Monday, November 11, 2013

Breaking a Social Media Addiction

I was addicted to Facebook.

It's embarrassing to even say that. I'm not a tween. I'm an adult woman with a family, job, and real-life responsibilities, but I had a problem with spending too much time and energy on Facebook.

The first thing I did everyday was wake up and check my phone for texts, emails, and Facebook. Even if I didn't have notifications, I scrolled through and read anything on my news feed until I caught up to what I had remembered reading the night before.

I was on Facebook throughout the work day. I got sucked into Facebook at home too, even if I went on my computer for something completely unrelated. The notifications lured me in, and before I knew it I'd be looking at my old school chum's bachelorette party pics and wonder where my afternoon went.

I knew it was probably a problem.

I would get frustrated and close my computer, then remember why I had opened it in the first place. Even with diligence to stay on task and ignore the eternally open Facebook tab in my browser, notifications pop up in real time, and I just HAD to know what people were saying.

As for my phone, anytime a red notification showed on my FB app, I opened it. I read the notification, which was usually, "so-and-so liked your photo," then stayed on the app for 10+ minutes reading rabbit trails of random information.

The last thing I did before I went to sleep was catch up on anything I missed throughout the day. I was a zombie scrolling through statuses of nonsense.

Then I went to China for two weeks.

Through Instagram, I was able to post to Facebook, but due to country-sanctioned censorship, I couldn't directly get onto Facebook at all. My little FB icon kept adding notifications as more and more people commented on my awesome China pictures, but alas, I couldn't respond.

It was SO freakin' frustrating! I wanted to see the gold mine of "cool's" and "fun!" and "I'm seething with jealousy that you're a world traveller!" comments. (Mostly because I spent the last couple years being jealous about other people's trips).

After a few days, I gave up hope of checking Facebook and accepted it. I read a real-life book, journaled, and enjoyed vacation time with my family.

I inadvertently went through rehab for Facebook, my social media drug of choice.

The absence of FB in my life was refreshing. I liked the new freedom I had to ignore 50+ notifications on my phone. I didn't have to answer questions like, "Are you in China?" I didn't have to navigate online social mores, wondering what's the most polite or wittiest way to respond. I liked not being forced to know what my random friend from middle school was doing on a Friday night, just because it's on my news feed. I liked being disconnected, because I realized that too much connected-ness was making my life too complicated.

The Plan

I desired that freedom to remain when I came back to the states, so I came up with guidelines for myself to break my FB addiction at home:

1. I deleted the FB app from my phone. I didn't delete my entire FB account, but I can only check FB on a computer.

2. I close the browser. When I visit the FB site, I check my notifications, scan through some of my news feed, then close the browser. This keeps me focused on my next computer task by removing the temptation to check new notifications that pop up in real time.

3. I hid a bunch of people. There is already too much information running through my head at any given time, that I don't need to clog up that space with random posts from random people. In the past, I would have gone on an un-friending binge, but now I can hide people, and if anyone becomes more relevant in my life, I can un-hide them later. This way I don't have to waste (1) mind space thinking about someone else's life that I honestly don't care about or ever see in person or (2) emotional energy when I disagree with the opinions of people that I, again, never come in contact with in person.

There are people on my news feed that I never see in real life, but I just like what they post, so I keep them. My rules for hiding are super flexible. The main thing is that I implement that tool and trim my news feed down to what I actually care about.

The Results

After a couple months of living with less Facebook, I have enjoyed life more. I'm noticeably less anxious, because I'm not:

1. Comparing my life to that of others' and feeling jealous or like a failure.
2. Irritated by religious, political, or other ridiculous opinion posts that I disagree with.
3. Spending too much time on something and regretting it after that time is lost.

There are many days when I don't get on Facebook until late afternoon. That would have driven me crazy before, but now I'm like, "eh, all those cute pics of my friends' kids will be there when I get there."

Give it a try. You might find you like it.

P.S. Facebook was my social media drug of choice. I went through a similar problem last year with Scramble and Words with Friends. My time was getting stolen away with games, so I deleted the apps to free myself. I can get sucked into Pinterest too, so I have to regulate myself on there too through the same method I use with FB. And because I know my weaknesses, I haven't even tried Candy Crush Saga.
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