by Elena Greco
Typical reading time: 2 minutes
February 20, 2021
An awful lot of us have trouble with social media. We spend an inordinate amount of time surfing and scrolling. We can’t seem to stop using it, even when we want to, even after we’ve declared we’re done with it. Why? Because the tech companies who bring you these products design them that way! Their goal is to keep you scrolling and clicking. That’s what keeps them in business. (For info straight from the horse’s mouth, I recommend watching The Social Dilemma (Netflix).)
So if you’ve tried to stop or limit your social media activity and failed, don’t feel bad; you’re not alone. If you feel your usage is somehow out of control, or you keep trying to find “methods” to make it manageable … stop. You can’t.
For a long time I used the Notifications feature of Facebook to manage my usage, assigning only those people and pages I really needed or wanted to see to appear in my Notifications list so that I never needed to look at the Newsfeed. I promised myself that if Facebook ever took away my ability to do that, or changed the algorithms so drastically that I could not manage it, I would leave.
Well, they did. (And I did.) You can no longer assign people to the Notifications list; only pages can be assigned. You can assign 30 people as your “Favorites,” and then they possibly show up in your Newsfeed, which means you must use the Newsfeed in order to possibly see Friends’ posts. Except that that doesn’t really work. Virtually no one sees my posts now, and I almost never see posts of my (real) friends.
In short, there is no way to manage your Facebook experience now. You’re at the mercy of Facebook and you will see what they want you to see, which is primarily advertising or promoted (paid) posts.
Previously I was losing hours every day on social media, no matter how hard I tried to reduce that time. I came to see that it was an addiction for me, and that I had little chance of stopping without taking drastic measures. So I began to wean myself from Facebook. First I removed the app from my phone so that I couldn’t scroll while watching television at night, next I set a timer to restrict my morning read of Facebook—when I formerly lost hours of my life—and finally I set a date to stop using it altogether. Now I use it only for marketing purposes once or twice a week, and every week or so I go to the Timelines of several friends to see what they’re up to. I don’t use the Newsfeed at all, and I never scroll compulsively. It is no longer a regular part of my life. I can’t tell you what a relief this is. I feel free.
I thought about the other social media apps I’d been using (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) and quickly decided they weren’t necessary either. I removed all social media apps from my phone, and, like Facebook, only go to these apps for marketing purposes or occasionally to read the posts of a specific friend.
I learned that (a) the news I read on Facebook and Twitter could easily be had through a few email newsletters and a couple of news websites, (b) most of the people I considered “friends” on these apps were not really friends, and (c) most of what people say on social media is as their public persona and not necessarily the truth for them. And what had felt like “socializing” was in fact a fantasy.
As a result of leaving social media, I now have better short-term memory, my mood has improved, I generate more creative product, and I suddenly have an amazing amount of time. I do not miss these apps.
I’m not about to suggest that everyone should leave social media. For some, perhaps it’s not much of a problem. But do think about your usage and see if there’s something about it you’d like to change, and if it really serves you … or if you are serving them.