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Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


My Facebook diet

Unliking Facebook I had a problem. Facebook was becoming an un-fun place for me. There was too much content, too much click bait, and too much comment bait. It was taking up too much time, and causing too much anxiety. I guess what I'm trying to say it was too much, in general.

I kept feeling the urge to comment on other people's political content, or correct their science/medical misconceptions. Even when I managed not to actually comment, I'd end up thinking about how I would respond for a while… I'd dwell too long. Intellectually, I knew it wouldn't make any difference either way: I mean, how many would possibly change their mind based on my comments anyway? But it was causing extra anxiety.

So, between that, and the endless scrolling through of updates from people I barely knew, pages I'd liked, and groups I was in, I'd waste my small allowance baby-nap freetime and at the end have nothing to show for it. No extra knowledge, no minds changed, no better understanding of anything: just extra anxiety and a pile of missing time. But yet I couldn't turn away.

I felt like Data:

Having previously deleted my Tumblr account (for the same reasons), I considered doing the same for Facebook. I deactivated Facebook: just quit cold turkey. But, thinking about it, I did depend on several of the groups I was in for group playdate schedules for my daughter, and Facebook messaging was my primary contact method for several people I wanted to stay in contact with. So, when after an hour a friend talked to my wife asking if I had deleted Facebook, I reactivated.

Then I came up with a much better solution: I would go on a Facebook diet. I needed to get rid of a lot of my newsfeed.

I had too many "friends", too many "liked" pages, and too many groups.

For getting rid of "friends", I considered a mass un-friending, but as I hovered the mouse over the first person, I realized that was just going to burn a lot of bridges and possibly hurt some feelings, etc. So I decided unfollowing was a better method. I was ruthless (I unfollowed Ruth too). The general rule was: If I haven't interacted with you in person in the past year, I'd unfollow. Nothing personal: I very much like most of the people I unfollowed, and even enjoyed much of the content they posted, but I had to simplify. I kept a pretty clean friends list anyway ( < 150 people), but now I'm following less than 30.

Next up: Liked pages. I showed no mercy. I unliked nearly everything except a for local businesses and organizations, and pages maintained by people I personally know. I had accumulated more than 500 liked pages. Now, if you don't include the non-publishing/non-real pages like "Caffeine" and "Doubt", it's just a few, mostly local news, local businesses, and friend's pages.

Finally came groups. I had joined in a few homeschooling groups which at one point I had found useful, or had hoped to find useful. I no longer interacted with them, but they still plopped things on my newsfeed far too often. I had also been added to a few groups surreptitiously. I left most of them (again, nothing personal). I'm still in a few geographically local groups, but they're not very noisy and actually give me useful information like where people are meeting up.

There is one ancillary step I'm taking to reduce my Facebook time. If there's a post which I feel the need to comment on, but I feel will lead to a long debate (so, anything related to politics, religion, gender, race, or alternative medicine), I have decided I will write an article here instead of commenting directly. A Facebook comment will merely cause me anxiety anticipating the responses, and no one will ever see it again after a day or 3, but by posting it here in paraphrased and anonymized form, I remove the personal nature, so the person, if they do see it, will not feel the huge need to defend themselves in public. So I can rebut the original point, no one feels personally attacked, and I have something to show for it.

So, that's my diet. Facebook is more boring now, and that's fantastic: I can come to it hours apart and there's only like one or two new stories. I don't feel nearly as anxious after checking it now. There is still a bit of political content, but now I can afford to think about it a little because it's just one item instead of 20.

We'll see how long it lasts, but so far, so good.