Showing posts with label Digital Minimalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Digital Minimalism. Show all posts

Why And How I Deleted Half My Facebook Friends



It's been two weeks since I cut my number of Facebook friends in half.

In November I decided to take a social media break (I wrote a little about why here), but through the entire year of 2019, I've been slowly starting to question the role that social media has been playing in my life.  I knew I was on social media way too much, using it as a distraction from the boring moments in my day.  The last straw was when I started to find myself holding my phone, scrolling through Instagram, without consciously making the decision to pick it up.

So right before Thanksgiving I got off Facebook and Instagram, which I've never done before.  During my break, I read several really helpful books, and took a good hard look at Facebook and Instagram to figure out what role I really wanted them to be playing in my life.  Maybe I'll discuss Instagram another day.  I'm still figuring that one out, since like it or not, Instagram is kind of the place for bloggers to be.  But today I thought I'd share one thing I figured out about Facebook over my social media break, and it's this:

Facebook keeps people from fading from your life.




If you had mentioned this to me a few years ago, I would have viewed that as a good thing.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I have started to consider that maybe some people are meant to fade from your life, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

There are people who aren't really friends, just acquaintances that passed through your life for a time. There are friends that you used to have alot in common with, but over the years you've drifted apart.  There are people that you were hoping to develop a friendship with, but years have passed and nothing has ever come of it.

I've always had a hard time letting people go, and I do still think there is value in being a tenacious friend, in making the effort to keep in touch with people who mean something to you.  But it's a tricky thing to balance when social media now gives you the ability to superficially keep in touch with your cousin's-husband's-sister who you met once five years ago.  Or that one person you hung out with at camp, but really don't know at all.  Or someone you used to work with, but who you haven't seen in five years.

Fifty years ago, you would have gradually lost touch with these people, no harm, no foul.  I used to think that was sad, but now I wonder whether it was a blessing in disguise.  These days, the social norm is for these relationships to linger indefinitely on Facebook, because no one wants to hurt the other's feelings by "unfriending" them.  If you dare to unfriend someone, you have to be prepared for the possibility of a conversation when you eventually run into them...or drama behind your back.

It must have been simpler back in the day when people were just allowed to drift apart.



One day I woke up and realized that a majority of my friends list on Facebook were these kinds of relationships.  People I don't really know anymore, or never really knew at all, had all this information about everything that was going on in my life, and I had information about what was going on in their life too.  But without ever putting in the effort to be an actual real-life friend to each other.

Not everyone should have unlimited access to your life.

And some people are meant to be in your life only for a season.

As I contemplate all of this, I also fully resonated with this article about how we make unfriending too much of a "thing".  I actually think we have made Facebook interactions in general too much of a "thing". The article mentions that we have started "validating our real life friendships by our online friendships", as if we aren't really friends with someone unless we are also Facebook friends with them.  I especially liked the question the author asks:

"When we feel like we need to add someone as a friend or maintain their access on Facebook in order to substantiate our interactions in reality, haven’t we reversed the natural process?"

And yes, I think we have.  




Personally, Facebook's most valuable functions in my life have always been as a convenient platform to share multiple photos with my grandparents and aunts and uncles (and other people who care about my children and don't get to see them often), and as a tool to facilitate real-world, face-to-face interactions with people.  

So during my Facebook break, I really started thinking about how to make sure that Facebook was serving those specific functions in my life, and drawing the line there.  To a certain extent, I had allowed social media to fill other functions in my life without my conscious permission.  I don't want Facebook to be a boredom buster, a friendship barometer, a self esteem-booster (or conversely, destroyer), a platform for all my thoughts (that's what this blog is for), a tool for life-comparison, an acquaintance-spying tool, or a cheap substitute for meaningful friendships (more on this coming in another post I think).  

I want Facebook to be just what I said - a photo-sharing tool between close friends and family, and a facilitator for setting up my face-to-face interactions.  That's all.

In order to fit Facebook into the box I had decided on, I realized that I was going to have to unfriend some people.  That's a hard decision to make, because for a lot of people, unfriending is taken as a personal insult.  I was afraid that some people, people I still like and wish the very best for, would take it that way.  I know some people probably did take it that way, but I posted this before I started purging, in an effort to explain:


"Hi Guys! I wanted to let you all know that in the next few days I'll be whittling down my friends list. Since taking my Facebook break, I've realized that some people struggle with social media more than others, and I am one of those people. I knew when I came back to Facebook I was going to have to make some changes, and this is one of them.If I disappear from your friend list in the next couple days, I hope with all my heart that you will know that it is nothing against you at all! This is more about my own personal social media mental health (how's that for a made-up term?), in an effort to maintain a proper balance in my digital life. If you ever want to connect or get together with me, I would absolutely welcome interaction outside of Facebook, through a text, phone call, email, snail mail, etc!  I'm thankful for all of you, and what you've added to my life over the years! I hope we can connect in the future outside a screen.  <3"


And then I took the advice and encouragement from someone who has done this before, and I cut over half of my friend's list.



Time will tell if there will be unforeseen negative repercussions, but so far I've received mostly positive responses.  I'll continue to refine my friend's list until I've achieved the balance that I'm looking for, but for now, I feel lighter.  I'm satisfied that Facebook is now more functional as a tool that serves me, instead of the other way around.  And I'm spending much less time on it.

The hardest part for me in purging my friends list was deciding who to keep and who to let go. As I tried to make some hard decisions, I was heartened by this quote from Digital Minimalism:

"It's worth noting that refusing to use social media...to interact means that some people will inevitably fall out of your social orbit - in particular, those whose relationship with you exists only over social media.  Here's my tough love reassurance - let them go. The idea that it's valuable to maintain vast numbers of weak-tie social connections is largely an invention of the past decade or so...Humans have maintained rich and fulfilling social lives for our entire history without needing the ability to send a few bits of information each month to people we knew briefly during high school."
-Digital Minimalism, pg 155

Let them go.

So I held my breath and took the plunge.  I kept some people that I am hopeful will turn into real-world friends, but I may have to do another purge in the future if nothing comes of those relationships.  I let go of some people that I genuinely like and wouldn't mind being friends with - but I've been Facebook friends with them for years, and we never see each other anymore.

I hope those people will understand that even though we are no longer Facebook friends, that doesn't mean that I don't want real-life interaction with them.  I am hoping that anyone who really would  have liked to keep in touch with me will reach out to set something up, or send a note, outside of social media.

And for the ones that don't - well, I guess we were meant to fade from each other's lives after all.






Tools For A Social Media Break




I knew from the start that I wanted to completely break my phone habit with this year's social media break.  I don't like how my hand is often reaching for my hone before I even realize it, and I figured getting rid of Facebook and Instagram for a while would be the first step.

There are some complications though, with taking a break from social media.  How am I going to still share photos with my family (which is a big value of Facebook to me)?  How am I going to be able to get my blog posts to people who only read through Instagram?  How am I going to have the motivation to resist signing back in to check just "one more thing"?  And would getting rid of those two apps be enough, or would I just find other ways to waste time on my phone?

I don't want my bad habits to be diverted to other digital activities during this break.  I want to spend time doing things in the real world, and develop some "analog" skills that have been languishing for too long.

As I was mulling all that over, I found a few resources that have been or hopefully will be very helpful in making the most of my attempt to break my phone habit over the next couple months, and I wanted to share them with you here!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport - I listened to this book in two days over the weekend, and picking this book up now was so timely for me.  Newport is talking about the very thing I've been struggling with, getting a handle on your "digital life" and making sure that the ways in which you use technology are actually serving you, instead of making you a slave to technology.  This book gave me so many things to think about, and strategies for making sure that I break my phone habit long-term, not just until my break is over in January.

Freedom.to - This is a tool I read about in Digital Minimalism, and I went straight home and signed up.  Freedom.to allows you to block distracting websites (specified by you) for certain blocks of time or on regular schedules (also specified by you).  I've set mine up to block time-suck websites for the hours of 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Like I said, I didn't want my bad phone habits to just get diverted to other digital time wasters, so this tool should help alot!  They are running a special right now too - you can try it monthly for $7, or get a whole year for $20!

Later.com - I mentioned in my first post about taking a social media break that I am still going to use a scheduler, to let people know that I've posted here on my blog.  This is the scheduler!  You can set it up to share to multiple social media websites (without being signed in), but the one that is most useful at this time for me is posting to my blog Instagram, because this is the only website I'm aware of that let's you schedule posts to Instagram.  I know there is a decent portion of readers (though not as many as you might think) who keep up with blogs through Instagram, and I didn't want those of you who keep up with me that way to totally miss out while I have the app removed from my phone.

Chatbooks - Another hesitation I had with giving up Instagram specifically is that I have a recurring series that automatically prints my pictures to these cute little photo books through Chatbooks.  My kids LOVE these books and are constantly carrying them around.  I was a little sad to miss a couple months of capturing our memories this way, until I remembered that you can add photos to a Chatbook manually through the app.  Did you know that?  It will take a little more intention from me to remember to add photos to the book when I don't have an instant audience or the boost of "likes", but that's also the whole point of my social media break - to be more intentional with how I'm spending my time.  I'm thinking about printing out books of the best photos from the month and sending them to our family members who really enjoy photos of the kids.  Yes, this will cost me more money, but I have to think it will mean a little more too.  (There is also just good ol' texting for sending photos, which I plan on putting to use!)



I'll write another post soon about things I'm hoping to spend time on instead of my phone, but I wanted to share these tools this morning for a few of you who I know were also considering some sort of digital break!

Do you have any other resources I should know about that are helpful for breaking bad phone habits?

Also, real quick, did you know that I actually had a newsletter for this blog?  I haven't sent a newsletter out in years, but I figured now might be a good time to dust it off.  If you need a way beside social media for keeping up with this blog, you can sign up for updates below!



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