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.
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?