Are you addicted to Facebook?
Do you find yourself wasting a lot of valuable time scrolling down that never-ending newsfeed? If so, perhaps one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to cut down on Facebook, or even give it up completely, and free up all that time and energy you waste on it.
Facebook can be an excellent tool for communicating and interacting with people, but as we all know it also has its flaws – not least its Terms of Service with regard to your privacy.
Facebook has been very cleverly designed to make it highly addictive, so it’s important to be aware when it stops being a fun way of getting in touch with friends and family, and starts being a time-stealing liability.
As we all know, it’s not always so easy to just say ‘I’ll just give it up’. It’s a little like saying ‘I know that junk food is bad for me, so I’ll just stop eating it’.
Easier said than done, right?
Any addictive type of behaviour has many complex mechanisms underlying it. There may be any number of reasons why you log on to Facebook (or take a bite out of that chocolate muffin). This is why most diet books do not work. They confidently list all the foods you are ‘not allowed’ to eat – without offering any help or explanation as to why you often end up completely ignoring all that good advice.
It’s so much more than just ‘will-power’. A complex array of emotions lie behind every action. Mindfulness (being aware of your thought processes) is an invaluable tool for changing any form of behaviour that you are not comfortable with.
There are many good ‘releasing’ techniques around that can help with unwanted behaviours. It can help to talk about it to a counsellor, and explore what is behind your actions – you may be surprised what comes up when you really start to dig deep into what motivates your behaviour.
Next time you find yourself logging onto Facebook, take a moment to relax, take a few deep breaths, and reach in to your mind. Ask yourself what is the motivating factor that makes you need to interact with people in this way.
Do you find yourself constantly feeling the need to ‘update your status’ to inform your friends of every tiny detail of your life? Why is it that you need this kind of attention and validation? What is it that is missing in your ‘real’ life (whatever that is!)?
This continuous ‘facebooking’ is like an extension of the constant ‘mind-chatter’ that is always present in our thoughts, to some degree. It can be helped a lot by simply spending a portion of your day in quiet meditation.
Are you the kind of facebooker who constantly plays online games? Why is it you feel the need to fill your time with these devices? Is it simply to stop feeling bored with life? Maybe you could find some ‘real’ pastimes or hobbies which would get you out into the natural world, exercising your body and interacting with real, living things. Hooked on Farmville? Maybe you could take up gardening. Addicted to Mafia Wars? Erm… well, maybe that one is best left for cyberspace…
Perhaps you’re the kind of person who likes to sit back and watch other peoples’ lives as they go past in a never-ending stream of status updates; constantly judging, or clicking ‘like’ if you approve. Do you ever wonder why you feel the need to approve or disapprove of their actions? Ask yourself what it is that makes other peoples’ lives more important than your own.
Of course, like I said before, Facebook isn’t all bad. It’s a very efficient way of keeping up with a lot of people at once. But if you feel it is starting to take over your life, here are a few practical tips to minimise its impact on your world.
1. Ditch the pings
First things first: go into your account and change your notification settings so that you are no longer sent an email or text if anyone writes on your wall, or comments on your post, or sends you a message, etc. Don’t worry, you’re not really ignoring anyone – you’ll still be able to see all your notifications and reply to people when you log back in.
This way you can avoid your day being constantly interrupted by the relentless ankle-biting ‘ping!’of notifications every time somebody interacts with you, and YOU get to decide when you want to visit Facebook – not anybody else.
2. Home is where the heart is
Is Facebook your Homepage?
Slap on the wrist for you!
The website you have as your homepage is really important to your online existence, as it is your main focal point when you first turn the computer on.
Have a think about what is most important to you in your online life. If you use your computer for your income, then your business email may be the most useful homepage for you. If your online life is more for pleasure, then think about what you’d like to create in your life. Maybe you’d like to learn a new skill?
For instance, if you are interested in learning a foreign language, you could set your homepage to a foreign language website to give you a daily reminder; encouraging you to spend some time each day learning and keeping your brain active.
3. Facebook time management
Specify a certain amount of time, and a specific time each day (or week even), that you are going to spend on Facebook. This will help to prevent you frittering away hours of precious time, blissfully unaware as the minutes tick by. It is particularly important if you are self-employed or you work from home, as in this case time really is money.
Designate your allocated ‘Facebook time’ after your working hours are over, so as to stop it encroaching upon your all-important daily tasks. Set a timer if necessary! Preferably one with a really loud, annoying tick 😉
4. Detox your newsfeed
If you simply want to use facebook to keep up to speed on your friends’ activities, then it’s worthwhile having a look at your newsfeed and streamlining it so you’re not wasting time viewing pointless activities.
For instance, you can ‘hide’ all games such as Candy Crush etc, which will cut down a lot of unnecessary scrolling. The idea is to keep your newsfeed as relevant as possible, so you can maximise the time you spend on there.
Of course, there are some things you don’t have control over when it comes to your newsfeed – namely adverts and sponsored posts, which are becoming more and more prevalent as Facebook is constantly redesigned to allow more income-generating space and squeeze every last bit of profit from its users.
This makes it all the more important to exercise what little control you do have over your newsfeed.
5. Dear Diary
Are you the type of person who feels the need to constantly update your status? Are you really that sure that everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting to find out what you’re having for dinner?
If this sounds like you, then try this little exercise:
Get yourself a journal – yes, an actual book with pages made from paper!
Whenever you feel the urge to post a status update, instead of posting it on facebook, write it down in your journal instead.
Write it at the top of the page, and leave the rest of the page blank – for your OWN comments. (Oh, ok then, if you must, draw a picture of a thumbs-up!)
Have a think about this status update: why have you decided to highlight this particular aspect of yourself and share it with the world?
How does it make you seem? Funny… healthy… sad… adventurous…political… popular…?
What are you trying to achieve by portraying yourself in this way? Write down any thoughts that come up about this.
Imagine you are reading it as somebody else’s status. How would you react to it? Would you click ‘like’? What comment would you make?
Remember that YOU are the most important person in your world. Other peoples’ opinions and judgements are immaterial. Unfortunately however, Facebook is perfectly designed to ‘train’ us to judge, ‘like’, or criticise others – and ourselves too.
By getting into the habit of journaling, you may start to find out a lot about yourself and how your mind works. It’s an interesting journey. Much more interesting than scrolling mindlessly through Facebook and looking at videos of a kitten riding on a tortoise.
What’s that you say – you want to see the kitten riding on the tortoise? Oh ok then, here it is.
6. Don’t play their game
Facebook is a medium for sharing all kinds of information about yourself: what you’re doing, where you are, what kinds of things you like, what you look like – etc, etc. Apart from the obvious (huge amount of) money that Facebook makes from the sharing of your personal information, there are those who see a more sinister side of it. It is, after all, an excellent self-surveillance tool; just like Bentham’s Panopticon, it “induces in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power” (Michel Foucault).
Have you ever noticed how it can almost feel like an interrogation when you upload a photo to Facebook? The endless stream of questions often make me imagine I’m sat in a police cell with a bright light shining in my face.
– ‘Where are you?’ ‘Who are you with?’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘how are you feeling?’ Tag your friends – NOW!
It even encourages me to tag strangers who happen to be in the background of my picture.. now that’s just weird.
If you are of a certain mindset, these invasive practices might cause you just enough anger to sit up, log out, and as they used to say in ‘Why Don’t You’ – “go out and do something less boring instead”.
7. Get outta there
Last but not least: Log Out! Always log out at the end of a session. Don’t make it too easy for yourself to be pulled back into the world of Facebook by leaving it open on your computer. Those tempting little numbers will appear, telling you that you have notifications…
‘Look! Somebody has paid attention to you! Quick, come back and find out what they’ve said!’
Log out, and stay out, until your next allocated ‘Facebook time’ arrives. Furthermore, make your password a really long, complicated, ANNOYING one. This is helpful for security reasons, plus it will also deter you from sneaking back for a quick peek.
Remember, this goes for your phone too – and any other devices you might have lying around. Beware, Facebook really doesn’t want you to leave its ample bosom and it might make it a little tricky for you to escape its clutches. On an iPhone for instance you have to go through an extra procedure to *really* log out. It’s important to be aware of this, not least for security reasons (should anyone steal your phone, they can get straight into your facebook account and cause all kinds of havoc). So make sure you check that you’re really and truly logged out and you actually have to enter your password again to log back in.
Ok, yes, logging out is a bit like the cyber equivalent of hiding your chocolate in a really high-up cupboard. Yep, you can climb up and get it, but it might be just enough of a deterrent to stop you – at least some of the time 😉
So there you are – 7 quick and easy ways to give up, or cut down on Facebook. Good luck! (See you on Twitter) (Just kidding!!)
Lisa Murphy is a hypnotherapist & counsellor based in Glasgow, who specialises in anxiety, stress, and weight management.