Over the past 3 years, my relationship with Facebook changed in several drastic ways. In the year 2015, I discovered the “Unfollow” button, and my journey away from Facebook reliance began. I was a Facebook addict for longer than I care to think about. I lived in fear of getting away from the social network, my former primary source of stress in life. I thought I’d never be able to stop – how could I?
The following is a set of three simple habits I incorporated into my life once I realized Facebook was my primary source of stress. Before we get too far, note that I still have an account on Facebook. I’m not going to tell you I quit Facebook cold turkey.
Instead, I started by accepting the fact that me deleting my Facebook would not necessarily give me the results I was after. I wanted to quit, I wanted to delete everything – more than once I felt that way. But deleting a Facebook account does not delete the data to which Facebook already has access.
Instead, my first step started with the “Unfollow” button. This button was solid idea back in 2015 and it’s still a very viable option here in 2019.
1. I started using the Unfollow button
Starting in late 2015, I began to Unfollow people on Facebook. I was still using a Facebook app and visiting Facebook on my laptop multiple times a day, back then. I wanted to enact some sort of control over what I saw in the Facebook feed.
On any user’s home page there was (and probably still is) a place where you can see your relationship status with said user. You can see if you’re Friends with that person, and you can see if you are Following that person.
I took a day and either de-friended or Unfollowed nearly every single person to whom I was connected on Facebook. Tapping “Unfollow” removes a person from “your news feed” but does not remove them as a “Friend” – and they get no notification of this action whatsoever.
2. I stopped using Facebook Messenger
Using Facebook Messenger seemed like my only option in having a constant text-based connection to my friends and family during the day. A few years ago I used Facebook Messenger fairly often because it could be used with an app on my phone as well as in a web browser, on my laptop. I could communicate with friends and family during the day without interrupting my flow at work – that was key.
I became concerned with Facebook Messenger’s future in around January of this year when news broke that Mark Zuckerberg felt a unified messenger program was central to the future of Facebook. I felt like that would be a bad idea, unifying multiple apps under one messenger system roof, but that wasn’t the only reason why I wanted to stop using Facebook Messenger.
In July of 2017, Facebook began to place advertisements in Messenger, solidifying my fear that Messenger wasn’t any more tactful about appearing private than any other part of Facebook. In November of 2018, Facebook private message hacks appeared. After cross-app messenger unification talks started, major WhatsApp concerns began to pop up.
I convinced myself to start using a different service, and it was surprisingly easy to convince my family to do the same. I won’t say what we’re using now, as I don’t want this to seem like a promotion of any competing service. I will say that this chat service has Android and iOS apps and a desktop app so we’re able to communicate completely separate from Facebook.
3. I deleted the Facebook app
Take care in noting that I did NOT delete my Facebook account. I still have access to Facebook and indeed use my Facebook account from time to time. All I did was delete the Facebook app from my phone, and the impact was tremendous.
As it turned out, the vast majority of my Facebook interactions weren’t a necessary part of my life. I didn’t need to use Facebook to have meaningful interactions with my friends and family.
I no longer post photos on Facebook at all. If I want to share photos of my children, I share them directly with the family members with whom I want them to be shared. I was glad to find that sharing photos and videos directly resulted in less stress not only for me, but for those chosen few with whom I wanted to share.
Once I started sharing directly, recipients felt less of a need “check their feed” to make sure they didn’t miss out. That’s called FOMO – and it leads us into the last bit of this report.
Giving FOMO a kick in the pants
There’s a level of fear that comes with Social Networking – it’s FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, and it’s a menace. The good news for me, once I started to cut back on Facebook, was that I do not need to miss out on the positive parts of Facebook (or any other social network) in order to cut out most of the stress.
Studies don’t conclusively say that removing Facebook from one’s life improves one’s mental health – it’s more of a maybe. The negative cycle (re: pathological social network use leading to stress) happens when Facebook users prioritize using Facebook over “forming real-life support systems.”
I cut back on my Facebook use drastically without deleting my Facebook account outright, and I feel less Facebook-centric stress than I did before I started this process. I feared a future with less social media, but what I’ve lost is nothing compared to what I’ve gained.