Library of Progress

Paring Back Facebook, One Month In | January 9, 2016

For me, the reasons for paring back were not really the usual suspects. I mean, of course privacy is critically important and the ads really suck, but that’s not what drove me away.

Mostly I was irritated, massively so, every time I opened the site. Less so by the content being posted and shared (with the obvious exception of articles and arguments about politics, of course), but by the loss of control. I was so, so, so sick and tired of seeing “activity” from my friends rather than their actual posts and pictures. Of seeing the pages they’d liked, the polls they’d answered, comments from other people who I didn’t know and was never going to meet that had been left on their stuff. You can tinker around with “show less of” and “never show” and “show first in my feed” and “hide this post” until the cows come home, but the algorithms keep changing and all that time spent trying to tweak my experience was never going to result in a Facebook feed that didn’t piss me off every time.

So when I started thinking about paring back (encouraged by my husband, who had basically abandoned his own account a few months prior), I searched around for articles and blog posts of people who have done the same thing. I didn’t really find any. I mean, I found TONS of posts from people who stepped away fully, who not only deactivated their account but deleted it as well. I didn’t actually want to do either of those things. I didn’t even delete the app off my phone.

Instead I went through my account, over the course of a few days, and I tediously unfollowed everything and everyone. When I log into Facebook now, I see a blank main page (except for the ads, natch) and a blank activity feed. And ohhh, man, it’s great. My brain instantly felt quieter, calmer, less fragmented. Gretchen Rubin once wrote about people who always want to feel full vs. people who always want to feel empty, and I am most definitely in the latter camp. I am not soothed by knowing more, by the accumulation of objects or pieces of information, whether they are analog or digital. I need room, space, buffers, in every area of my life. It feels like my head is once again full of my OWN thoughts and feelings rather than an echo chamber of various levels of acquaintances.

There are a couple people whose pages I check manually once or twice a day, and about once a week I go through my friends list and glance at my top ten or so (the more I do this, the more they move to the top, so that process has streamlined as well). I left notifications turned on for exactly two of the many groups I belong to so I wouldn’t miss any news or events being posted. And…that’s it. I imagine with time the number of pages making the viewing cut will get fewer and fewer. I still post something myself maybe once a week or so, mostly kid pictures, but that is dropping off as well. I considered switching to Instagram, but I probably won’t. I probably read fewer articles now, since Facebook was my primary source of news (sometimes “news”) and information, but that’s not exactly a loss either. If something is truly important for me to know, I believe I will find out about it some other way.

I don’t know if I feel like I’ve gotten loads of time back because I still waste plenty of time surfing the internet in other not particularly productive ways yet, but this feels like a huge first step.

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