Zephoria reported that there are now 1.65 billion monthly active Facebook users – that’s nearly a quarter of the entire human population of planet Earth. In the same article they reported that 50% of 18-24 year-olds go on Facebook when they wake up. Meaning that just as the world is about to enter your brain you’ve swiftly shielded yourself with your glowing rectangle.
The Huffington Post reports that people spend nearly an hour a day on Facebook. What else could a person do with an hour a day? Here are 24 things.
Disclaimer: I’m aware that I’m not the only one to write about this, and I’m not trying to convince anybody else to abandon the series of tiny dopamine injections that constitutes the Facebook experience.
Facebook is a pseudo-social network. Let’s get that straight right off the bat. You keep up with your ‘friends’ and family’s lives. But only superficially – they don’t know that you’re keeping up. It’s a passive way of checking in. There’s a subtle but important difference there. You have about the same level of connection as a spectator does to the players on the field of a huge football match. Except, with social media, everybody is simultaneously a spectator and a performer.
Without Facebook you’re forced to communicate directly with a person if you’re interested in what’s going on in their life. That’s a genuine social connection. You’re forced to have deep as opposed to broad social connections.
Changing my Facebook use has also had obvious benefits for my productivity. I’m not scrolling through my Timeline when I should be working. It’s one less distraction. I know this is more an issue of self-control than a Facebook issue. To force this, I’ve made it more difficult to access Facebook — I’ve deleted the Facebook apps (actually all social media apps) from all of my devices. This means I get none of those alluring red circles which demand immediate attention — now I only tend to my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Wordpress/Behance notifications every few days. And when I do check them I try avoid the time-sink of the Timeline.
It turns out that people can be genuinely addicted to Facebook. In another article The Huffington Post reported that addiction to social media can lead to over-stimulation, cause anxiety and stress, damage relationships, and even threaten the family unit.
If I want to know what’s going on in the world I have to actually talk to people or read the newspaper. Yes, the newspaper still appears to be the most effective way for me to avoid an information overload – I can get an overview of what’s happening in the world. And then I use services like Pulse to get important and relevant industry news. It helps me limit my information intake to things which are genuinely and immediately relevant, important, and useful – and contribute directly to achieving my goals. It’s a matter of focus.
Oh, as for the ‘It helps me stay aware of what’s happening in the world’ argument: That’s a pile of crap: the algorithmic nature of the Timeline puts you in a ‘filter bubble’ (watch the TED talk below) by eliminating all the things that might oppose your point of view so that you keep on scrolling. Sure, you might be more aware than if you didn’t browse Facebook, but it is by no means the best way to receive relevant and accurate news.
This is not to say that I don’t ever take a break – breaks are as important as working — so that when you are working you’re doing things at your peak. I just choose to take my breaks strategically — with ‘high-density fun’ (see the video below). If you’re scrolling through Facebook it probably means that you need a break — so take one. Get a drink of water. Eat a banana. Give someone a hug. Whatever. The point is that you make time for real fun.
I’m also more present wherever I am because I’m not constantly reaching for my phone to hide in the sanctity of its glowing screen. I’m connected to the world again.
I don’t want this to seem like a full frontal assault on everybody’s favourite blue website. Facebook obviously does have it’s benefits — when it’s used in moderation. But let’s not forget that the whole point of Facebook is to figure out what you like to sell you more stuff.
Our society is simultaneously the most connected and the most isolated, which is a tragedy because of the shear volume of diverse connections that are within reach. There’s a beautiful world out there. Reach out to it.