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150. Six weeks break from Facebook gave me some interesting insights

I’ve just come back to Facebook after having had nothing to do with it for about six weeks. Since I signed up in 2007, I’ve never taken a period where I wasn’t active. Sure, I’ve not been online for days when I’ve been at events or when I’ve concentrated on other stuff, but nothing like this. For the last couple of years, Facebook has also been a major communication channel for me, since we use it for our larp events and communities.

So it was a bit of an experiment, this going cold turkey.

Here are some things I’ve learned that I feel are worth sharing:

  1. Facebook is amazing for “keeping current”. Scrolling down my news feed gives me all sorts of interesting information on what people I know are doing, thinking and feeling. Not having access to that made me feel somewhat cut off from a lot of people I don’t see that often.
  2. It’s also a great source for varied content. Though my Facebook contacts aren’t a study in diversity, they do come from many different backgrounds, and thus share different content. I could keenly feel the lack of my customary buffet table of videos/articles that I’m normally fed by friends.
  3. When you’re not on Facebook, you miss out on events. Many invitations come through this channel; parties, birthdays, meetings, etc. I noticed that I got a lot fewer invites to things during my break.
  4. I lost a lot of my reach by staying away. My blog posts have never been read by so few, and it’s given me some fresh perspective on how little my seven thousand Medium followers mean compared to my FB friends. As someone with a huge network, it felt like being cut off from it.
  5. It was hard to not check FB all the time. At the beginning, it felt weird to not compulsively check whenever I had some spare time. It got a lot easier with time. Now, I don’t have Facebook on my phone, and I am pretty sure I’ll keep it that way.
  6. It was refreshing to not end up in so many online fights. Facebook doesn’t create disagreements, but it certainly makes them worse. No body language. No tone of voice. Everyone able to flick from debate to debate in seconds, summoning allies (or enemies!) at a moment’s notice. Not having to deal with that has been nothing short of energizing.
  7. Facebook is fine — engaging in everything isn’t. My key takeaway has been that my habit of jumping into debates, posting controversial content and thinking that Facebook is a place to change hearts and minds… it’s a bad strategy. Facebook CAN be used to influence opinions, become a better person and to have meaningful debates. But the energy required vs the outcomes? For me, that equation stopped adding up long ago, and now I know that trap for what it is.
  8. This means that I need to care less or post less. Since I don’t see myself caring less anytime soon, the choice is simple. I’ve already changed my Facebook habits drastically, and I hope to stick to my new principles. There are many ways to make the world a better place — and while crusading on Facebook is definitely one of them, it’s not for me anymore.
  9. I’m very happy to be back. I’ve missed videos of sliding pandas, interesting articles that I would never have read, and tons of news (and fake news). I don’t want to use Facebook like I did in the past, but I also don’t want to stay off it. There’s a lot of great stuff here, and I love that.
  10. I’m definitely going to backslide from time to time. I’m realistic enough to know that my being very vocal and public about my life on Facebook was due to me being very vocal and public period. However, we all change and I just hope I’ll manage to make this change stick, so FB goes back to being a tool and a fun place, instead of something that causes stress.

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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