکیشن June 16, 2017 at 7:22 am

hi
i like this
great post.thanks

Adrian June 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm

A very good summary of how social media has taken over our lives and if we are not careful we become addicted to it. Personally, if it was not for the fact that I use Facebook for business, both my own and some clients, I would not use it at all.

Other than commercial reasons most of what else I find on Facebook is not worth the time and effort of scrolling through other peoples items they want to share for whatever reason.

As for Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. I never have bothered with any of these and have no desire to try them out.

Chris I June 17, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Love this article. I’ve been slowly getting off social media platforms one by one, and every time I make a step to do so, I feel my attention sucked by the others. Disbanding completely is the solution to cultivating mindfulness. Thanks again.

William Leslie June 17, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Traveling back from the beach (Lake Como) on a train in Italy. Young Italians packed in, everyone one either looking at a screen or listening with earbuds to something. Since I don’t speak the language I could focus solely on what they were doing, especially how their attention was “grabbed.” The availability of (perhaps addiction to?) constant distractions impressed me with full force. Taking the opportunity for self-reflection or using the time to learn something by deep meaningful reading was nowhere to be seen. Thought of Thomas Merton: “To live a superficial life is to do damage to your soul.”

Abhijeet Kumar June 18, 2017 at 7:40 pm

I deactivated my Facebook account more than a month ago, and I rarely switch on my tv, at most to listen to some music on the youtube app.

Not sure if it was staying away from these media, but I have gone through a tumultuous month. Deep emotional experiences. For a good part of it, I would meditate, watching the sensations in my body. Trying to work with some difficult thoughts and emotions, and actually most of it was not about what was happening outside, but why am I feeling like this?

Eventually sometime last week, I reached this interesting moment while meditating, buzzing in my head, and while the sensations would not go, I felt softened, and since then I have noticed new emotions when interacting with people. It is not ecstatic joy, but ecstatic melancholic happy-sad beautiful something. I still do feel anxiety, and judgments, but something happened in the way I relate to myself and others so that it is all ok and it passes through. Beauty in existence!

Pierre du Plessis June 19, 2017 at 2:44 am

Thanks for this post… I just deleted fb (and extended apps) off my phone… again…

I’m a professional speaker and have been using fb for ‘marketing’, BUT… I realised while reading your article, that I actually get very little (if any work) of of fb…

and IG is annoying at the moment, it is still on my phone… for now.

Veronika G June 19, 2017 at 3:00 am

Dear David,

I am wondering whether I should “like” your article on FB now or not ;-) :-) Just joking. You are right about this, however, I think we should be able to find a golden mean. I think self-discipline is key. We often tend to criticise the apps and media but it is us who are using them. We determine how much time we spend on them, not they. At least that is my opinion.

Keep up the good writing.

Veronika

CK June 19, 2017 at 9:39 am

My wife and I have managed to avoid smartphones. The lure of reddit/facebook is strong enough on our laptops at home. At first people laugh when they see a young couple open up some flip phones, but then the universal follow up is “I miss those”. Then we get to brag about the 2 week battery life.

MrsGixxer June 26, 2017 at 8:15 pm

I decided a while back to take social media off my phone as well. It wasn’t an experiment I just knew the way I used it was becoming unhealthy. I too found that my phone became sort of boring. So now I only check my Facebook a few times a week on my computer. And, it only takes a moment. I have unfollowed everyone on my page that I do not spend actual face to face time with. I never really did get into much of the other social media platforms so now my time online is spent researching or reading.

wendy June 27, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Nice article, good insights – thanks for writing it!

I have never been on FB, their approach to privacy scared me off early on … I always wanted to either TALK to a friend on the phone or send a long form snailmail or emailmail if the time zones & schedules didn’t work out for a chat. Having fewer total ‘friends’, but deeper relationships always seemed like as much as I could handle and a more logical use of my time. I don’t see the point in the volume of superficial relationships.
I just never bothered to go into IG, Twitter,etc. I use LinkedIn (very minimal resume) purely to stay in touch with work colleagues since I’ve moved companies/locations throughout my career…
After finding your blog, Mr.MoneyMustache, and a bunch of similar FI ones last year, I also sold my TV, so I’ve really cut down on the volume of information that invades my life.
I think it was MMM that called it a ‘Low Information Diet’… If I consciously consider the consumption, it affords me more emotional energy to spend on the people and things I really prioritize in my life. I’ve also gone off into the mountains for a week at a time with zero cell coverage… if you don’t have the digital toys, TV, etc, you have time and space to get back in touch with yourself, the folks around you, and the rest of the world…
Now I make a point of leaving my phone alone and people watching when I’m waiting in line, sitting in traffic, riding mass transit – it’s interesting to see how wrapped up in their own world many people are…

Nicola Rosenthal July 2, 2017 at 9:59 am

Another great article David! Keep up your astute and good work!

Adam July 7, 2017 at 12:45 am

I agree with most of what you noted, except for your strong dismissal of Instagram’s feed-ordering change. I *hate* chronological feeds and find that almost any alternative ordering is better.

– If I check my feed at 3pm, I’m now enjoying photos from friends overseas, not just folks in the U.S.
– I’m less likely to see yet another photo by [bored friend] because he posts a zillion photos and, instead, enjoy far more photographer-diversity in my feed.

Think about it… what else is chronological in your life? When you open up the NY Times (paper or digital), they don’t put the most-recently written articles on the front page, they put what they feel are the most IMPORTANT articles there. When I load up Netflix, it doesn’t exclusively highlight whatever’s newest, but rather what they think I might most enjoy checking out.

Are Instagram’s algorithms perfect? Far from it. But they’re sure smarter and more useful than pure chron ordering; I believe both your harsh scorn for this and your incorrect assumption that everyone hates non-chron ordering are both unwarranted.

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