First, let’s get this out of the way—it’s not because of Facebook’s privacy policies. I am a pretty open person on the Web. Heck, I think we are all, by default, when we choose to “go digital.” But I am especially. I have no qualms about posting my address or my phone number or my email. I don’t care if someone is tracking my every movement on the Internet (they’ll soon learn that I love cat-Jedi mashup videos). I have blogs, profiles, an About.me page, a public LinkedIn Profile. In fact, I even use a service like brandyourself.com to manage my personal brand. Why don’t I care? Because I understand that it’s about trade-offs. I am trading off my privacy for the privilege of using some web service or application like Facebook. But, again, that’s not why I left. Over the past year, I had become increasingly fixated on my digital life. As a writer, speaker, and marketer, I knew that digital played an important role in my livelihood and career. But it got to the point where the digital updates that were furiously filling my news feeds were becoming an addiction. They were a constant interruption pulling me away from the work that I was otherwise enjoying. Just imagine that Facebook is like a digital water cooler. I was drinking A TON of water every hour. Although I’m not a neuroscientist, I’d venture to say that what was happening was related to my Dopamine levels—when I was checking status updates on Facebook, my brain was rewarding itself with Dopamine; when I wasn’t, and Dopamine levels dropped as a result, I started “jonesing for a fix.” So I quit. Cold turkey. I logged myself out of Facebook. I deleted the application from my phone. I cut myself off. It’s been about 24 hours and I haven’t checked it once. And the best part? No more #icebucketchallenges to watch! This liberation from constant updates has been a relief to say the least. It’s afforded me a fresh perspective to look at how entangled with digital my life has become and how that entanglement can have physical impact on body and self.
It’s provided me time to ask questions like, “why do we use Facebook in the first place?” The answer to which, that we are essentially narcissistic and want to be the center of attention, is a glaring commentary on being human in today’s world. Outside of a very small group of friends and family, why do I want people to know what’s happening in my life? With my children’s lives? Because I want them to pay attention to me, to “like” me, that’s why. (On an aside, I haven’t cut the cord to Twitter yet but it doesn’t hold the same sway as Facebook did; I believe that’s a direct correlation to the depth of relationship I have with Facebook friends, they are real friends and real family, versus anonymous Twitter followers) Maybe Facebook or other social media networks don’t have the same effect on you. I’ve seen a few people use Facebook effectively to have discussions about current topics. But for the most part, it’s all the same—status post after status post about themselves and their kids. And I’d venture to guess that you are checking these status updates more often than you realize. Which is a clear sign that you need to check, just like you might need another cigarette, or another drink. Am I advocating that we all jump off Facebook and other social networks? No. But I am suggesting that we follow some simple guidelines to lessen the addictive hold that digital can have on us:
- Keep yourself logged out. If you aren’t logged into the social network all the time then it becomes harder to check. It creates a natural barrier to staying connected all the time. Don’t even let your browser save your username and password. Force yourself to type it in every time.
- Set boundaries. I was checking Facebook at all times of the day—morning, noon, and night. Set yourself some times when you’ll check and interact with Facebook and then don’t check it otherwise. Boundaries are much easier to set when you aren’t always logged in.
- Reduce network size. Part of the problem with “digital addiction” is the volume of updates. When your network gets particularly large, it’s easier to feed the addictive need of having to check all the time. Reduce the number of people and reduce the number of updates that you’re receiving.
Will I ever return to Facebook? Maybe. Once the dust settles and I’m finished with a “digital detox.” But for now? The little blue thumb is off limits. Do you feel that you are addicted to digital? How do you manage the time you spend checking into social networks and interacting with people through digital channels? ( By Jason T. Sr. Director Marketing Strategy at Limelight Networks; Co-Author of “Recommend This!” Source: Linkedin.com – Image courtesy of www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk. )