To be addicted is to use something—alcohol, spending, Xanax—to the point that it causes harm and, yet, is difficult to stop. Could this describe your relationship with Facebook?
Research shows that the more we use the social network, the sadder we become. Why? Because of something called upward social comparisons.
Dr. Meg Jay, author of “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How To Make The Most Of Them Now,” wrote that, “Social comparison theory tells us that, when left without obvious cues about our performance, we look to what others are doing to decide whether what we are doing is good enough.”
Many of use Facebook as a way of comparing our careers and relationships with those of everyone else. According to Dr. Jay, the problem with this is that “our nights spent sitting on the couch surfing Facebook feel low compared to the high life everyone else seems to be leading”—at least in the smiling, happy, perfect pictures. These upward comparisons make people feel bad yet somehow we can’t stop looking.
If you once found Facebook to be helpful and fun but now feel that it is harmful and negative, you may have lost control of your use. Cultivating a more intentional relationship with Facebook and other online platforms makes us more in tune to our true interests and freer to engage in real world matters with real world consequences. Here are “Ten Things” you can do to curb your Facebook addiction—and use your resulting free time and energy to work towards social and political change.
1. Admit you have a problem. For one week, keep a log of when and why you log onto Facebook. Note how long you planned to stay on the site and how long you actually did stay on. Write about how you felt before you got on Facebook and how you felt when you signed off. Also notice how your Facebook use changes throughout the day. Are you using Facebook during the day to procrastinate and at night to numb out? Now that you are more conscious of how and why you are using Facebook, be sure you are using it as you intended and, maybe even better, use these alternative ways to distract and relax.
2. Get your eye candy elsewhere. To browse photos, set up a Pinterest or Flickr account. If you have an IPhone or an Android phone set up an Instagram account and browse photos according to your interest and start thinking about taking some of your own. If you like pictures of what folks are eating go to FoodPornDaily. For the fashion critic in you go to Glamour’s dos and don’ts site. If you love shopping online, peruse Buy Young where you can support businesses run by Americans under 30.
3. Get news from a news site. Try Flipboard or the TheNation.com. Join Twitter and follow smart people or your personal heroes or @OurTimeOrg. Instead of browsing Facebook to procrastinate at work, join Ourtime; they’ll send you a Cliff Notes versionof one major news article per day. This way you stay up-to-date on the world, rather than just being up-to-date on your friends’ new babies and engagements rings.
4. Manage your Facebook experience. Curate your feed by unsubscribing to friends who post updates that get you down. Keep the friends who post thought-provoking articles and links that make you feel good. Go to News Feed Control to learn how to edit updates on your homepage.
5. Connect with the world off-line. Translate online interactions into real world connections. Determine your interests and find them on Meetup.com. Call your grandmother or other friends and family that aren’t on Facebook. Actually attend the talks and events that you are invited to on Facebook.
6. Take up a mantle. One of the best ways to overcome inertia is to advocate for a cause. The Forgive Student Loan Debt campaign started as a Facebook group in Robert Applebaum’s living room when he decided to turn his hopelessness into action. Now called the “Student Debt Crisis” his group has delivered over 1 million signatures to Congress and is now a formidable campaign that highlights and fights against the oppressive Student Lending industry. Join this cause, or start your own. Go to YouLobby to start now.
7. Set a time limit. Use a simple egg-timer or iPhone timer to limit the minutes—or hours–you spend on Facebook. It will keep you focused and honest about your behavior. If you have problems with time management, check out these five ways to use technology to save time.
8. Take Facebook breaks. Take a day away, or a week away, from Facebook, just so you know you can. If this is challenging, have your best friend change—and safeguard—your password so you cannot log on for the agreed-upon period of time. Observe what this time away teaches you about your relationship with Facebook.
9. Get in downward dog. Rather than using Facebook to relax, try a healthier approach, one that might actually help you feel relaxed. Do 15 minutes of yoga. Learn Tai Chi online. Or go to You Tube and look for “mindfulness meditation” sessions. Read a book on mindfulness such as the classic, “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Just a few moments of mindfulness a day can change your brain, and your cortisol levels, for the better.
10. Consider leaving. Let’s face it. Some people cannot drink socially and some people cannot be casual users of Facebook. If you cannot get your Facebook use under control using the tips above, it may be time to go cold turkey. Go to “How to Permanently Delete a Facebook Account.”
Conceived by Walter Moseley and co-edited by Rae Gomes.
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