Taking a break from Facebook or similar social media platforms isn’t as difficult as you might think. For those whose birth year begins with the number “2” and in 2000 and more recent, it might seem as if there was never a time before Facebook.
A quick Google search reveals that Facebook debuted as Facemash in 2003, but changed its name to Facebook in 2004. The recency of Facebook, alone, suggests that there’s life without social media.
Facebook is Not All Bad But is Easily Abused
Of course, Facebook allows you to make connections with people you might otherwise never meet. But would you really care?
Like all good things, Facebook abuses you and hijacks your brain to show you as many ads as possible. That’s their business model. You might thing tt is a wide-open field by the side of a very busy Information Highway, and just about anybody can drive by and stop to play in it for a while.
But the truth is it’s more like the Sirens which you might remember from your history lessons. In the Greek mythology they were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.
You remember how Odysseus outsmarted them?
Here is the summary from Wikipedia:
Odysseus was curious as to what the Sirens sang to him, and so, on the advice of Circe, he had all of his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast. He ordered his men to leave him tied tightly to the mast, no matter how much he would beg.
When he heard their beautiful song, he ordered the sailors to untie him but they bound him tighter. When they had passed out of earshot, Odysseus demonstrated with his frowns to be released.
The Wikipedia authors added that "some post-Homeric authors state that the Sirens were fated to die if someone heard their singing and escaped them, and that after Odysseus passed by they therefore flung themselves into the water and perished."
Hopefully this will happen to Facebook as well, when enough people are leaving the network.
You might pride yourself on your Internet street smarts, but even for today’s information-savvy kids and adults, Facebook has too many negative effects to wasting your time on the social network.
Emoticons only approximate facial expressions, pictures sometimes tell stories we’d rather were left untold, and it is way too easy to misinterpret a chance remark or post.
But the real problem with Facebook is its ability to take over your life.
Whether you are a student, a home caretaker, a professional or a remote access worker, Facebook can represent one of the biggest time-sinks ever.
You log in to view one brief message and find yourself slurped into cute dog videos or an account of how the once beautiful have now become old and haggard.
You just plan to take a little break checking your messages and discover that “OMG” you are late getting back from break. You know you are in trouble when your English instructor or elderly relative asks for a translation of your abbreviations or requests that you “use real words.”
Taking a Break from Facebook
One way to take a break from Facebook is to take a complete social media break. Post a little message on your answering machine, email auto-responder or on your personal Facebook feed that tells everyone that you are taking a break and that you will get back to them later.
When that is done, turn off your phone, turn off your Internet (Yes, that really is possible), turn off your computer, your Wii, your Nintendo or whatever game device you use and find something in the real world to do.
Engage in Real World Activities
Real world activities can come in a whole range of things. One simple activity is to go say hello to a family member without using an electronic device. Often, that can be as simple as walking into another room and saying “hello.”
If your family member is many miles away, try handwriting a letter. It is a unique skill that was once as important as holding a conversation or tying your shoes.
While email is easy, there is something special about receiving a letter written in your own hand. Taking a walk, riding a bike, swimming or other physical activities are also options, as well as cleaning or decorating your room.
Recognizing Your Unhealthy Attachment to Facebook
If you have a hard time sitting down to a family meal without your cell phone in hand, if you can’t seem to focus on studying without your favorite music stream tootling away in the background, or you can’t find anything to do if the power goes out, you might need a social media detox.
Facebook addiction can be a real thing, especially for youngsters who cut their teeth on mom or dad's cell phone, were lured into good behavior in the doctor's office with a hand-held game, and use Internet connections for schoolwork, keeping up with friends, and staying in touch with family.
Social Media Use Disorder
In modern psychology terms, because therapists currently are using words like “use disorder” and abandoning terms such as “addiction” or “dependency” because of their imprecision, you know that you have a social media or technology use disorder when it begins to interfere with other practical or pleasurable activities.
When your reliance on technology becomes so extreme that you cannot focus on reading or on studying, then you have a problem.
If willpower doesn't work, if you find yourself running from the family dinner table to check your social media after an absence of less than thirty minutes, then there’s a good chance that you have an Internet Addiction or social media use disorder.
Deep Work Author’s Viewpoint
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, rates social media as one of the major distractions from getting work done.
Whether you are writing a novel, planting a garden or taking care of the monthly bills, social media in general, and Facebook, in particular, offers hundreds of small rabbit holes that can trap your attention and consume your energy.
If you don't want to be like Alice and plunge into a “curiouser and curiouser” wonderland of misadventure, you might need to take steps to help keep your attention on your work when using word processors or looking for information on the Internet.
Technology Has an OFF Switch
One of the good things about technology, however, is that it has an off switch.
Even if you must use your computer and your Internet connection for work or school, you can use software programs that allow you to block media distractions, including programs that specifically block Facebook.
You can even get programs that can help you track where your time is going and that block intrusive websites or programs like Find Focus or StayFocusd.
Distraction Free or Distraction Reducing Software and Internet Search Access
You can use distraction-free word processing programs to help you stay focused on the work that you have at hand. For example, Focus Writer presents you with a blank page against a simple wood-tone background. No pictures. No frills. Just you and the page.
Since this is one of the best things about the Internet, the ready availability of a wide variety of materials, choosing to avoid certain types of materials can be one of the most difficult parts of staying on task.
Targeted Search Engines
An excellent solution is to use a search engine such as Google Scholar. Google Scholar has no advertising, brings up scholarly articles, and is usually reliable. More than that, it is less likely to return embarrassing websites if you type in terms such as “breast” or “organ grinder.”
If the focus of your search was the anatomical structure of a breast or a musical instrument that is played by turning a crank, often accompanied by a monkey, you are far more likely to locate your search objective on Google Scholar than on the primary Google search – and less likely to turn up an embarrassing website that you wouldn't want to share with a parent, instructor or employer.
Kid Search Engines
The only drawback to Google scholar is that the articles are, well, scholarly. For youngsters, their search results might be difficult to understand. For young researchers try kid-friendly search engines such as Kidtopia or Sweet Search. Kidtopia is excellent for researchers age seven through ten. It is bright, colorful and the links have been previewed. Sweet Search is better for older youngsters, but still useful for keeping the middle school crowd off the main thoroughfares of the information highway.
Perhaps you enjoy listening to music while you study or read. For some people, this helps them focus, whereas a completely quiet room can be just as distracting and a noisy one. Sign up for one of the free Internet music streaming services. Pandora, for example, will play long stretches of music without advertising. If you can afford to subscribe, there are no commercial breaks at all.
As you can see, none of these suggestions include Facebook or any sort of social media. They can be a painless way of weaning yourself off an Internet dependency that could be blocking your ability to interact face-to-face with other human beings, or that is getting in the way of managing your workload.
Tools to Wean Yourself Off Facebook (And Other Social Media)
Let's look again at the tools you can use to wean yourself off Facebook, social media, and those infomercials that often line the edges of web searches.
They include, but are not limited to:
- A Facebook blocker like FindFocus
- Programs that help you track the use you make of your technology
- Scholarly search engines
- Age-targeted search engines
- Distraction-Free word processing programs
- And a stern use of the “off” switch on your computer
We live in an age of distractions. Everything around us seems to be geared to being faster, brighter, and more attention-grabbing. You can help your personal focus by shutting out some of the things that engage your attention and pull you away from the task at hand.
It might seem silly to think that blocking out the background on your computer or the advertising from your search list would make a difference, but educators often remark that it makes their tasks much easier when their students are not bombarded with distracting ads and misinformation.
Take a break from Facebook.
Or use FindFocus to block websites on your computer.
You might discover that you like what life feels without being connected 24/7.