How To Take a Break From Facebook

Taking a break from Facebook is easy. There is no 12-step program. You are not powerless. A search and count of your moral inventory on the staging floor is not mandatory.

Good reasons to take a break from Facebook

Your want is simple. A breath of fresh air from the smoggy cynicism and nastiness you see in your Facebook newsfeed that sends your moral compass spinning out of control as you bite your lower lip, embedding teeth marks into the chapped pink flesh, as you will yourself not to say anything.

Maybe that’s not it. Perhaps, it’s more complex for you. Another layer to peel back.

Re-evaluating your priorities

When you ponder your own Facebook sabbatical, it’s because you have been re-evaluating your priorities in life and the free time you have before you clock in or after you clock out of work each day:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Spiritual or religious cultivation
  • Other

Instead of checking Facebook on your phone as you slide out of bed or as you spoon lumpy, gray oatmeal between your teeth while the coffee in your mug cools, you have been considering spending more time with your spouse while the kids are still in bed. Morning is a great time for it. The brain, while still waking up, is coming off a good night’s rest.

Unlike at night after the kids have been tucked in, you’re not trying to force yourself to stay awake and have an adult conversation with your spouse when your brain is fried from a long day from the demands of a full-time job and then from the wants and needs of your children when you get home, and all you really want to do is get in bed and curl up under the covers and get some shut eye.

I relate this from a mom’s perspective mainly. My kids love me. I know this. But they pull and tug on their mommy more than me, and I know my wife gets worn down far greater than me on a daily basis because of it.

Whatever it is. Whatever’s your thing. Free time exists. It merely needs direction for a new habit or habits to form.

Case in point…

How much time do you really spend on Facebook?

How much time do you really spend on Facebook? According to Facebook, American users spend an average of 40 minutes per day on the social networking site—over twice the time of the global average: 21 minutes per day. A stunning number regardless of where you believe you stand.

I know what some of you are thinking: I don’t spend that amount of time on Mark Zuckerberg’s empire. But you’d be surprised—mainly because the time per day average doesn’t have to be all in one sitting, which is the default defensive thought mechanism that initially swims through our Facebook-consuming heads when hearing the data. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there, 20 minutes red-eyed, half awake before bed lounging on the couch, another three minutes in bed before the screen on your phone goes black for the night and you hit the light on your nightstand.

If it’s 40 minutes per day, we’re talking 280 minutes/week or 14,560 minutes per year. Another way: of the 365 days available to you in a single year, you are spending just over 10 full days of it on Facebook. Even if you align with the global average of 21 minutes per day, you’re still spending 5 full days on Facebook.

There’s no better way to gauge how much time you spend waste on the social networking site than to do a cleanse. No lemon required. When the fingers reach for the keyboard, the ruler smacks.

If Facebook were a real place, ask yourself: would I congregate here on a daily basis?

It’s beautiful outside when I go for a walk, so why is a growing chorus standing on the sidewalk as I pass them by shouting at me, telling me there is dog s––t under every step of my foot? Watch out! There’s a pile. And another. The negativity. This condensed view of the world and its affairs as dictated by a 24/7 news cycle and social media, which involves itself in emotional exploitation.

You know, it’s supposed to rain later today, right?

Perhaps, but rain makes flowers grow, the grass greener. Point upward at the blue sky instead. What’s that? Tell me what that is. Don’t squint your eyes before expanding them like giant saucers when you find in the distance the black cloud making its way across your field of view to blot out the big, bright, warm, yellow sun.

Would I walk the aisles of this congregation daily?

That is a very legitimate question. As I noted in my last post, My Facebook Sabbatical, I am not against Facebook. It has its place. Yet, regardless of its place, is it a venue you should visit every day? Is it worth that sort of check-in?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Americans spend at least 21 minutes per day exercising—the global average per day spent on Facebook, or half of what Americans spend per day on Facebook. How many Americans get the 21 minutes of physical activity recommended by the CDC: 1 in 5, or 20%. And how many adult Americans are on Facebook: 4 in 5, or 80%.

These numbers should be flipped.

So, how do you do it? How do you successfully take a break from Facebook, particularly when your rat brain is being pumped full of dopamine? As someone who created a Facebook account back in 2004 at its inception when it was a far cry different than it is today, and as someone who deleted (not deactivated, but deleted) their account in 2010 when he learned he was going to be a dad, I like to think I have a bit of insight on this subject. I’m a seasoned veteran at peeling my eyes from the blue tint of the Facebook landing page.

Here’s my advice.

How to Take a Break from Facebook, Successfully: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Delete the app from your phone

If the icon is on the screen of your smartphone, you’re going to click it. It’s not probably. It’s not maybe. You’re going to click it. So delete it. Even if you have no desire to take a Facebook sabbatical at the moment, deleting the app from your phone is one of the better productivity hacks you can take starting right now. It’s amazing how many times that little blue icon with the white ‘f’ is launched if it’s staring right back at you on your phone.

Step 2: Change your password

Change it to something ridiculously impossible to remember. Something like g1ue*9whjgfhj@248nafdso*&2#6oac^7v9(1#$@. That unintelligible. That long. And when you get the urge to login through a web browser—whether on your phone or laptop—and the browser asks if you would like for it to “remember your password,” the answer is no. H to the L no.

Step 3: Hide your password

Hide your password. That’s right. Hide that motherf––––r.

Whenever I have taken short sabbaticals before, my password was always saved somewhere easy to retrieve. That way I could sneak a peek if I wanted. Well, no sneaking and no peeking. No drinking from the rubbing alcohol bottle in the bathroom closet because you need a fix.

Don’t save the password in your phone’s notes or in an Excel spreadsheet. Don’t even save it on a scrap piece of paper in your desk drawer—a shoebox in the attic is a-okay though, Clark. Just make sure your family doesn’t shut you in there while they go shopping for the day.

You can save it in your email, but don’t leave it front and center in your inbox. And don’t include a tag like ‘Facebook’ or ‘Password to Facebook when I get the itch’ in the body of the email either. Why? Because you’re not allowed to do a keyword search of your email so that you can find your hidden password quickly. I speak from experience. I used to do this. And you better not have put a phrase you’ll remember in your password either. That’s cheating. Don’t cheat.

Now, save your ridiculously impossible to remember password in your email and archive it. That way, if you get the urge to sneak a peek, you have to dig and dig and dig, until you realize you just need that fix, just a little taste, just a little, man. And that will give you enough pause to realize that you could actually be doing something more productive or more meaningful instead.

Step 4: There is no step four

Whether you deactivate your account is up to you. So long as you change your password and place it in a place that’s not easy to retrieve, you should be golden. It’s simple to reactivate, particularly if you don’t change your password. Facebook knows this. They are fully aware that, because of habit, you will unconsciously open up Facebook and click the Log In button. That’s why changing, then hiding, your password is the most effective. It sounds silly, but it works.

Same goes for content blocking software whether on your browser or iPhone or Android. You can go this route. It does make it a little more difficult, and considering that internet addiction shares the same neural pathways as cocaine addiction, why not make it more difficult so that heading back down the rabbit hole to nowhere isn’t quick and easy.

Things you can do instead of logging into Facebook

With your newfound freedom, attention, and time, here are a few ideas of things you can do instead of logging into Facebook—or frankly any social media site, be it Twitter, Instagram, or whatever watering hole the kids (and adults) are congregating to these days.

  • Take a walk
  • Go for a run
  • Have a meaningful conversation with your significant other
  • Read a book
  • Meditate
  • Wrestle with your kids in the floor, or just listen to your kids and not have your nose buried in your phone
  • Write a letter and mail it to your child who is grown now and lives a state away
  • Write a letter and mail it to another family member, perhaps a parent or grandparent
  • FaceTime or Skype an old college buddy
  • Call your sibling on the phone and talk—about what, it doesn’t matter

In conclusion

When you’re on your deathbed, I promise you won’t say as the death rattle enters your throat, “I wish I had spent more time on Facebook.”

My guess is that your most invested relationships do not occur on Facebook. Yet we treat our shallow connections, the ones that are far easier to have as if they are our deepest. Re-claim your deep connections. Make your private life and your private conversations private again. Add back the layer of meaning and value to your relationships that is being mined to create revenue streams by big data companies intent on selling you something: a product, a perception of yourself, the world.

I hope you found this article helpful, if even it was just to ask yourself the simple question: is Facebook worthy of an every day visit?

What steps have you taken to get back a chunk of your life from social media? If you enjoyed this, consider signing up to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Photo: wackystuff. “Orwell Underestimated the Power of Complicity.” Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

6 Comments

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  1. This seems to be a fairly popular post and I’ve had some people contact me individually, so I’ve re-opened comments for anyone that would like to share their own thoughts on taking a Facebook sabbatical…

  2. I’ve been threatening (silently to myself) to leave Facebook for a couple a years now. Finally pulled the plug last month.

    FREEEEEDOM!

    It’s like Braveheart, only without the war paint.

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