If you’re at all familiar with my blogs, you’d know that this is one of my favourite topics to write about.
How to get off social media and get work done.
And it took me a little over 4 years, a bit of depression, a lot of heartbreak, a ton of learning and finally, an understanding that Facebook is to be used more as a tool than as a distraction mechanism.
Why I joined Facebook
Honestly? Someone sent me an invite way back when I was childless and (at the time) in a city with no friends. I figured this would be a good way to keep in touch with extended friends and family. Status updates back then meant little to nothing and Facebook does a good job of reminding me of my cringe-worthy updates with their ‘On this Day’ feature. I’m talking ‘Stuck in bed with a cold and waiting for husband to return from his trip’, kind of updates which, seriously, should be shot, buried and forgotten in cyber history!
Of course I did connect with friends overseas, family that lived far away and occasionally the random stranger who chose to worm their way into my inbox with an innocuous ‘Hi, can we be friends?’ I thank my stars I never actually accepted any of those, which is more than what I can say for my 23-year-old self and Yahoo chat rooms. (Ugh! Let’s move on.)
What I enjoyed about Facebook
Photo updates. Remember, this was before my time as a blogger, so I never really looked at Facebook anything more than a photo album of friends and family to be shared online. Reading status updates was fun but wasn’t exactly why I chose to stay on the platform.
I realised that some famous people I enjoyed reading about had ‘Pages’ and clicking on them would allow me to keep track of their updates. I’d log in once a day, scroll through, smile at some photos, cringe at others and shut the laptop (NO smartphone for me back then!) and go about my day.
It was a light form of entertainment, much like unwinding in front of the TV after a long day at work. Plus I worked long hours. I’d be up at 5 am to dash off to take classes from 6 to 8 am for students prepping for their MBA. I’d get back home to change, breakfast and head to work where I was creating content for said MBA exams. After 5 hours, I’d be back home, cook dinner and head out to take another batch of classes from 6 to 8 pm. Trudging home by 8.30 pm would leave me with enough energy to have dinner, scroll through Facebook and collapse into bed.
And I loved it. I loved my job and I loved the minor distraction that a platform like this gave me.
Until it stopped being minor.
How it changed for me
Cut to 2007 when I began to use it a little differently.
My daughter was a little over a year old and while I’d begun blogging, it was a pastime but not as serious as it is for me today. Back then, I’d share videos of her making cute faces and saying funny things to share with the family. Photos of her special moments went up primarily on Flickr and Google Photos, in a private, password-protected account but pretty freely on Facebook. I didn’t think much of it. I was just sharing pictures, not doing anything else. What was the big deal?
For the next 6 years, I’d use it for just that. Pictures being shared and an occasional status about my health (I seemed to fall sick a LOT if my updates are anything to go by! )
And I thought nothing of any of this. I had a handful of friends and family on my list and I knew every one of them offline. I took the ‘Don’t accept candy from strangers’ truth to heart, even on Facebook.
- Side note: That may be why I haven’t accepted your Candy Crush request.
How it changed even further
In 2013, I found myself actively posting to my blog and for some reason, chose to share the posts on Facebook. It seemed easier to do this than e-mail it to friends who wanted to read it. (Is it irony that I am now focusing more on building my e-mail list than sharing my content on Facebook?)
But it seemed to work. People read my posts, commented on them, enjoyed them even and shared it with their friends. I wasn’t writing anything groundbreaking or earth-shattering, but people liked to read my blog and I liked to write. That was it.
A year later (I think) I set up a Facebook page for the blog. I’m not exactly sure why since it would mean that I’d have to share my posts on the page AND my personal profile. At least that was what everyone recommended. The understanding was that your friends would read your posts from your profile but strangers and the public could get updates from your brand page.
Okay, made sense. I guess.
Of course, nothing is ever this straightforward, is it? This would mean I needed to spend time building the Facebook page plus keep engaging on my profile, while trying to engage with friends, family and others with cute status updates and pictures. Oh and did I tell you I had joined a few Facebook blogging groups too? But hey, I was young (still am, but I was younger then), a bit excitable and rather foolish, so didn’t think too much about how much time this would consume. (Spoiler alert: A LOT!)
When I realised that things were bad
I may have gotten an inkling of this fact when I began to lose sleep over Facebook. I’d be up late into the night, scrolling through the app, clicking on the notification button every time it lit up. A status update I’d put up would have hardly a few likes while a profile picture would have 40 within the hour.
A blog post I shared would get no views until I commented on it under the link. This was part of Facebook’s algorithm. Comment on something to keep it visible in the News feed and let people know that it was important.
I’d started adding so many friends that I now had over 1000 Facebook acquaintances. Keeping up with each person’s pictures and ideas was not only overwhelming but exhausting.
I then got to hear from a few friends that I was posting too much on Facebook and needed help. Much of it was said in jest but a few were serious. Like any sensitive introvert, I grumbled, felt stung by the accusations and walked away, choosing not to listen. Out of sheer defiance, I began to post more.
Oh, how I wish I hadn’t, but I’m glad I did because it led to an epiphany.
When things got worse
It was in late 2015 that I learnt about the power of this network to drive envy, jealousy and outright bitterness. I came across vague-booking. This is where you talk about someone on a status update without directly naming them. Very similar to sly or sub tweets. It was my first taste of it and it came to me as a surprise. To this day, I dislike them. I may have done a few of these updates too in the past and I sincerely regret them now.
I’d always be the kind to keep away from controversy and had never had more than a handful of friends in school or college. I never argued with people (mostly because I can’t handle the anger that comes from confrontation) and I almost never got into a fight over seemingly ridiculous things.
So when I became the target of this situation I went into a shell. I cut myself off from blogging for two months and what do you know? I had a cervical shoulder injury brought on by stress-physical and mental. I began to deactivate my account every month, for a week.
This gave me the much-needed break to reflect on what this network was doing to my peace of mind. It was later that I learnt that I’d gone through a bout of depression, for the second time in 13 years, and leaving Facebook (even temporarily) was the best gift I gave myself.
How I tried to fix my Facebook addiction
I began by un-installing the app from my phone. I still had Facebook messenger but it’s only so I can keep in touch with those who matter, I told myself.
I began to un-follow people whom I couldn’t relate to anymore. Most of these were folks I didn’t even know before my blog came into existence. I couldn’t bring myself to remove them from my friend list because it felt like a silent way of cutting people off without an explanation.
I realised that I had to stop sharing photos of my child on Facebook because the privacy parameters were negligible to nothing. Anything could be hacked and misused and there was enough evidence to this fact as well.
I left groups where I knew I couldn’t engage anymore or where I felt I was either a silent lurker or a witness to things that made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with all of this in addition to my blogs and my life offline.
What finally worked
In the last quarter of 2017 something happened.
I discovered and fell in love with a new being, someone who promised to give me what Facebook couldn’t and without all the add-on drama of wading through controversial subjects and dealing with people who actually disliked me.
It was around this time that my approach towards my blog underwent a shift (for a number of reasons that I won’t share here). I began looking at it as a way to build a brand and leverage it. And I found that I could combine three things I loved: Blogging, Creating and Learning as part of this experience.
I switched tracks and got into blogging seriously and regularly. I’d always blogged on a schedule but now I added Pinterest to my strategy too. I spent days reading up everything, creating more, enjoying myself thoroughly.
So, naturally, I reduced my Facebook use. Not even out of conscious choice, mind you. I just had no time at the end of the day to read status updates or click ‘like’ on profile pictures because I was too busy working on Pinterest.
The only time I was on Facebook was to engage in Pinterest-related groups where I could network, ask questions, get answers and work on my strategy. Or I was on blogging groups where I shared my blog links and got to read content by other people.
THAT did the trick.
After 3 months of doing this, day in and day out, I fell out of adoration with Facebook. I now know that it is a very powerful tool.
If used right, it can help you build your brand and help you network with people you care about.
If used any other way, it can lead to comparison, envy, self-loathing, jealousy and pretty simply, waste a lot of your time getting you nowhere.
I am not saying you should stop using Facebook. I still use it myself. I have my business pages and my Facebook groups, my personal profile and my favourite people that I follow there.
But, at some point, you will learn that Facebook should not be the first thing you wake up to in the morning or the last thing you see before bed.
When that happens, naturally and without forcing it, you will be happier. You will get more work done, you will focus on the things that matter and the best part?
You will actually enjoy using Facebook the way it ought to be used.