Friday Digital Roundup
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I Deleted the Facebook App for 72 Hours – Here’s What I Learnt
My current life is because of social media. I know that might sound like a grand statement, but it is.
It’s thanks to Twitter that I was given the connections who showed me a portal into a new world. Thanks to the people I met and tweeted, the lessons I learned from them, the events I got involved in, and of course the woman I met and fell in love with that I have the life I now have.
I was late to all this though. Facebook was something I avoided for years. My first home didn’t have WiFi for a good year. I avoided what everyone else was doing – even becoming an iPhone user was left for some time.
But, as with anything that I do, once I got on board – I get elbow deep in it. I do have an additive personality (having had to have hypnosis to stop mid-week drinking tells you all you need to know about my habits and my control of them!).
It wasn’t long before I was on Farmville and posting on Facebook every evening and then more than twice a day once I got my hands on my first iPhone. Social media had got me.
As a storyteller and all round show-off this was a perfect place to hangout. I got the impression early on that updating Facebook every hour wasn’t really acceptable and would lead to losing friends, so Twitter became my go to channel.
I built up a following of 2,000+ people on an account for the business I worked for and posted 10s of 1000s of tweets between and often during wine deliveries. I even slated Facebook, saying it wasn’t as fun, as interesting, or as good for business. I even posted blogs on it.
Facebook didn’t really offer me what I needed from social media
Facebook was school friends and family. Facebook was past and present. What I needed – not that I knew it back then – was a new future, and that’s what Twitter gave me.
But recently Facebook has become the go-to channel. Facebook groups fully sucked me in and whilst running a large networking group I came to realise that it was groups, not local hashtags, that suited my networking and business goals more.
I even started using my personal timeline to promote my business and networking meetings, which in turn led to building local groups, too.
Facebook suddenly became my all-encompassing channel. It was friends, family, and now business present and future. It was under my skin like a permanent social tattoo.
But for all the good it came with a cost.
Facebook is an addiction
And if you pick up Facebook before you leave the bed in the morning then you’re probably addicted, like I am.
Facebook is engrained in most people’s lives (especially the over 30s) and it’s pretty common to exchange Facebook requests instead of phone numbers.
Is it a bad addiction though? It’s just photos and memes, right? It’s just people posting picture of their dinner and sharing their latest weekend adventures?
Well it was for me… until Covid-19 came about.
Thanks to algorithms, you’re fed what you tell the system at Facebook (et al) what you like. The more you watch, the more you search, and in many respects the more people you connect and talk to, the more refined and personal your timeline becomes.
This isn’t news to me, and for a while I thought everyone knew that Facebook is trying to give you more of what you want to keep you on their platform, so they can give advertisers more eyeballs…
… but it turns out many were blind.
Many were and are blind to the sheer network that Facebook has
Almost every website you land on has a Facebook pixel tracking and matching you. Almost every new website has a Facebook plugin added. Facebook is hardwired into most smartphones and it’s one of the most used apps in the world.
The Social Dilemma opened the lid on this with the recent Netflix documentary that launched this year. I was amazed at the reaction and surprised how many people I thought had it cracked that were shocked at the very dark and disturbing influence Facebook has on you. People were talking about how they were going to delete the app or stop their kids from using it.
… but back to Covid.
I’ve always used my Facebook to journal. I use it to share my thoughts, test content, post images, and create conversation. I love conversations online and I love hearing peoples’ views. So, I talk about what I think about.
… that’s not so popular right now. What we all think about Covid differs and what we all see, read, and hear differs too.
The major problem I (and you) have with Facebook is that it’s doubling up on what your brain wants – it wants you to be right! Your brain will always look for evidence to prove you’re right and in the age of the internet, that’s very easy to do. And in the age of Facebook – it’s not even a choice!
When you start looking at videos on Facebook (and YouTube) you’re fed more of the same. Accidentally watch a Trump video and you’re fed more of them (although it’s pretty hard to avoid the cheesy wotsit even if you try!).
Your brain wants you to be right. You search for more evidence of that. And then the ever-present, stalking Facebook changes the algorithm to feed you more content related to that.
When you search for a theory on Covid, then post about it, and then get comments from people who agree with you (and I get more of those than those who don’t), then you see more of them, what they post, and vice versa.
Do you see the problem?
You’re continually building an echo chamber
Even if you don’t realise it, every search, every conversation you have, every connection you make, and every group you join and interact in is adding to your echo.
Facebook wants you to stay, so it gives you more of what you want, more of what you believe in. This isn’t a problem when you like Tom Jones. There’s never been an issue of too much Tom Jones has there? Even if there has been… it IS unusual.
But when Facebook feeds you more and more of the people who agree with your Covid thoughts or political views (see Brexit), then you’ll get more and more wrapped up into to it all and led down one path and led further and further down it.
Every time I heard something about Covid or lockdowns it would go on Facebook. I wanted to share my thoughts, I wanted to check that I wasn’t alone. I wanted to see what others thought… but then I realised that I wasn’t just doing that.
I also needed confirmation that I was right.
Even with the post-Covid Facebook pulling down content that doesn’t fit the mainstream narrative, my posts (far from conspiracy-type stuff) attracted more content like it and more people who agreed.
Of course, some didn’t and I lost friends – real friends – because of what I believed because I posted it on Facebook.
I kept telling myself I wouldn’t post about it anymore, but you’ll probably have noticed that there’s a neverending list of content and thoughts you can watch and read. The fuel for my posts was an oil field that I couldn’t burn quick enough and this led to more and more posts about it.
Now, I’m totally OK with that. I stand by my posts and I’m careful to point out that the posts are only my own thoughts and based on information I’ve seen from trusted sources and then formed an opinion from. As I said above, I post about it as that’s how I use social media. I’ve been training for this since I joined Facebook and that’s led to daily journaling about my feelings over the huge global issue.
But it wasn’t healthy, and it wasn’t good for me
I was getting angry at some content, frustrated with others, and although I kept my cool on the posts I shared, I started to post on other content to push back on their views and even started ‘correcting’ the use of cases and making sure we were talking Covid, not Coronavirus (two different things in some context).
But it wasn’t doing me any good and it’s certainly not going to change the world. I’m not Facebook mates with Boris and those two advisors to the Government aren’t following my Twitter. All it was doing was winding me up, although it did give me a place to vent and release.
So, I decided to leave for three days whilst I took some time out, and here’s what I found.
I left for Oxford, deleted the Facebook App and headed for a few nights away. I posted to say so as I knew this would stem the flow of Facebook Messenger notifications I would get normally and it would also tell my group that I wasn’t around to save them thinking I was rude, and also to give permission to others in our group to cover my base for a bit.
What did I learn? Well mainly that I was and still am addicted. Just thinking about it then made me reach for my phone!
But I also learnt this…
Photos are for?
Ask any photographer and they’ll tell you that your smartphone is darn good at taking photos but that most photos simply stay there. What a waste. Most of my photos end up on Facebook. But it got to the point where I was only taking them for Facebook. On my weekend away I took fewer photos as they had nowhere to go!
Thoughts go where?
It was impossible to avoid the news on our weekend away. With the rules in full force everywhere, Covid is up front and in your face by design, but in the first hotel, as I grabbed a beer, I noticed everyone pinned to the TV. The BBC News was on with some breaking news. I tried to avoid looking, I popped my headphones in, I listened to my audiobook – but boy did I want to post that scene on Facebook!
So… I posted it on Twitter instead! My thoughts need somewhere to go and when no one is around, they go on social media.
When I sat by myself, I instantly reached for my phone. When Jo headed to the toilet, when I sat waiting for her at lunch, the phone was out. Without Facebook there though, I went in search of other content. I couldn’t just sit. The addiction wasn’t Facebook – it was my phone! It is in part Facebook’s fault, but I’ve always been head down in my phone. Somehow, I need to find a way to just be.
I’m ‘brave’ apparently for posting on Facebook and sharing my thoughts about Covid and other such conversations. Sure, I get push back and comments that pull my ideas apart and, in many ways, I’m used to that having spent so much time online. But… it’s not without cost.
The anxiety of seeing a notification that tells me that that person who only pops up to take a pop has commented on my post drives anxiety and adrenalin as I get ready to go to battle on a digital playground.
It very much feels like seeing the bully in school and it’s just as damaging. The difference here is I’m actually putting myself on the soapbox to be shouted at and the comments come for hours, if not days.
Not posting, not checking, and not having the stress of worrying about a post I’ve uploaded and who’s saying what certainly made me feel more at ease and happier to enjoying living!
Something that didn’t surprise me but is more than I thought it would be are the pick-up times on my iPhone and the time spent on my device. Without the Facebook distraction my screen time is down 62% which is a lot considering the new daily average time is three and half hours still!
Oh… and unsurprisingly I didn’t have to carry a battery back-up to the dinner table or spend the weekend looking for a plug. It turns out that endlessness scrolling Facebook drains an iPhone and that even one of the age of mine (about 18 months) can last a whole day if you leave the darn thing alone!
In control of my thoughts…
Although Jo and I still talked about Covid, Boris, and other related topics, we were at least talking about stuff in our heads, not in our hands. So often the conversation is fuelled by what we see on Facebook as posted by someone we’ve connected to from networking. Our own conversations and thoughts were being driven by Facebook and the people on there. The echo chamber has become a continual echo in other areas of my life.
Without Facebooking before bed, the dreams weren’t as gnarly, either. Instead of scrolling Facebook in front of the fire, we toasted marshmallows instead and chatted. It’s like a different world out there. On Sunday morning I scrolled YouTube and watched longer form content from influencers rather than seeing what Karen had for breakfast; a change I may well keep!
App back, challenges remain
On Sunday morning I downloaded the app back onto my iPhone and checked in to see how many notifications I had to catch up on. There were surprisingly very few and our group was still there with great conversations as it had before.
There was one notification from someone on a video about 5G who for some reason tagged me and someone else to poke fun at the whole Covid-5G connection from early on in the pandemic. I’ve never really been on board with that one, but someone I don’t know has clearly made me a tin foil hat and decided to berate me.
So, I blocked him.
I have no idea who he is, why he tagged me and a distant friend, and I don’t care either.
The biggest lesson in all this is where my attention was being pulled.
I was talking to people like that cockwomble, trying to explain my point all far too often, and although I don’t wish to have an echo chamber, I go back on comments I’ve shared in the past about not removing those who disagree with you, because some people are just not worth my time or focus.
Goodbye, Mr Tagger!
Groups, not scrolling is the future…
And so, the final verdict in all this?
I won’t permanently remove Facebook as I can’t.
I run ads, look after pages and have a vibrant networking group to manage.
But that’s OK, as I’ve isolated the very thing that was frustrating me and driving me to sleepless nights and anxiety-stricken days. Endlessly scrolling and seeing what everyone was up to – or thought about Covid – wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t good at all.
What I do love is my group and my business, so I’ll be using my own timeline far less and probably just posting pictures of Bob (my daughter) and sharing funny memes.
In my whole time of posting about Covid, not one member of the Government reached out, and I doubt one mind was changed. That wasn’t ever the purpose of my posting; it was more to get a feel for what others thought (especially when the pubs were closed) but you have to question if all that posting, and scrolling was worth it.
I now know the answer. It wasn’t time well spent.
Where are you spending your time?
I’d check in on your screen time and ask yourself what you’re doing on Facebook. It’s a dark and twisted place and it’s feeding you more and more of what you ask it to… whether you know it or not.
It’s very real when someone disagrees with you on Facebook. It lives with you. You carry it.
I’ve realised that this weekend and I’ve decided to carry far less of it in future…
Tags associated with this articleAnxiety Delete Facebook Facebook App Photos Quiet Time Sleep Social Media Thoughts
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