Carrying on from the last post, which was about reasons to stay on Facebook, I encourage you to think of the following as a method for dumping Facebook after being in an LTR but still keeping its number in your phone in case you want a booty call. It’s a plan that may just work for me, but hopefully other people might get something out of it too. I’ve already put it into action as of the previous post, and once I’ve tested this out for a few weeks, I’ll report back with some results.
My original goal was to decrease my facebook usage, and I’ve also added a new one: to reduce the amount of grumpiness and stress that came with my feed. There are a lot of things I just don’t want to see, and could do without hearing unless I go looking for them. For example, my fascist friends, my gun-nut friends, and my radical feminist friends. Make no mistake; I do love them. There’s a reason I keep them around in person (it’s always good to have dissenting viewpoints otherwise you end up creating your own personal echo chamber)–but online is different. Lately my feed hasn’t been a pleasant place to be.
There are two types of changes I’ve made: environmental changes, and altering my personal habits.
Changing My Facebook Environment
It’s well documented that human beings follow the path of least resistance, (i.e. unthinkingly following habits, rather than the effort of consciously making and adhering to a new decision) which means it’s much easier to tweak your environment to create a new path of least resistance. This is not my original idea, but I can’t for the life of me find out whose it was. It may be Jacob Lund Fisker of Early Retirement Extreme.
Here are the ways I changed my facebook environment.
- I went through all 246 of my Facebook friends and unfriended exactly 46 people whose faces I didn’t even recognise.
- I also unfollowed (but not unfriended) anyone who never seems to post anything I’m interested in–or who hates too much on life and other people for me to want to see anything from them. We’re still friends, I just won’t see anything they post unless I go to their walls. A more seamless way to do this is to visit Facebook as normal, but gradually start unfollowing anybody whose posts you aren’t interested in.
- I unliked any page I was no longer majorly interested in. The only ones left are a few atheist groups I need to keep in contact with for my volunteer position with Freethought Student Alliance, and a couple of non-grumpy feminist pages. These will keep getting curated to things I am only interested in at this moment. I can always like things again later.
- I changed my settings so that only I can post things on my wall.
- I created a list of ‘shit-fight friends’ – people who are racist, misogynistic, and so on, whom I don’t want to start a shit-fight in my comments when we’re talking about something serious. It’s happened before and I’m finally sick of it. These people can no longer see what I post, and therefore react to what I post, unless I specifically change my post settings to include them. Yes, it’s censoring. I used to not censor anything, but the amount of threats people throw at each other is quite frankly a little frightening. I’m over it.
This should automatically change both the amount of ‘spam’ I get in my feed and the frequency with which my feed gives me new updates. By changing the environment (fewer posts with greater quality), it gives me less opportunity to mentally engage with something not worth paying attention to. It should also reduce the amount of time I spend interacting with (or moderating!) others on facebook.
Bear in mind, I’m not trying to say my friends aren’t worth interacting with. I simply think they’re more worth interacting with off-line.
Tweaking My Facebook Habits
What I’ve done here is try to notice patterns in my Facebook usage, and try to find ways I can alter these patterns or use them in a different way to make my life less Facebook-intensive. I’m going to call these ‘habit-busters’, because what is life without a little cheesiness now and then?
Habit-Buster 1: Alter the Urgency
There’s something I have noticed: when you don’t log on for a few days, there are a bazillion notifications waiting for you when you come back. If, however, you only respond to one or two, and leave the rest, then don’t log on for a couple more days, you have much fewer. Rinse and repeat a few more times, and you barely have any notifications left.
It makes sense–the fewer interactions you have on Facebook, the fewer things Facebook has to notify you about, thus limiting the stress of worrying about catching up on your 24 notifications and all the things you’re missing out on. (Yes, I stress about this. That’s why I’m de-Facebooking.)
Point is, if you make it no longer urgent, Facebook stops being urgent. A big part of my plan is to put this little phenomenon to work.
How does this translate into practice? Well, I’m not going to stop logging on for a few days (unless I feel like it). Instead:
- I am going to stop interacting where it isn’t necessary. Comments where I’m just trying to be cute or make everyone think I’m funny or otherwise draw attention to myself don’t need to happen (as much).
- I’m going to remove the link to facebook from my homepage. When I open up a new tab, it’s always there, just waiting for me to click on it if I get bored. If I don’t have it there, I have to physically type it out. That should give me enough time to reflect on what I’m actually doing.
The key here, of course, is being conscious of what I’m doing. Just writing all this out is, I think, enough to keep me conscious for a good while. It does sound ridiculously simple, but without writing it down and trying to consciously adhere to this mindset, I have a feeling I’d be a lot less successful.
Habit-Buster 2: Bye-Bye Boyfriend
The second pattern I’ve seen is that I frequently log on or stay logged in for longer than I otherwise would to communicate with my boyfriend in a way that lets me type on a full keyboard. Nobody else, it’s just open for him–and it’s a huge distraction. I just had a conversation with him (over facebook of course) about finding a different way to instant message him that doesn’t require facebook or facebook chat.
We’ve settled on using Skype more (I will set my status to ‘away’ when I only have it open to talk to him–if I want to talk to other people I will set it to ‘online’). Skype can be a bit clunky to run in the background, but it is multi-platform. If it doesn’t work, we’ll work something else out or settle for texting, calling, and hanging out in person. I’m sure we can manage not being connected 24/7.
Habit-Buster 3: Facebook is Not Your Mind’s Blackboard
The third pattern is that I log on to post random shit or deep thoughts that I could just blog about. So if there’s anything I desperately want to say, I’m going use my blog. I’ve been doing this more and more anyway, but I’m going to stop posting on my wall as much as I can–the blog will be the first port of call from now on. If it’s not worth blogging, it’s probably not worth saying. I don’t need to spill the entire contents of my head to my friends just because I have the technology to do it with.
If I find something I want to share, I will make sure it’s actually relevant to the people I know, not something political that will probably either fail to change their minds or serve as confirmation bias, thus achieving nothing.
While I plan to blog my thoughts rather than Facebook them, I haven’t actually planned on telling anyone I know that I write this blog until I know I want to. Yet posting things here despite the lack of readership still provides psychological release, so it’s probably more about getting it off my chest rather than people actually paying attention to me.
What to Do About Events
The one thing I don’t seem to be able to do is to get email notifications whenever somebody invites me to an event, which is annoying because I know that feature was there in 2011. Admittedly, that was like fifty iterations of Facebook ago. If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll post an update.
You can export confirmed Facebook events to another calendar service, but since it doesn’t seem to notify you of upcoming events and events you’ve been invited to but haven’t responded to, I’m not going to bother using a half-solution. I’ll just make sure to visit my events page regularly, since Facebook doesn’t always notify you of invitations, either.
As for planning my own events–I did consider using another event creation site like Google calendar or something. If I did this, the link would be sent through Facebook to those who use it, and by text/email to everyone I know who doesn’t (I don’t forget any of my four non-Facebooking friends). However, I’m comfortable still using Facebook and simply notifying my non-Facebook friends by other means anyway. I’ve done this in the past and it has worked a treat. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Wow, that was a long post. If you’re reading this and you have more to add, or you’ve done something similar and it worked, please comment below! As I said at the beginning of the post, I will update in a few weeks once I know how this has worked for me.