Woman with phone

How many times a day do you think you check you check Facebook? Or anything on your phone? How many social media apps do you have installed? Do you sleep with your phone? Is your phone your best friend? Okay, Spanish inquisition over. But seriously, take a moment to consider these questions. If you don’t think they are important then perhaps by the end you will.

About three weeks ago I deleted the Facebook application from my phone.

I’d been wanting to try it for awhile, and then when I couldn’t download Mindspace because of lack of space (I know, i have a crappy phone!) that was the deal breaker. Life without direct and instant access to FB is a distant foggy memory so this wasn’t done without some trepidation!

But guess what, three weeks have passed and I’m not dead! I also haven’t missed out on any important messages. Neither have I kept up with all my ‘friends’ daily life sagas. Not only am I not missing it. It won’t ever go back on my phone.

It feels pretty trite saying ‘I feel free’. But it’s the truth. Freedom from constant checking. What was I even checking for? Most of the time… nothing in particular. But a new notification, specifically a new ‘like’ was akin to a notch to add to my self-worth belt.

Before looking at what happened when I deleted FB from my phone, here’s a few things that haven’t happened.

In three weeks I haven’t:

  • Stood in a line tapping or browsing my FB feed
  • Double checked what was new on my feed every 5 or so minutes – while watching tv
  • Scrolled my feed while feeding my children
  • Facebooked my way out of awkward situations
  • Got lost in FB world and lost the real world.

Instead, I’ve:

  • Noticed life happening around me, even in the grocery store line
  • Paid attention to the things I am doing, without distraction
  • Had a few more moments in each day to be present with my kids (I’ve actually played with my 4yr old this week!)
  • Been more productive
  • Felt more attentive and able to single task.

These positive affirmations from reduced FB use are not so surprising if you educate yourself and understand what’s happening behind the scenes of our favorite social applications.

The ugly addictive truth about Facebook

The Guardian recently published a ‘Watergate’ article that exposes the ugly addictive truth behind social media. Among the facts quoted are the 2,617 times we tap, touch or swipe our phones every day (I dare you to have a go at counting if you disagree).

And if that didn’t reverberate, how about this… many of silicon valley’s top developers are not solely tech trained. They have studied under America’s best behavioral psychologists in order to master techniques in habit formation and persuasion.

The final kick in the guts for me was this,

“An internal Facebook report leaked this year, revealed that the company can identify when teens feel “insecure”, “worthless” and “need a confidence boost”.

I don’t know about you but I find this absolutely abhorrent. Brilliant for sure. But abhorrent nonetheless.

I think this is why I have such a deep desire to write a book. A real, paper in hands book. One without a like button. Without the ability to hit share immediately. It’s unfashionable, but it’s real.

For several years ‘we’ have joked and halfheartedly bantered that FB was a time waster, a distraction, and that we shouldn’t spend so much time on it. After having a thorough read of this article (which I highly recommend you do), I’m more than ever convinced of an urgent need to unplug. We are living in an attention economy that’s not just taking up our free time, it’s taking our free will.

In a description reminiscent of the movie ‘The Matrix’, ex-silicon valley employees discuss the technology and our subsequent addiction as ‘being jacked into the system’. As much as I love those movies, that’s a horrifying example.

I feel so sad that I am part of the last generation that will remember life without smartphones and devices. My children are growing up learning to tap screens before they know their alphabet.

Yes, there are so many great things about technology and even social media (heck that’s highly likely the reason you got here!). I’m just not sure that I want to trade things like information and entertainment for an addiction.

So what can we do?

  1. Like me, you could trial taking the FB app off your phone. Of course, that might be difficult if you don’t have a laptop or other device to access it on. Some people disable their FB app for a period of time so they are only interrupted or tempted for a defined period of their day. Ah, now this might sound real crazy (take a seat if you aren’t already), some people even delete their FB accounts.
  2. Maybe try screen free bedrooms. Did you know 87% of people go to bed and wake up with their smart phones? Try plugging it it to charge overnight in the kitchen instead. Go back to an old school alarm clock! The blue light emanating from our screens is extremely disruptive to quality sleep anyway.
  3. Unplug your kids (Yes, I do actually have a picture of Neo being unplugged from the matrix right now!). Consider giving them more outside time and less screen time. My kids aren’t old enough for FB or other social media apps yet but take some time to consider your stand on their use. I completely understand and accept that my girls will use social media in the years to come but I want them to be educated in the reality of it. And again, monkey see, monkey do. If I live my life on FB, chances are they will too.

This all sounds a bit harsh and judgmental, but please know that I don’t want to judge anyone’s choices around their use of social media or phones. I do want people to make educated choices though.

And, the truth is – reality is always harder than a blog post. This weekends reality has included several hours of Peppa Pig for our youngest, and a couple of hours downtime on the Ipad for our very over tired oldest girl. I’ve barely looked at FB, but my Pinterest feed has had a good ‘ol scrolling!

So, if you only take one action from this, please read this article and get yo’self educated!

It’s only fair to share…

Originally published at simpleslowlovely.com