A little over 2 years ago I had a heated conversation with my daughter. She accused me of being addicted to my phone – I was always on it when she wanted me.
Of course, I wasn’t addicted to it! As a self-employed single father, I had to be on my phone! I was the only source of income in the house so I had to be able to respond at a moments notice!
But while I knew I was right, her words stuck with me. Was I really addicted to my phone? That was something that happened to other people – not me.
What gets measured gets managed.
To prove to myself that I wasn’t addicted to my phone my friend and elite performance coach Dominick Quartuccio suggested that I install an app that measured my phone usage.
What I saw shocked me.
It turned out that I was spending over 5 hours a day interacting with my phone. I was spending most of my time in Chrome, email and Facebook.
But that made sense – after all I run a busy practice! It wouldn’t be an addiction – a necessary business tool more likely.
But 5 hours a day on the phone was a bit much. I knew that I had to change it a little. As Facebook was not an essential business application, I figured that it was the one that could be cut back on with the least amount of disruption to my income. I didn’t set out to remove Facebook from my life, that sort of just happened. I just wanted to be on my phone less and more present with my kids.
(At the bottom of the article are the steps I followed to wean myself off Facebook, and eventually get to a Facebook-free world)
Wins and Losses
There is no such thing as a benign intervention – for everything, there is a win and a loss. Quitting Facebook was no different.
Not addicted to the phone. When we get a notification from Facebook (or any other app for that matter) we get a little hit of dopamine – the neurotransmitter of addiction1. Each notification is a hit of the drug. Facebook (and other app developers) know this. That’s why they all have notifications – it keeps us coming back. It’s also why Steve Jobs2 didn’t, and Bill Gates3 and Mark Zuckerberg4 don’t allow their children to use their products. They know their devices are designed to be addictive!
By getting fewer notifications from my phone I was getting less dopamine hits and this helped reduce the need to constantly check my phone. It also meant that when I did get a dopamine hit from something else in life (e.g. seeing people, going somewhere, etc) that it had a much greater impact on my happiness levels.
Cutting the umbilical cord. There have been times over the last few months that I have ventured out without my phone! Crazy I know!
When was the last time you deliberately went out without your phone? Walking down the street without the phone is liberating. Knowing that you’re not being tracked or contactable is indeed a freeing experience! It’s like it was when we were kids – freedom and no one knowing where we are. It was only 20 years ago when we would get around without a phone, but today that seems almost unimaginable.
More time in the day. While it’s only a few minutes checking the phone now, those few minutes build up over a day to well over an hour5. Removing Facebook from my life got me that extra hour per day that we all want.
Deeper work. I’ve found that I’m not stopping every opportunity to check what hasn’t changed since I checked in 10 minutes ago. This has enabled me to work at a deeper level and produce better work.
Less concern. I’ve found myself caring less about what others think of me. Posting and chasing likes is by definition caring about what others think of you. This behaviour in our online life seeps through into our IRL6 world. Worrying less about how many likes I have been randomly gifted by strangers has enabled me to worry less about how many likes I get offline. This has reduced the clutter (known as anxiety) in my head and allowed me to be more of me.
Less propaganda. During the federal election, I was not bombarded by Clive Palmer and his incessant ads about making Australia great again. To me, he was a non-entity. I wasn’t force-fed the algorithm selected posts that tech wizards in Silicon Valley determined I should be seeing. I’d regained the ability to search out what I wanted, as opposed to being fed what was designed for me.
Out of the Loop. There is no doubt that Facebook is a great way to stay connected. I know I’ve not been aware of events (social and otherwise) that I would like to have attended. But when the event has been important or interesting enough my partner has let me know.
The inability to share. Facebook is great for sharing photos of trips, exciting events, and experiences we all have. This is probably the greatest loss I’ve experienced. But then again, I can always email, text or even catch up with people to share about it.
Lost friends. Over the last 9 months, I’ve lost contact with some friends that may have been kept alive by stalking them on Facebook. But then again, if it’s a good friendship it will reignite the moment one of us picks up the phone.
Tolerance. Yes, this is a loss. Relying on tolerance to get through the day means you will put up with someone as opposed to understanding them.
Facebook is an echo-chamber. We shout our opinions into the void and they are confirmed back to us. People who argue against our position are generally unfriended for being dicks. Very soon we are surrounded with people who think like us, look like us and act like us. They confirm our worldview and the thinking that we are right. At a time when the corporate and social worlds are screaming for more diversity, we are unintentionally using Facebook to reduce it.
If you think this is not the case for you, do you follow political parties who have a different view to you? If you are left-leaning, do you follow Sky News, or are they all right-wing fascists? If you are right-leaning, do you follow GetUp! or are they just all left-wing do-gooders? If you want to vote for the Greens do you follow Pauline Hanson, Clive Palmer or the Nationals? Without diverse opinions, we begin to think our world view is the predominant view and others are just wrong and ill-informed. It’s called groupthink. We then need tolerance when we encounter people we disagree with. By removing the echo-chamber that is Facebook I’m not as caught up in my own ideas and belief that I am right.
Social Norms. There seems to be a social norm that states we should all be on Facebook. It’s almost as though we are expected to be on there and anyone who isn’t is breaking bad. With over 2.43 billion users, this is true for a lot of the world7.
When I tell people that I’ve quit Facebook, they have a response of surprise which quickly turns to envy, followed by, ‘I wish I could get off it too!’
I recently joined a business group which has a forum on Facebook. When I told them that I won’t be using the forum as ‘I hate Facebook’, the response I received was, “Yeah I hate it too, but we still use it.’ That’s kind of sad.
Displacement. I was concerned that when I left facebook that I would simply take up the addiction with another platform. I’m happy to say that this has not happened. While I have an Instagram and a LinkedIn account I have not transferred all my time to there. As for Instagram, I have to remember that I have one and need to check it.
Quitting Facebook has been liberating. There are things that I miss, but that’s part of the human experience – you can’t have everything. What I have gained though has freed me from concern about the judgment of others, digital tracking, and an addiction. I don’t have the need to constantly be online, checking what others are doing and seeking external validation from strangers that what I have posted can generate a sense of worth in me. Being free of this is indeed a good thing.
Steps I took that Removed Facebook from my Life.
Below are the steps I progressed through to remove Facebook from my life. The speed at which you progress through each stage is up to you
- Decided to cut back on Facebook.
- Stopped all notifications from Facebook on my phone
- Removed the App from the home screen and had it on a secondary screen. At this stage, I was still on Facebook when I wanted to be, but accessing it was more difficult on the phone.
- Log out after using Facebook on the computer. I could still use it whenever I wanted to, but I had to log in and out every time I used it.
- Decided to only access Facebook on my computer, and removed the app from my phone/Ipad.
- Decided to go a day without Facebook – not even on the computer. This was easiest on a weekend when I would not normally be at my computer.
- Then decide to go a whole weekend without Facebook.
- Then decide to go a whole week without Facebook
- Resist the urge to go onto Facebook and gloat about not being on Facebook.
- Build it out from there for longer and longer times off the platform.
I’d love to hear how you go should you want to get off Facebook too.
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- IRL – In Real Life – yep it’s a thing!