In denial about my Facebook addiction
It took me a looooong time to realize I was wasting way too much time on Facebook and more recently on Instagram.
I was lying to myself thinking
“I got this under control” or
“I’ll check it out for only 5 minutes” (yeah, right)
This self-deluding sabotage stopped when I read Cal Newport’s book “Digital Minimalism” (highly recommended, BTW).
By the end of the book I decided to take on his 30 days challenge: get off of any social media outlet or other online services that I was mindlessly using for a few hours a day.
My first (failed) attempt at social media detox
Even if Cal gives clear instructions on how to avoid relapsing I made a rookie mistake: I relied only on my will power. (although he tells speciffically to NOT do this)
I managed to get away from Instagram simply by removing the app from my phone. That was easy because I was a recent Instagram user so the addiction to it was not yet formed.
But, when it comes to Facebook, now that’s another story.
I’ve been using FB for many years and although I was suspecting I was wasting too much time on it without any real benefits I didn’t realize how addicted I was until I tried to stay away…for more than a few days.
The first days of the one month detox Cal Newport suggests in Digital Minimalism went by OK.
I was thrilled I got off of it so easily.
Or so I thought I did…
About two weeks in I started going back saying to myself
“I’ll just stay away from the news feed and simply check on the few accounts and groups I’m interested in”.
Needless to say, the 10 minutes initially allocated turned into 30 minutes or more of mindless browsing in Facebook’s news feed black hole.
I was like an alcoholic who just got back on booze.
I had a problem.
So after two more weeks of back and forth and denial hidden under the same false belief:
“I got this under control”
I decided to follow Cal’s advice and NOT rely on my will power.
Instead, I took actions to help me create an environment that was going to accomplish two things for me:
- make it easy to stay away from the social media quick sands
- make it difficult to get on it
April 9th – Started doing things right
So on April 9th, I googled “how to block websites on iPhone”.
In two minutes I discovered the steps I needed to go through on my phone to add Facebook or any other website to the restricted list on my phone. Easy peasy.
Since then, every time I want to access Facebook I get a blank page with the message “this website is restricted”. Yay!
After removing the access on my phone I still had access on my laptop.
So I realized that even though I didn’t want to remove myself from FB completely, I needed something to prevent me from drowning in the News Feed abyss. Again, Google was my friend. In a couple of minutes, I found the answers.
So the status as of April 11th is like this:
- no access whatsoever to Facebook on my phone
- zero newsfeed posts if I access it on desktop.
When I open my FB page now it looks like this:
I think that if your income is not related to being present on Facebook at all it would be best to remove yourself completely. I organize and share some events on Facebook and I’m also following groups related to remote jobs, Iyengar yoga, Gene Keys and Human design and a couple of other topics so that’s why I chose to do it this way.
Not ideal, but better than nothing, y’know?
April 23rd – Installed a time tracking app to measure where my time really goes online
I’ve noticed I spend very little time on FB now that I don’t have a newsfeed anymore.
I just check the notifications once a day, check out the 2-3 groups I am interested in and also the few people whose content I appreciate and I am interested in reading.
I’ve relapsed for about half an hour on Instagram a few days ago after a friend who recently moved to Bali told me he had posted more pics there. After checking out his photos I scrolled and wondered around, on my desktop until I realized what I was doing.
Since then I didn’t feel the need to check it out again. But when I do feel like checking out the few accounts I’m interested in I do it from the desktop.
In order to figure out exactly how much time I’m still spending on Facebook, Instagram or other social media places I’ve reinstalled a time tracking app on my laptop. In about two weeks I should have a very accurate picture of my current online habits.
I’m curious if the app will confirm my current perceptions.
May 15th – Results, conclusions and benefits
So, the data from Rescue Time shows me that between May 1st and 15th I’ve spent a minimum of 10 minutes per day and a maximum of 1h21 minutes a day on Facebook.
I don’t have the records from before I started the social media detox but I know they were at least 2x or 3x on desktop and at least one more hour on my phone.
And the biggest difference is that this time around I am intentional about how long and why I use it.
I know that in the days when I’ve spent more than an hour I’ve been watching free webinars that experts I follow sometimes offer during their paid courses launch offer. Or reading long posts written by the few people I follow or discussions on topics that interest me in the groups I’m part of.
Another thing I noticed is that when I close the FB window nowadays I rarely feel frustrated and angry at me that I’ve wasted my time there. I believe I can do even better than this and reduce my time even more. I’ll make later edits to this post once I’ll have relevant new updates.
My conclusions after two months of stepping away from mindless social media browsing
Even if I didn’t get completely off of Facebook as Cal says, I managed (although on my second attempt :P) to:
- significantly reduce the time I spend on Facebook, 99% reduce the time spent on Instagram
- get intentional about when and what kind of content I consume when I do log in
- stop almost completely my active interaction with the platform in the forms of likes, shares, comments, posts. (this is another thing that Cal recommends). This was quite hard in the beginning and it made me realize how:
all these micro-interactions that we believe to be harmless are actually micro-conversions that make us unconsciously commit to spending even more of our time and attention there.
Some of the benefits I felt right away, even from the first days of my social media detox
- It might sound weird but the moment I blocked Facebook on my phone I had a feeling of relief. I felt I was finally under control of the app and not the other way around.
- I noticed I started having less mental chatter and more energy for my work
- The more I was in control of how I interacted with Facebook the better I felt about myself.
- Not seeing what my friends shared on Facebook I talked more with them on the phone or in person. Which is way more satisfying than chatting via text or liking their photos.
- I’ve had more time for reading, I read or listened to 3 books I will soon write about
In conclusion, if you think you waste too much time on Facebook, Instagram, Netflix or whatever online service is your Achilles’ heel you probably are.
And if you’re wondering if a 30 days social media/digital detox would be good for you it means that you badly need one.
So go for it! And let me know how it goes in the comments below.
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