Facebook Addiction: A Pushback Experiment

I will be the first to admit that I spend too much time on Facebook. It sucks me in, and I find myself spending more time browsing it than I ever intended. Often many times throughout the day. I haven’t accessed any stats to see how much time I spend on the beloved social media site, but I suspect I would be mortified if I saw them.

This problem has been on my mind for quite some time, but I didn’t know what to do about it. If you’ve found yourself dealing with a similar struggle, you’re far from alone. Read on for some things I tried, with varying success, and a few conclusions I came to on the issue.

A couple caveats:

I justify some of my social media consumption time in the fact that a decent percentage (estimated 40%) of my time is spent reading articles that I clicked through from sources & people I follow.

It has been cited that Facebook actively engineers their site to increase time users spend there. Though that is a common tactic for any site, or any media outlet for that matter, it is something to keep in mind. They prey on our often unconscious willingness to expand our browsing time far beyond what is necessary or useful.

A few things I tried that didn’t work out:

* I looked into apps that track social media usage but didn’t find anything satisfactory that I was willing to pay for.

* I tried setting a timer for myself at which point I would peel myself away, but that is only as good as my self-discipline at that moment.

The experiment that helped the most

I found that I was using the Facebook app on my phone for 80-90% of my browsing. As I do increasingly more day-to-day activities on mobile apps, I find many days that go by when I don’t even turn on my personal laptop in the evening after work.

The result is that, with my phone on or near my person 95% of my waking hours, I was “jumping on Facebook real quick” dozens of times per day. The “real quick” part is where things got murky.

I was frustrated at how much time I perceived being wasted, so I took a drastic step: I deleted the app from my phone. Without access to the time drain at my fingertips around the clock, I was able to log in just on my laptop, and I only did so for brief periods in the evening.

Helping matters was the fact that shortly after I deleted the app, we went on a mini-vacation to the coast with my in-laws, where the focus is on family time anyway, and the temptation to mindlessly browse diminished.

Full disclosure: this was a temporary experiment that I have since concluded. What happened, and what I learned, follows.

Here was a big surprise: I didn’t miss Facebook as much as I anticipated I would.

I can’t explain the psychology behind it, but I know that my brain had somehow trained me to constantly flip open various social media apps throughout the day; during lulls between activities, when I was taking a break at work, before I got in the shower, and so on… Being aware of my nervous tendency to check Facebook, I was surprised that when it was no longer an option, it didn’t bother me … much.

Discarding my most used app made me even more painfully aware how often I had been using it. At those times when I would typically open it, I suddenly had unscheduled time with which I could do other things. During that time, I started:

* taking a few moments to pause and reflect on all manner of things
* saying spontaneous prayers
* getting a jump on chores — you’d be surprised what you can get done in 5-10 focused minutes!

Those things alone provided a noticeable increase in peace and order in my life, which proved more valuable than learning who had checked in at which restaurant during that time. (Not knocking restaurant check-ins. I do it too; it’s just a handy punching bag as an example. :))

I was thrilled with this new found free time, and began to feel a little self-righteous about it (just being honest). I even discovered that when I did log in for a short while in the evenings, it didn’t seem that I had missed out on much over my constant checking. That may also be a tad self-righteous.

The end result

In giving it more thought, and talking it over with my husband, I chose to re-evaluate my priorities and reasons for checking Facebook in the first place. Here is what I concluded:

* It does have a tendency to take up too much time, especially if I am not mindful
* A good portion of what I see on there is of questionable value – HOWEVER:
* I take pleasure in staying in touch with a great many people that I don’t get a chance to talk to or see regularly
* Keeping up with the happenings of those I care about is of inherent value (I know it means a lot to me when someone I haven’t seen for a while mentions something in conversation that I posted on Facebook)
* I desire to not only be a present, observant friend but to also provide content that may be of interest or value to others

The final analysis is that even considering its drawbacks, it is worthwhile to be on and engaging with what people post on Facebook. My time without the app on my phone was about two weeks. I enjoyed the found time, but most of all, I enjoyed pushing back on my “addiction,” and realizing that I had the power to overcome it.

I have since reinstalled the app, but going cold turkey helped me to moderate my idle time spent browsing. I’m not suggesting I’ll never get sucked back in, but so far I am exercising a bit more self-control and trying to be more purposeful about how long I spend, and how I engage with others while using it.

 

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About Summer Sorensen

My aim: to live out Jesus' greatest commands (Matthew 22:36-40) & have the most fun while doing it.
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