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Quitting my addiction to Facebook

Hello. My name is Jay Stooksberry, and I’m addicted to Facebook.

That’s how you are supposed to start these things off, right? The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one, right? I don’t know. I’m bad at following instructions and even worse at taking notes.

But it’s true—I waste entirely too much time on social media.

As you get older, you quickly learn that time is a scarce resource. The necessary time to accomplish all of one’s daily tasks seems to dwindle at an exponential rate, sometimes creating undue stress. And it seems like if I pull off onto the shoulder of the highway of life, time will continue to scream by me like an Audi R8 GT pushing 200 on the Autobahn.

Yet, despite my formidable to-do list, I always seem to find time for Facebook. Sometimes, when I could be something much more substantive or worthwhile—writing a book, pretending to be  a dinosaur with my son, clipping my toenails, etc.—I catch myself mindlessly staring at my phone.

Usually, when I am attempting to prioritize my action items, I try to consider everything in front of me objectively. Do any of these items have a deadline? Which one is closest to expiring? Which ones are people depending on me? Are those people my family, my friends, my coworkers, my clients, or complete strangers? You get the idea.

But I don’t apply any criteria when I mindlessly unlock my screen to read through my notifications. I just do it. Like an addict. Research suggests that dopamine is released into our system when we use social media—the very same physiological, “behavior rewarding” response our body utilizes when it is chemically dependent on some mind-altering substance.

What follows is my haphazard attempt to apply some sort of criteria to my use of Facebook.

Does it make me productive? Probably not. But before I answer, let me double check my newsfeed for 1,905th time today to see if anything has occurred since the last time I checked it ten minutes ago.

Does it keep me well informed? Maybe. But only if I have properly hacked my algorithm to provide a balance of information from a variety of sources. Otherwise, it is most likely feeding me a big steaming plate of confirmation bias. To paraphrase Mark Twain, if you don’t have a Facebook account, you are uninformed; if you do, you are misinformed.

Does it make me happy? Yes and no.

Yes, because people do tend to highlight the best things happening in their lives, and I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of these happy moments. I enjoy seeing pictures of my friends’ children, who are usually in the act of doing something cute. I also enjoy watching these same friends share the highlights of their lives whether it be a fun-filled vacation or professional accomplishment. I also like animal videos and puns. All of these things make me smile.

But that makes up a small portion of the web.

What doesn’t make me happy is the barrage of news constantly depicting our hyper-politicized world. And I know that I am guilty of this indulgence. If there is anything that I learned from the last national election—or, as I like to call it, “The Great Unfriending of 2016”—it’s that I need to be careful how to engage in politics online. Continuously pounding out snarky and pedantic retorts on my keyboard probably won’t help me win any popularity contests in the near future.

Facebook seems to highlight my worst habits and qualities—procrastination, vanity, impatience, combativeness, obsessiveness, etc.

So I’m going to take a break from this time-suck. I’m removing the ap from my phone. I’m temporarily blocking the website on the various browsers that I use on a daily basis—just to keep me honest.

I don’t know how long of a break I will take. Maybe a week. Maybe a month. Hopefully more than a day. But I really need to force myself to be more productive, and cold turkey seems like the only plausible solution.

If you need to get a hold of me, you should already have my phone number or email address.

Or you can just tweet me.

Just kidding. I’ll see you when I see you—hopefully in person, not online.

About the author

Jay Stooksberry

Jay Stooksberry

Born and raised on the Front Range of Colorado, Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer living in Delta, Colorado with his wife and son. He has been published in Newsweek, Reason Magazine, 5280, Foundation for Economic Education, and many more prominent publications. Follow his journey at www.jaystooksberry.com.