I’ll have a few posts up in the coming weeks on digital de-cluttering and managing your online time. This will be a big focus for me in 2012 as I want to grow my freelance work and spread the word about living with less, while not being tied to my computer constantly. If you’re looking to cut the chain to your laptop/Blackberry/iPhone I hope you’ll find something useful in these posts. For more reading on digital sabbaticals and connection time check out this great article in the NYTs The Joy of Quiet.
A year ago I deleted my personal Facebook account. The reasons were numerous. I was wasting time on updates and photos of people I would never invite over for dinner. I felt a compulsion to check in on Facebook activity several times a day and didn’t like it. So I deleted my account and have made an effort since to see people in person more, call more and correspond by email more. Overall it’s been a positive change and I don’t regret deleting my account.
Recently Daniel Gulati wrote a piece for the Huffington Post titled ‘Facebook is Making us Miserable‘ and outlined some of the same things I struggled with when I was a Facebook user. Daniel says that Facebook is a den of comparison, fragments our time and actual distances us from friends instead of bringing us together. I couldn’t agree more.
What I disagreed with in the piece was that it is Facebook that is making us miserable and that as Daniel says, quitting Facebook altogether is unrealistic.
Facebook isn’t making us miserable – we’re making ourselves miserable.
Facebook is not a requirement. I have yet to see a government request for my Facebook profile so that I can file taxes. I have never seen a Facebook profile accepted as proof of ID. I can tell you that it is possible and relatively easy to have a social life without a Facebook page.
You can quit Facebook if you want to. Life will go on. You will still have friends and be invited to outings, play dates and parties.
But you don’t have to quit it. There is still a lot of good to be had from Facebook. It connects friends and families that live far away. It is an easy way to share news, send congratulations and can be a great way to get relevant media crowd sourced to you from your friends.
If you want to get a better handle on your Facebook usage, if you want to stop checking your account compulsively or looking through a news feed of things you don’t care about from people you never talk to, here are some tips:
- Decide how often and when you will check your Facebook account. Depending on your current usage this could be once a week or three times a day. If you’re unhappy with how often you are checking Facebook start with tracking your usage. Then aim to cut it in half.
- Connect. Email friends, comment on a photo or share an interesting article you just read. Use Facebook to plan events, dates and meet ups. The whole idea behind social media is to make it easier for you to connect and share. So stop lurking and use the power of the Facebook platform to start a club, make a date and send gratitude.
- Cull you friends. I did this a few months before I ended up deleting my account. My rule: if I didn’t have their phone number or wouldn’t think to grab a coffee with them if we bumped into each, they were gone. Go for better connections, not more of them.
- Use filter and blocking options for your news feed. Who doesn’t have the friend that updates their status seven times a day with nothing interesting? You love them, still want to see them but you really don’t need to hear about their love of coffee every morning. Pare down your news feed to updates from people and organizations that you enjoy.
- Engage away from the screen. I find that on my best days, the ones where I get a lot of work, rest and play in, my online time is usually a single short segment in the day. If you’re constantly checking Facebook aim to do more single tasking events during the day or set a timer to commit to X amount of minutes or hours for something else. Aimlessly surfing through your friends and acquaintances photos is no match for getting lost in a book, good conversation with friends or an extra hour of sleep.
Since starting this blog I have come to respect the power of social media and see first hand the good it can do in connecting people and ideas. But it’s a slippery slope for some of us that struggle with distracting ourselves with the Internet. I’ve lost some good hours to mindless surfing myself and want to be more present in my online interactions in 2012.
Okay Facebook users – who has it all under control and who is spending too much time looking up old boyfriends to see how the years are treating them? Has anyone set rules for themselves on how often they check Facebook or who they accept friend requests from?
Full disclosure: while I no longer have a personal Facebook account I do have a page for this blog. I try to check it daily and respond to comments, post links to anything particularly good I have read or viewed and link back to posts here. Unlike a personal account I don’t have a feed of updates so there isn’t a lot for me to look at. Which is a good thing.