I recently got a message from a friend saying that she wished she had my discipline to stay off social media. That she got in a fight with a friend over something trivial and it was all because she can’t give up Facebook. I feel this sentiment hard, and so I wanted to share my journey to becoming less obsessed with Facebook.
Social media can be an addiction, yes, it can. Like anything out there, you can become compelled to spend all your time on it, even NEED it. All you have to do is google “social media addiction” and you'll see all the resources out there for understanding this new phenomenon.
I have an addictive personality for things that aren't drugs. (During my recent broken leg trauma, I was so adamant about not becoming addicted to morphine or oxycodone that I powered through most everything post-surgery on Tylenol.) Chocolate, tea, coffee, that new book I want? Yep, I love that rush I get from things that make me feel good. And in the beginning, social media felt good too. It was helping me connect with friends! It helped me make connections for jobs or my writing! It kept me in the loop about world events! In the beginning, everything was great. Now?
The downhill slide all started, as it has for most people, with politics. Without getting into details because most of you already know that I’m pretty far left, the elections ruined me. I was checking Facebook constantly. Watching people be horrible to each other became like watching a car crash. I was both repulsed and fascinated by the anger and vitriol. In a way, I felt like it was validating everything I believed about humanity. That we are all terrible and don’t deserve this planet, nor each other.
Social media began to sour. It was no longer about feeling good. It was about feeling guilty or not special enough. Yet, I couldn't walk away from it because I remembered the feelings of happiness. I kept thinking, “If I just mute these news stories or this or that person, it'll get better.” And I tried all of that.
It didn't get better. It only got worse.
So I took some definitive steps to ending my social media addiction…
- I made a “farewell for now” post on Facebook. By putting it out there that I was taking a step back from social media, I made myself accountable. I set a period of time, this summer, to be on vacation from social media. I promised everyone I would just upload a few photos here and there, but I wouldn't be commenting on their posts.
- I didn't delete the FB app from my phone, I set limits. Deleting the app would only mean I check it via the browser. Been there, done that. Instead, I used the iPhone settings to set a Screen Time limit on the Facebook app. 1 hour per day. That's all I get. It's enough to check in on my groups, pop onto my Pages, cancel out any notifications. Etc. And my phone stops me from overusing the app. My phone would not stop me if I just resorted to the browser.
- I turned off all phone notifications. I went into the Settings > Notifications, and I turned off Facebook from sending me notifications, period. In fact, I did this with most of my apps. My phone only buzzes and alerts me to texts and a few other things now. It's much quieter and not asking for my attention all the time, just when it's really needed.
- When I go to the Facebook app, I do not click on the Home/Newsfeed button at all. This requires some willpower. I clicked on it last week and immediately saw a flame war about gun control, another about abortions, an author lamenting a bad review, and another author describing their writing pet peeves. I noped out of there tout suite.
- I redirected my energy elsewhere. Sometimes I just have five minutes to look at something, so I look at Instagram now. With mostly friends and celebrities on IG, I can look at some photos, make a few comments, share to my Story, and then get out of there without too much trouble. If I have longer moments I can spend on social media, I choose instead to read or knit or listen to a podcast or audiobook. These are things I SHOULD be doing instead of endlessly scrolling through the muck on social media.
After two weeks of this, I feel like I'm finally breaking the habits that always brought me to Facebook first and foremost every time I picked up my phone. Now, I'm much calmer. I'm clearer. I'm definitely more happy than I used to be. I hope to come back here to the blog after the summer and say that I've successfully broken my bad habits and made newer healthier ones in their place.