Facebook. The great evil. The destroyer of our age. Or, at the very least, the purveyor of somewhat humorous videos and political articles to be enraged by.
The pre-eminant problems of Facebook aren't new. They have been thoroughly well-documented here and here. I'm certainly not one to decry Facebook entirely - I'm on it!
I've had several identity crises centered around Facebook, and I know I'm not alone. So below, I've listed out some ways I've tailored my Facebook to not eat my soul.
1. Think Hard about Who You Follow... and Why
Think hard about what? Why you're following them. Or, for that matter, why you're friends with them. I had a couple of kinds of people I had floating in my friend's list:
- People who wounded me when I was young
- People I almost never spoke to.
For the record, I'm really not proud about some of these. They carry tough emotional links that are tough to break. Some of them may be in your circle of friends, families, community groups.
If you just need to have them out of your face, just unfollow them. If you find yourself still pulled by those unhealthy, destructive needs to feel better than or worse than them, unfriend them. Get the poison out before it destroys you.
2. Get a Strong Sense of Purpose Offline
It's hard to watch other people succeed if you don't feel like you are.I look at my Facebook feed and feel like I had the least iteresting life out there.
Don't get me wrong - still within the realm of possibility. I own multiple pairs of slippers and watch way too many TV shows.
Still, I think the reason those things start to irk you are wrong.
"Woah, so-and-so saw Sarah Bareilles? That's so cool!"
Would I actually have gotten a group together, bought tickets, and gone to Sarah Bareilles? Pffft, no. Nothing to do with good ol' Bareilly. But my get-up and go ain't got time for that.
So why did it even bug me?
Same reason kids want all the toys: for the sake of having all the toys. Not any intrinsic desire for it.
Some of them are bigger.
"I can't believe she had a second kid already."
Do I really want to be having my second kid at this very moment? No. There's nowhere to keep a kid in my apartment. The refrigerator? Possibility...
We all want to feel included. We all want, well, to have our cake and eat it to. Although, is it possible to eat cake without having it?
Nevermind. We all realize on some level that's not really possible. Not the cake thing. That's when we have to make those priorities.
Our life can never look like our newsfeed, because our newsfeed is the best of everyone we love.
Keep a list. Develop the things that you value. The timeline to get them. Have it in the physical world, so that when your online world smothers you, you still have evidence of your identity.
3. Don't Fall for Clickbait.
It's not about preventing their numbers. It's not about encouraging a broken and sensationalist form of media.
It's about all the little grey cells in your brain.
There is so. Much. Information. And worse, there is so much opinion. Information is great. Opinions are great.
But if you've found yourself reading multiple articles about the anti-vaccine movement (while having no kids) and finding yourself steadily getting more and more enraged at the universe, then you may have a problem.
Care about things. Care about real things. I love reading about public health/civil rights/strange news stories/political skepticism/newest shiny thing as much as the next guy. Some of my favorite articles I've found from Facebook.
But if you know information areas that are reputable and you enjoy reading, just hit those guys up. I will read everything that Cracked has ever written. The Atlantic and New Yorker have a warm fuzzy place in my heart.
But if I'm not careful, I'm spinning a rage web completely from one person on the internet disagreeing with me. Which brings me to the next one...
4. Comment Wars are Never Worth It.
Yes. There's someone wrong on the internet. Worse? They're your friend. Or a friend of your friend. Or your great-aunt Bertha. Or [insert designation for a group of people here] are at it again.
There is always a battle to fight. You could always have done more. Someone on your news feed posts a horrifying article that raises your hackles. Maybe it's about the movie you just saw and loved. Maybe it's about potical issues.
If their thoughts are actually inappropriate, and if you're close enough, private message them and point out their racist/sexist/classist behavior. If you can, call them and talk to them.
I'm going to invoke Thumper:
If you can't argue patiently, using reliable data and treating the person you disagree with with respect, then don't argue anything at all.*
*May be a slight paraphrase.
If it's about the 700 million other things the universe will still turn with that disagreement, better to just... let it go.
Good luck not singing "Frozen" for the next half-hour.
5. Give it Boundaries
Facebook is like a gas - it will fill whatever container you give it. And for you, that container is your time.
The moment you hop on and that newsfeed spreads out in front of you, everything in it is built to keep you from leaving. Your own psychology, and it's voyeuristic, comparative tendancies are working against you. Everything is pushing you towards Facebook addiction.
Chat services, updating newsfeeds, all of that is built to be ideal if you leave it around at all times.
Don't let it be the first thing you pull up on your computer. You will get sucked in. Your time will disappear. Your mood, as previously mentioned, will disappear. Time and energy that could have been spent building real relationships over the phone or in person are squashed by addiction.
6. Don't Like Anything
A writer at Wired did the unthinkable - he liked everything. Literally everything. Any comment, baby picture, article - everything. The result?
A nearly unreadable newsfeed full of complete and utter crap. Extremely one sided opinion pieces. Advertisements. It smothered whatever social aspect there was to social media.
Medium countered by not liking anything, and she found Facebook to be a social center that ispired conversation and connection.
Liking is passive. Liking is market driven. Conversation, however, is real.
I tried not hitting the like button. It felt impossible. How would my friend know that I liked that she had a baby? The answer became obvious - I had to tell my friend I was happy for her using these bizzarre collection of letters called words. You find out really quick what you respond to as a passing fancy and what you connect with. The latter you could never pass without giving a comment when "like" isn't an option.
If you have none of these problems...
Congratulations. You have transitioned entirely to Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram, or Twitter instead. I wish you luck on your journeys through the Twittersphere, Tumblrverse, and Reddit...black hole?