Changing my relationship with Facebook

Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005
Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently read two articles that were shared on Facebook about Facebook – one was written by someone who stopped liking anything on Facebook, the other by someone who liked everything on Facebook. The differences they both noted were interesting to me. I have a habit, like so many of us, of simply clicking like on many things – an image that resonates with me, a status that I saw and have no real response to but want the person to know I saw it, a page that looks like it might appeal to me or share things that I might find useful or interesting. I like things sometimes just because with the changes Facebook has made, if you don’t interact in some way with a page or a person, you won’t see their stuff anymore – or at least not as often.

But after reading those articles, I thought about my newsfeed. I like a lot of things, I share a lot of things, and I comment on a lot of things, too. But there’s also a lot of stuff, probably more than the stuff I interact with, that I simply scroll past and ignore. In some cases, I ignore something because I don’t agree with it and to state that would be to invite an argument that I neither need nor want. But much of it is stuff that I find I’m not all that interested in seeing – videos and images of things that I don’t want to see (abused animals, people being stupid by doing things like pouring rubbing alcohol all over themselves and then lighting it on fire), pages that Facebook thinks I should like because my friend (insert friend’s name here) liked it, pages that Facebook thinks I should like because I liked this other page that’s kinda sorta similar but not really the same at all, or videos and pictures that Facebook thinks I’ll enjoy because of this one other video or picture that I watched (although, I didn’t really watch it, Facebook just started playing it automatically).

I check my Facebook a few times throughout the day. I can spend an hour or more scrolling back through all the new stuff to find the last thing I remember seeing, and therefore know that I’m caught up. An hour three times a day is three hours out of my day that coul be better spent on other things, and when that three hours is spent mostly scrolling past things that I have no real desire to see, it makes me wonder what the point is.

So I decided it was time to make a change. Facebook, like an all too clingy boyfriend, is trying too hard. Like that desperate boyfriend who remembers the one time that I said the word football and now wants to buy me every football-themed gift he can think of for Christmas, Facebook is making me feel suffocated. I don’t want to break up with Facebook, at least not without giving Facebook a chance to change. So, I’ve decided we need therapy.

I’ve begun making a conscious effort not to click like on anything. If I see something and feel the urge to click like, I try to come up with a comment for it. If it’s something I want to interact with, I ought to be able to find the words to have a “real” interaction with it, right? Right. But what, you might be asking, if I can’t come up with the words to leave a comment? Well, that’s what stumped me at first.

Then I realized the answer is really simple. If I can’t find the words to make a comment, then maybe I need not interact at all. Perhaps in those cases, the desire to click like is purely a habit. Like nodding in the middle of someone’s monologue to indicate I’m still listening, it’s not a way to make a real connection. It’s just a way to make sure they know I’m still around. But surely there are better ways to let them know I’m still around, right? Of course. Like waiting for something else from them, something that I can find the words to make a comment on because it does actually matter, or sending them a private message, or posting something I think they need or want to see and then tagging them in it.

If you read the original article about the one who stopped liking everything, you’ll see that she stopped for two weeks. I’ve only stopped since Friday night/Saturday morning. Have I seen results yet? Yes and no. I’ve noticed that I’m much more aware of what I’m reading and looking at on Facebook. I put more thought into each update I see, carefully thinking about whether or not it’s worth interacting with, whether I can or even want to find something to say. I find myself thinking harder about whether it’s worth the argument to disagree with someone, and noticing just how often I disagree with the things that some people post – and therefore, reconsidering whether the friendship (or liking the page) is a worthwhile use of my time, and/or if perhaps unfollowing that person/page might be a good idea (in the case of a friend, unfollowing does not mean unfriending, which can be useful in some cases where I would still get together with that person in person sometimes and perhaps don’t want to explain why I unfriended them). I also find myself, as a result of reading things much more carefully, realizing things about some people that I thought I knew quite well.

But I haven’t yet seen results in terms of my newsfeed looking any different. There might be some minor changes, but nothing that is immediately noticeable. But since the author of that article quit for two weeks, I figure I need to give it more than just a few days. It’s taking a lot of effort to change this habit, but I’m going to keep working at it, and try to give it at least the two weeks stated in that article. We’ll see what kind of difference I see at that point. Maybe it won’t make any difference. I tend to be rather selective anyway – I have a much smaller pool of friends than many people I know (double digits as opposed to triple or quadruple), and I  often unlike and/or unfollow pages that post a lot of stuff that I don’t find interesting. So this might be a change that would only really make a difference for someone with many more friends and/or a lot more pages liked/followed. But maybe it will make a difference, and prune out some of the things that I really don’t like seeing all the time. And if that’s the case, I’ll be glad I broke the like habit.

Have you ever tried changing the way you interact with Facebook, whether it’s not clicking like, getting rid of your account or just taking a break from it? If you have, what did you notice? Did you end up going back to the way things were before, or did you keep up whatever new habit you created when making that change?

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