Overcoming Facebook Addiction 2.0

Two and a half years ago, I posted about trying to overcome my addiction to Facebook. The fact that it’s my #1 blog post makes me realize that I’d better revisit the topic. Actually, I think this calls for an update, a confession/reflection, followed by penance and some small changes that we (yes, you, too!) can make to take control of our lives back. Come along, won’t you?

Okay, first, the hard part: confession! (Recovering Catholic, can’t ya tell?) If you’re “friends” with me on Facebook, you see that I’m sporadically on there; sometimes I’ve got crickets chirping, other times I’ve got one thought-provoking (hopefully) meme after another (weird how the good ones pop up all at once – Must. Hit. Share.). 

I must be an addict. What else would explain the amnesia that strikes when I find myself staring blankly at my phone (iPhone be damned!) thinking, “Mmmkay, well how’d that app open?” Seriously, zero recollection of opening it. It’s the only app I get the amnesia over. Think it’s a coincidence? (Side note: Is there a MySpace app? Or is that site just for musicians and stuff now?)

So, there we have it. The first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. And I do. 

I know Facebook isn’t a drug, and it isn’t all bad. Hell, most of my hits here (over 1,000 a month, thanks, guys!) are from FB. I don’t see myself able to ever give it up 100% because, honestly, I want this blog to spread its wings and soar with the eagles. Or at least some Canada geese. Love those birds.

But, at the same time, I’m sick of feeling owned. Like, I enjoy Pinterest and Instagram but I feel in control of the situation. A day (or a week) can go by easily without my having to check either. I also don’t allow myself to feel like crap (like so many others in articles and posts  I’ve read) by the beauteous projects and lives that people display. When and if that happens, I’ll revert to trolling home magazine sites for inspiration that I need and taking plain ol’ pictures to edit with Picassa. S’all good.

With Facebook, it’s not all good. There’s a smidgen of good surrounded by any variation of:

Drama – Personal, political (often one and the same), veiled posts trying to start something, and rude comments from people (both friend and stranger), and let’s just say I’ve fallen victim of the “public fight with a strong-willed stranger” a few times.
Fishing – I’ve got low self esteem and even I don’t do this. Soooo what does that say about you when you’re using FB to fish for compliments and validation? It’s even more interesting when no one bites… Awk-ward. Find life-fulfilling, honest ways to do this, folks.
Over-sharing – Hardly ever intriguing, usually disturbing, alarming, or obnoxiously immature.
Mean ol’ guilt-trippers – Being an animal lover, I’m connected to several animal rescue pages. Some do an awesome job of informing the public in a respectful manner, but more and more are made up of some mean muthas (and I don’t mean Mom) who use the site to badger people for not calling a government official in Maine (I live in NYS) about a horrific animal abuse case. The guilt is horrible and the tone with which they lecture followers is like a reprimanding. I wish I could save every animal from pain and suffering, but I kind of have a life…and a baby…and three cats I’m too busy spoiling (since they’ve had rough lives before finding their “forever home”, too). It’s like an online version of those ASPCA ads without the music but with insults.
Super political/self-righteousness – This can be individuals or groups. Let’s just say I’m a left leaning individual just because, well, I am. However, because of my environment and the respect that I have for those around me who may be moderates or right-leaning, I try to post the non-offensive stuff. I follow a couple of groups that post maybe 20% valuable, rational ideas while the rest are Republican bashing. I know there are groups on the other side if the aisle, as
well. Guys…guys. This is what’s wrong with America today. Instead of considering ideas, opinions, conversations, valid information, etc we go with our guts and fight simply because “He’s a liberal.” When did the U.S. become two high school football teams that people sign up for and root for ’til their dying day? I’m okay with posting political ideas, but not offensive slights. (And, yes, I post gay rights things because I feel strongly in favor and the posts are non-offensive; there is a difference between a post you disagree with and a post that personally attacks you.)

I’m sure I’m missing someone, but you catch my drift. But, on to penance. Like I said, I don’t think I’ll ever be a completely healed Facebook-holic, but I hope to lessen my dependence to, well, zero. To be able to consciously use it once in awhile to post a blog post, to avoid the volatility, to respond to a message, and to occasionally unplug without withdrawal. Is that too much to ask?

If you’re interested in getting on the wagon, here are a few methods I’m going to be testing out:

Time yourself. You know how there are those methods of quitting smoking that allow you a little bit of it in the beginning? Use that as a guide. Consider what you can realistically do – one check a day for 5-10 minutes? (And you may want to set a timer ‘cuz you know FB is a time loss vortex. Seriously, though, you don’t need to see every single post from the last day; this is when you start getting that “my brain has over eaten” feeling.) As you feel comfortable with once daily, see if you can extend it. If not, once daily is actually a huge achievement and will give you SO much of your life back.
Tally ho! Keep a pen and paper (or make a note on your smartphone…maybe. The concrete reminder may work better.) handy to jot down a tally every time you visit FB, even accidentally. Go a step further and write down the time each time, too. We’ve gotta work on breaking the habit. It’s like having a dieter write down what they eat. You may or may not be surprised by how often you’re perusing Oh Evil Mistress Facebook. 
Purge your list. This will help with the brain-bloat, too. What friends only post things you’re interested in hearing? (ie the ones who don’t suck the air out of the room with every damn post) Which friends or groups give you anxiety or a headache regularly? Lose them, or if you really can’t delete them, edit what posts you receive from them. Seriously, I’ve done this and it has not only saved me some virtual stress but has saved my “real life” relationship with a couple of folks. Not that they need to know that I don’t get their immature, politically-charges rants anymore. Shh!
Be honest with yourself. What do you use Facebook for; alternatively, what does it do for you? Do you use it to stay in touch with friends and family? Sure, right, we all do that…but it’s only 10% of the truth. Figure out your reasons, then analyze whether you need FB to accomplish these things (sometimes you do; case in point, I need to reach readers). This may help you loosen the strings a bit more realizing that FB isn’t the only way to achieve those things you want to do (or those things you realize you don’t need in your life).
Put the phone down! Guys. Since I got the iPhone, I’ve been guilty of this, but it’s part of the process. You do not need to be connected 24/7. You’re not the president, or a member of the fire department (if you are, thank you!), or anyone ultimately important. (Okay. You’re important to me, but I don’t need to hear about your insomnia when I wake up in the morning. Love ya, but no one really cares. If your dog goes missing, however, we’ve got your back. Same with any other truly life altering situation.) But at dinner, when you should be playing with the baby (oh, the guilt) or paying attention to your spouse (y’know how spouses of yore would sit and just stare in stony silence when they reached 70? Yeah. Today, we’re doing it at 30. Stop that. You married a person, not your phone.) Allocate time to check your phone, but always put people first. Please and thank you.
Use the computer. If you must check, only allow yourself to use a computer (and not your work one). The less convenient it is, the less you’ll do it.
Final step: Walden it up. Thoreau is my hero, but man did that guy get crap DONE in a day! So when you’re getting the urge to waste an hour online, distract yourself in other ways. Do some house cleaning (okay, don’t), exercise, paint or draw or make sock puppets (whatever you like to do creatively, no judgement), watch a documentary (or something with Molly Ringwald; again, no judging; I’d watch a Jimmy Stewart flick), or read a book. I highly suggest going outside (as would Thoreau), even just to water plants or walk for a few minutes. Unplugging is so good for your brain. Y’know, as if nature intended it…

So, there it is. My Facebook Addiction Post 2.0. Let me know if you’ll be taking the journey with me! And, yes, I’m going to post this on FB, but be sure you follow my blog page since I’ll be on my personal one far less. 😉

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