How neutering Facebook helped me kick the habit

The idea of deleting your social media profiles has been around since the days of Friendster and MySpace but in the last year or two it has really picked up steam in light of many disturbing revelations on privacy and influence.

While I'm still a heavy Twitter user, and a moderate Instagram user, I have successfully stopped using Facebook for about a year now. For me it's been a low value network for some time as friends increasingly used it to share third-party content instead of life updates. Still, even though I've felt this way I found it very hard to kick the habit. I thought about quitting cold turkey and just deleting my Facebook but something always held me back. It also felt overly dramatic.

So instead I very gradually weaned my way off. Here are the steps I took, roughly in sequential order:

  1. Turned off all push and email notifications: Facebook is a very noisy app and they are always finding new things to alert you about. Don't let them suck you back in.
  2. Moved Facebook off my phone home screen: I was shocked when I realized how often I take out my phone because I'm just bored in the moment without a plan. Almost always I just stare at the app icons on my home screen and launch one out of boredom. As soon as I moved Facebook off to another page, a swipe or two away, I probably killed off ~30% of my app sessions. Crazy how even the smallest friction can do that.
  3. Deleted Facebook off my phone: After the first two steps, I had already found myself much less absorbed with Facebook. That made this step not as big of a deal as it might have been if I had started with it. One day I just deleted the Facebook app altogether, and just like that I wasn't a Facebook mobile user.
  4. Installed News Feed Eradicator on Chrome: At that point my Facebook habit was limited to just my laptop. But I found that I still checked it quite often. Facebook started as a website and in many ways its still my preferred way to use it. What I realized is that the biggest attraction to Facebook for me was something about its slot machine effect. Each time I log in, I have no idea what I'm going to find in the news feed. And that spontaneity ends up being very addictive. So one day I found and installed News Feed Eradicator for Facebook and my Facebook now looks like this:

As you can see my newsfeed is completely missing and in its place is a quote inspiring me to stay off Facebook. With this extension in place plus the steps I mentioned earlier I am no longer active on Facebook anymore.

Still, you might be wondering. Why not just delete my account altogether at this point? For me I found that my current setup is much more preferable for me. Here's a couple of benefits for my setup:

  • Log in with Facebook still works: I have signed up for several services using my Facebook account as my login, and its very convenient to continue using my Facebook to authenticate going forward. On my phone I am logged into Safari in order to keep using this feature. Technically I could get sucked back in by visiting Facebook on mobile web – but I never do.
  • Keeping your Facebook friend directory: I still find that Facebook offers some good utility. Occasionally, for example, I'll wonder about a friend I haven't talked to in a long time, and I'm still able to look them up or message them.

Essentially, what I've done to my Facebook is turn it into a pure utility. It's my identity when I want it to be to seamlessly use other services, and its something like my phone book when I want to check in on someone. The point is that its content and newsfeed are no longer a part of my life. So instead of the finality of #DeleteFacebook maybe just think about neutering it.

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