Fixing My Relationship with Facebook

I’ve always had a rocky relationship with social networks. I joined Facebook in Fall 2008, pulled in by the girl I liked who kept pushing me to join. It was awesome in college.  A great way to meet new people. A great way to stay in touch with my high school friends at other universities.

But as Facebook grew, I started to get uncomfortable. People started to behave differently.  They spent more time online and had less actual human contact. They used Facebook as a platform to show off their “cool” lives, political comments and inane thoughts of the day. I found myself doing it too.

I’d accumulated hundreds of “friends,” the vast majority people who I rarely talked to in real life. I started spending more time on Facebook, looking at other people’s lives who I didn’t really know! I became uncomfortable with oversharing and wasting my time.  Something had to change.

Deleting 600 Friends Didn’t Work

So in 2009, I went through my friend list of nearly 1000 and looked at each person.  I said to myself, “if I saw this person on the other side of the street, would I stop, cross over and say hi?”  If the answer was no, they got deleted. I got down to about 300, but I also hurt some feelings. I felt bad about it, but my relationship with Facebook got better. I spent less time look at other people’s curated lives, while wasting my own.

It worked for a time, but last year, I found my behavior starting to change again. I was spending more time on Facebook, doing nothing, wasting time. I found myself posting status updates and pictures only to show off, checking Facebook on my iPhone whenever I had downtime instead of actually living life. I felt a little disappointed when people didn’t retweet or like a photo or comment I uploaded. I was becoming the social media user I abhorred.

Social Networks Make Us Unhappy

On a trip to LA I realized that I was unhappy because even though I’d seen killer whales that only come to California once a year, I hadn’t gotten a good picture to show off to my friends. Something was wrong.  I deleted nearly 100 more friends and took Facebook and Twitter off of my iPhone. I later added Twitter back, but not Facebook.

I’ve gotten more disillusioned with social networks in general over the past six months. Social networks make people unhappy. If you’re like the vast majority of social network users, you post your best photos, your best updates, your funniest jokes, best articles you’ve read, vacation pictures, celebs you’ve met and show off what you’re up to.  You show a skewed portrayal of yourself. Facebook brings people down because we’re only seeing the best part of other people’s lives. And we think “if they’re living that well, why aren’t I?” And its addictive. It’s always there.

I also don’t like Facebook’s social pressure. “Like my status. Why don’t you ever post on my wall, he does, you don’t! Did you see her photo on Facebook?”  I hate Facebook messages. I get tons of them, but there’s no good way to organize them and I lose messages in the shuffle. I’ve missed meetings and cool opportunities because people contact me on Facebook when they could have written me an email or sent me a tweet. I hate getting sucked into Facebook.

Deleting Facebook?

About two months ago, I decided to completely delete Facebook. But I couldn’t do it. I administer 7 Facebook fan pages for brands. I get about 30% of my traffic to by blog from Facebook. I make money from consulting and blog referrals via Facebook. I get invited to parties and events. And it truly does help you stay in contact with people who you meet in your travels.

Next, I decided to defriend all by my 20 closest friends and use Facebook more like Twitter, but I realized that that would only help me with part of my problem. After thinking about it some more, I came up with a new solution, which I’m implementing now.

A Compromise Plan

1. Unsubscribe from all friend updates

My newsfeed is 100% blank.  I won’t waste time each day on random stuff. I’ll have less of a reason to check Facebook when I’m bored. I know I’ll miss out on the newest memes, a few interesting articles, but overall I think it’s a win. If I want to see what someone’s up to, I can still check out their profile.

2. Use Facebook more like twitter

I’m going to publish all of my posts to Facebook as public. I’ll continue to post my blog posts, interesting articles I see and anything else I’d normally tweet out.  This way, I’ll still get the traffic Facebook gives me now.

3. Use Facebook more liked Linkedin

I’ll accept nearly all Facebook friend requests and view it more as my network, rather than friends. This way, I’ll stay in better contact with more people who might be interesting to interact with in real life in the future.

4. Put most of my photos to private

I’m going to put all of my photos to private, except a few of the most interesting ones.

We’ll see how it ends up. Have any of you changed the way you interact with Facebook? What do you do?


  • Interesting idea. Look forward to the follow up on how it works, you’ll have lots of extra time at least.

  • Very good idea. Been thinking about the same for a while. Best tip here is “Use Facebook more liked Linkedin”.

    I have like 100 friend requests. Not even sure who is who but better to capitalize too on that 🙂

    • Yea, I figure it can’t hurt to have a ton of fb friends if you’re using it like linkedin and twitter and not oversharing and over consuming content.

  • You have a good point there… I have always wondered… Should I use for for work or for friends and family?!? I would love to do what you say… But then how would I stay connected to all my friends around the world? That’s what’s stopping me from doing it!

    • Thanks Consu! I think I realized that I don’t care as much what my friends that I met while traveling are doing on a day to day basis. It forces me to write them a message every once in awhile to actually give them an update and see what they’re up to. After writing this post, I got a bunch of emails and fb messages from my “travel friends” with updates. Thats how you start, I think.

  • ive done simialr stuff – but i have a simple rule about accepting people – I have to have spoken to them atleast once! Another trick to not miss out on the interesting articles etc. is to use an app such as Zite or Flipboard that simply pulls stories out of your friends posts and curates them. Works like a charm. Another use case for facebook for me – is the fact that its a brilliant way to crowdsource – since a lot of the people on there actually care about you and are likely to help when you need quick advice – or a bit of information – or a connection with someone.

    • Glad to hear I’m not alone. I thought about your rule about having to have spoken to them, but I’ve found that I’ve “met” some interesting people on fb and then met them for real in person later. If you unsubscribe on fb, does flipboard still work?

      I like fb for the micro groups i’m a part of: startup chile, young entrepreneur council, a group of friends. thats the real value of fb for me these days.

  • Here’s an email I got from a friend who wanted to remain anonymous. It was a great comment and I wanted to share:

    Yo Nate. I saw your Facebook post and wanted to comment to you directly.

    I think your idea is sound, I basically implemented a lot of that a few months ago. I rarely post much at all anymore, but here’s what I do:

    1) Have a small group of Close Friends who can see absolutely everything I post or that I am tagged in.
    2) Accept pretty much all friend requests; everyone that is not in the Close Friends group can’t see my pictures but they can see some things I post.
    3) Lock down everything completely from anyone that is not a friend.
    4) Don’t post anything stupid so that rule #2 doesn’t get me in trouble.

    I don’t like removing people even if I never talk to them, because you never know when some opportunity might arise from having them on there. But yeah, I hardly look at my news feed anymore because I frankly couldn’t care less what most people are posting, haha.

    Also I thought that this was the most poignant part of your post:

    “You show a skewed portrayal of yourself. Facebook brings people down because we’re only seeing the best part of other people’s lives. And we think “if they’re living that well, why aren’t I?” And its addictive. It’s always there.”

    That’s really interesting, I have definitely found myself thinking “wow, their life is awesome” even though if I posted all the cool things I did and nothing else, people would probably think the same about me.

  • I’m really trying to figure this out. I’m a performer and produce a show, so fb is very much an important tool. I too hate the messages and rarely get an email. I book most of my performers through fb these days. It’s a trap. But I find myself wasting so much time. I had over 3000 at one point when I was a publisher of an online magazine. When I stopped I cut mercilessly to about 400. Part of it for me is going to have to be self-discipline. I do fine out about other performers shows etc via fb. However due to fb news feed algorithm changing favouring expensive status “boots” I see a shift away from there having to happen. I think I may unsubscribe to the majority of people for my news feed, and shift my focus on to twitter for networking & promotion. Great article and good to read how others are dealing with this. In a perfect world I’d delete my account.

  • I think these are really good ideas, to use social media networks responsibly and for specific intentions. Otherwise, one can get lost in an increasingly stormy sea of nonsense and information overload. Maybe younger people with a lot of energy and a need to be popular can handle it, but I started to feel like it was doing a number on my brain and attention span in a negative way. I know all this started to wear on me and I became more and more “disgusted”, if you will, by both the superficial posts and the over-sharing and authenticity at times. The social networking aspect seemed to taint even authenticity in a certain way as well after a while.

    Though I deleted people from my original profile who I didn’t really know or never had a good feeling about, it didn’t seem to help. I felt like I knew more about peoples’ lives than I really personally knew them at all. Being someone who “feels” other people, I would think way too much about people I had spoken to maybe twice or never. Besides, I would suffer a weird guilt feeling if I didn’t look at some posts over others, while they liked and commented on mine.

    Like yourself, I would start to feel disappointed if I hadn’t been able to share a particular experience with a photo. It really starts to take away from the moment. My original intention with Facebook was to promote my art, which I did to a certain extent, but then felt odd about sharing even that as Facebook “owns” your content…

    I have deactivated my profile before, but this is the longest time I have gone by now – three months – because my relationship to it has changed and until I figure out how to use it again for intentional and non-distracting purposes, it is best left deactivated. My life has become richer as a result. My relationship with myself and others I see face to face have become deeper as well. And I am so much more productive and reflective – and I wasn’t even an obsessive Facebook user like some.

    I think in the end, all the inanity (including “liking”) and the information overload finally just enlightened me to the fact that it’s time to give it a long break.

    I know this is an old essay, but I hope it is still working out for you the way you envisioned! Until I can figure out exactly how I want it to go for me, I’m staying off of it and proving to myself that life is far more interesting and less complicated without it.

    • thanks for commenting and giving me the chance to read an older post. im still going strong, but sometimes go through periods where i look at facebook too much. the unfollowing on facebook feature really really helps.

      • And thank you for some great ideas when I get back on it! I know these ideas will help me when I get back on and I realized I didn’t thank you enough for sharing them.

        I think mindfulness is a necessary skill when dealing with too much time staring at Facebook. It’s easy to fall into…I think the technology takes advantage of human nature – curiosity, mostly.

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