Getting Away From Facebook (Without Losing Touch)

Summary

  • Dilemma: Facebook is a distracting time-suck, but I don't want to lose touch with people I genuinely like, even if we never/rarely see each other.

  • Solution: I'm going to limit my Facebooking to one day a week--one day in which to send birthday wishes, post all the links I've wanted to share since the previous login, and catch up on the timelines of select individuals--those I'm close to or those I haven't heard from in a long time.

  • Stay tuned for updates: I'll be posting more on this blog to let you know how it this strategy is working out.

The Details

I've said for a long time that I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook--one I'm sure many of my friends share. On one hand, it the only thing that keeps me connected to many friends and family that I rarely (if ever) see in real life. On the other hand, it is (by design) infinitely distracting, and for every minute of meaningful interaction I have with friends and family, I probably lose about five or ten minutes of my life to mindless scrolling. (Five to ten minutes is probably a conservative, optimistic estimate). Over the course of a week, that time adds up to a lot of wasted opportunity. I've often tried to think of ways I could get away from Facebook without losing touch, but so far, that way has eluded me.

One option is to just bite the bullet and quit. Resign myself to losing touch. After all, before I started my account back in 2007--ancient history!--there were loads of people I had already lost touch with--relatives, friends from college and high school. They're all great people, but it was just a fact of life that we were probably never going to see or hear from each other again, and we all got on just fine. And yet, now that we HAVE a way to keep in touch with seemingly little effort, it seems downright anti-social and sad to throw it all away. Some people have argued that the people who really matter will stay in touch, Facebook or no. To me, that feels like a pretty cold position and not realistic for the way we live today. We're all busy. We're all spread out across the country. We don't see our old friends down at the pub. The internet is our pub.

I've seen a couple people launch personal email newsletters--"I'm getting off Facebook. If you want to keep up with me, subscribe to my emails!" But realistically, nobody needs another email subscription. 

I've also considered moving to some other platform. One that somehow delivers the meaningful, social interaction I want from Facebook without the advertising, the opportunity for endless distraction, the fake news, and the pointless debates that periodically threaten to suck you in and ruin your afternoon. But even if there are better designed platforms out there, it doesn't matter because Facebook is where everybody is. Twitter is probably the second most popular platform in my social circle, and I would rather live in a cave than be on Twitter. 

So that leaves me searching for a smarter way to use Facebook. Here's what I've come up with so far:

  1. I'm going to limit my logging on to one day a week--either Saturday or Sunday, depending on what's going on.

  2. All the links that I would normally want to share throughout the week, I'm going to save them up for that one day. If there are any that have become irrelevant by the time Facebook day rolls around, they weren't worth posting.

  3. On login day, I'll check Events to see whose birthdays are coming up in the week ahead. If they're people I normally exchange birthday wishes with on Facebook, I'll wish them an early happy birthday. If I haven't heard from them in a while, I might even scroll through their timeline to see what they've been up to. That's probably a better way of keeping up on their lives than relying on Facebook's algorithm anyway, because the algorithm is all about quantity vs quality.

  4. With all the free time I'll be reclaiming, I do hope to connect with friends in more personal ways--letters, post-cards, text messages, phone calls, and actual face to face meetings. But at least Facebook will keep the coals alive in between those connections.

This is week one of my experiment. I hope to update this blog once a week or so with updates about how it's going. Stay tuned.