In this article, I will give tips on how to effectively use Facebook for personal benefit while removing the possibility for addiction and misuse.
Facebook, along with Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and such are incentivized to capture your attention as much as possible. Their primary source of revenue is advertising therefore the more time you are glued to the screen, the better.
However, as many of us know firsthand, staring at Facebook for hours on end is not the best way to spend time. Better to be an active producer rather than passive consumer. Better to get high quality, clear input rather than low grade, diffuse input.
Yet, quitting facebook entirely is not an option for many of us. Personally, I’ve tried deactivating my account before. However, the convenience of finding and creating events via Facebook and messaging people in FB is far better than anything else I’ve found. I can get a 24 hour return message with FB that I may never get via email. Likewise, with hosting events. Finally, Facebook friending others I’ve found to be the best way to keep in touch with people over email, phone, text, or some CRM machine.
So, what to do?
Two ways I keep these benefits while removing the threat of endless time on the website.
First, identifying the problem.
The main issue is spending too much fruitless time on Facebook. Primarily, I’m looking to only use Facebook to send messages, host/respond to events, add new friends, and sometimes share or promote something about myself.
What I do not want to do is spend endless time in Facebook groups or scrolling through the Newsfeed which is the majority of the time sink.
Second, remove temptation as much as possible.
I do not have Facebook app installed on my phone. Instead, I only have the Facebook Messenger Lite app only to send/receive messages. In addition, my facebook password is a random string that I do not remember but have stored in my password manager. So, if I do need to get to FB on my phone, I can access it but requires going through my password manager. The amount of effort and time required is enough of an obstacle that I almost never do it.
Third, I use desktop browser addons/extensions to modify Facebook. For Chrome, I utilize News Feed Eradicator for Facebook and Facebook Demetricator. Similarly, for Firefox I have Disable Facebook News Feed and Facebook Demetricator via Greasemonkey.
So, my Facebook home page looks like this:
Without a Newsfeed, the only way I can waste time is to manually go visit groups, my profile, or someone else’s profile.
The Demetricator is an interesting plugin that removes the numbers such as the number of friends, number of likes, and so on from your Facebook experience. The webpage introduces it as:
The Facebook interface is filled with numbers. These numbers, or metrics, measure and present our social value and activity, enumerating friends, likes, comments, and more. Facebook Demetricator is a web browser addon that hides these metrics. No longer is the focus on how many friends you have or on how much they like your status, but on who they are and what they said. Friend counts disappear. ’16 people like this’ becomes ‘people like this’. Through changes like these, Demetricator invites Facebook’s users to try the system without the numbers, to see how their experience is changed by their absence. With this work I aim to disrupt the prescribed sociality these metrics produce, enabling a network society that isn’t dependent on quantification.
Since installing Demetricator, I’ve found I check Facebook much less habitually to see how many likes/comments/shares my posts are getting. I publish on my wall and the only real thing I care about are the comments that come back. Here’s how an example post looks without the number of likes/comments:
Now, some people may say that the NewsFeed is essential for staying connected with friends or at the very least it’s entertainment. I can only say that I’ve personally not found any lost from not having the newsfeed anymore. If I’m really interested about someone, I’ll visit their profile, or more likely, I’ll send them a message. And research has shown that for most people, Facebook is only making people more depressed and feeling less connected.
Now, if you’re astutely reading, you may notice a paradox or hypocrisy here. Because, one of my main uses of Facebook is sharing my own thoughts. Yet, I’m not seeing anyone else’s posts unless I manually browse to them. And, yeah, it’s true. I think Facebook can be beneficial if you actively curate who you’re following and who shows up on your NewsFeed. And, I think posting useful things matters more than passively, endlessly consuming other people’s random content.
One piece I haven’t yet figured out is how I can friend people at events using my phone without having the FB app installed on my phone. Perhaps, someone made an app that does only one function of allowing you to find and friend others on Facebook. I’ll have to do some research on that.
So, I would encourage you to try using these hacks and see if your relationship with Facebook improves:
- Remove Facebook app from your phone.
- Create a random password for your FB account and save it in a password manager program. (This way you can’t just randomly login to FB via browser very easily.)
- Use the mentioned addons to your favorite desktop web browsers to remove the Newsfeed and metric numbers from your Facebook.