How To Use Facebook Productively Without Letting It Consume Your Life

November 15, 2017 by stas | Filed under Productivity.

Let’s agree on one thing – Facebook’s goal is a single one – to make money.

How does it make money? Through selling advertisement.

How does it sell advertisement? By making you spend as much time as possible on the Facebook land. Even if you don’t click on any advertisement – they still make money from the brand exposure kind of ads, where advertisers pay for their brand to flash in front of your mind again and again, until it gets programmed into your subconscious, and that when you next go to buy something you unconsciously will choose the brand you were programmed to choose. And you’re also more likely to buy something you don’t need in first place.

Facebook making a killing in profits is not a problem – we live in a capitalistic world so it’s the norm.

The brainwashing is not the problem – they have been doing it long before Facebook.

The real problem is the side effect of Facebook’s design to make money — most Facebook users waste a lot of their life and invite too much unnecessary stress into an already very stressful life.

And even bigger problem is that all that distraction prevents you from having those few precious moments of being with yourself, when you can grow the most and be in your heart. When there is an inner disquiet it’s so easy to seek out something that will take your mind and heart away into some dream land. And online with non-stop stimulation and notifications of promised stimulation you’re being unplugged from your inner being and by making sure you’re constantly plugged into that dream world.

The easiest solution is not to use Facebook at all. The good old email is still going strong. The problem is that most of the world is on Facebook so if you want to communicate with people they prefer Facebook chat over email. Secondary, most events are now announced and arranged through Facebook so if you want to participate in group gatherings of any kind, unfortunately it’s almost impossible to accomplish without using Facebook. For quite some time I contemplated of dumping Facebook altogether, but then I realized that I can be smart about it and use it to my advantage and not let it take advantage of me.

Some people left Facebook in favor of another platform, but it too is there in the business of making money and who do you think they are going to copy as far as their features go? Don’t think twice — the leading platform Facebook. And they will do it more poorly since they don’t have as deep pockets as Facebook.

So what to do?

In this article I’m going to share tips on how you can continue using Facebook (and other similar platforms) without it sucking all of free time out of your life and replacing it with more stress than you already have from other sources.

Keep Only Real Friends

It’s very tempting to accept all friends invitations. Don’t. Delete anybody you don’t really know. And don’t feel bad about rejecting the invitation, the other side most of the time doesn’t really care if you accept it or not and many do it so that they can market their stuff to you anyway.

A few years ago I deleted 3500 friends, who weren’t friends at all. In fact I initiated most of those connections when I was experimenting with Facebook marketing myself. I now have about 550 on my friends list, all of which I have either spent time with in person (I used to be somewhat a celebrity in a computer tech world some 10+ years ago and I traveled and lived in many countries) or at least we had a meaningful conversation online and we moved to keep in touch. I don’t think twice about deleting friend invites from people I don’t know – even if I see that they “liked” what I posted. I still don’t know them. Remember that there is the ‘follow’ feature. They can always choose to follow me if they like what I share. And so can I. If in the future we get to connect and to get to know each other, and it feels good to both of us then I’m happy to add them to the friends list.

The problem that the more friends you have (1) the more “stuff” you get on your Facebook feed and (2) more irrelevant event recommendations and invitations, (3)  “xyz is live now” alerts, (4)  like-my-page requests and much much more. And as a result of all these side-effects you haven’t considered when accepting a new “friend” invitation — Facebook will suck out even more life out of you.

And if you share something, you’re likely receive comments from people you don’t really know. While more likes is always nice, knowing that the whole like-feature is often manipulated and anybody can buy thousands of likes for cheap, it really turns it into a meaningless false indicator of worthiness. Really, I don’t care whether you like my posts or not. What I care about is whether what I share is meaningful to you and it makes your life more interesting, efficient, loving and there is less suffering in it.

Don’t Read the Feed

The awesome side effect of the time that I had 4000 friends is that I had to stop reading the feed. How could I possibly keep in touch with a flurry of non-stop posts from 4000 friends. And when I dumped most of them, I discovered that I acquired a great habit of not going to the feed and I kept at it considering it a gift.

Recall your life pre-Facebook. Were you calling all your friends, relatives and acquaintances every day, several times a day asking on what they are up to, what did they buy today, what music tracks they have been listening to and how their pet or toddler charmed them today. Why then all of a sudden you started caring so much about the lives of others. Especially people that aren’t that close to you. The fact is that you don’t. It’s been pushed down your throat and you have been swallowing it in big gulps without getting a breather to even realize it’s not what you need.

At any point you can go to the wall of any of the persons that you’re friends with and read what they are up to. If you start having a choice, chances are that you will be doing it in the same way you did it before Facebook existed. You will do so once in a while, i.e. once a week, once a month, once a year, and not once a minute. And then it’ll be your choice to be interested in someone’s life at a specific moment because you felt moved to do so. What a difference.

Turn All Notifications Off

This is the most destructive part of the modern communications – we are being bombarded with notifications from every app and platform, often there is a new notification every few seconds – this is madness!

The problem is that you don’t realize how destructive and stressful it is because you’re now so used to it. Try to take a week off without your mobile and computer – when you go on vacation next time don’t check your email, or Facebook and don’t use any apps – keep your phone off and with you just for emergencies. When you return back to your normal usage you will be horrified how jarring and stressful it is to re-open that madness tap you have little control over.

And if you’re emotionally upset about something, the notifications are so “precious” because they help you to run away from yourself. Who wants to do the uncomfortable work of self-growth, when there is so much “play” out there, and you don’t even need to seek it out as it’s calling you through all of your digital devices and their apps.

Facebook makes it very difficult to turn all notifications off, because the less notifications you get, the less you will come back to the site, the less money they will make. I have been battling with this for a long time and Facebook keeps on inventing new ways of notifications. For example when it starts pushing on me events on a different continent because I happen to have a friend there, you can’t just say ‘No More’ – you can only choose ‘Less of This’.

To gain control over your usage of platforms like Facebook you need to be in control of when you use it. Say you check your email several times a day (unless you have notifications On as well!), check your Facebook messages at the same time – nobody will die if you reply to them in a few hours or days later. They will just learn over time that you aren’t a robot and you reply to messages when you’re ready to do so and more importantly so, when you can make yourself fully available for a meaningful conversation, and not answering their deeply inquiring questions, while you’re walking to your car, running to catch a train, or sitting on a toilet, and you’re not really fully present.

This also means you need to turn the Chat off as well. Do you really care who comes online or goes offline every few minutes?

Once you turned all the notifications off, then you may choose to turn some of them back on. But now you have a control over what your real needs for notifications are. And it’s very likely that you are now addicted to those notification pop-ups and really can’t live without them.

Don’t Write Significant to Others Stories On Your Wall

Let’s admit this – Facebook is a black hole of information. If blogosphere created a wealth of information for everybody to benefit from at the moment of writing of any of the blog posts and still so many years later, Facebook is the black hole which eats up anything you write to be never seen again. Try a simple experiment of finding something you wrote on your wall a year earlier. Or even better the same on someone else’s wall. You won’t find it because the data is gone. Sure you can get to it if you have the patience to hit Next at the bottom of the feed scrolling the feed for a few hours and then you’re likely to miss it, because after 50 scrolls you will tune out and no longer pay attention to the data coming at you.

I find this phenomena demonstrated so well in large Facebook groups, where the same question is being asked again and again, and some 100 people answer it again and again. Instead of having an Internet forum-like hierarchy of information where things are sorted in a sensible folder structure and can be easily searched and found by new users of these forums, it’s just a flat unorganized stream that disappears into nowhere.

So if you write anything that you believe can be of any use to anyone down the road please do the world a favor, start a free blog and post any significant insights there – and then share the link to a blog post on your wall, so your shared link will disappear into the black hole of Facebook, but the information you shared will still be accessible and searchable at large via Google and other search engines. Blogs used to be difficult to use in the early days. These days they are as easy as posting on Facebook. And it doesn’t cost you anything.

Of course if you write something that is of no use to anybody, but a few people (e.g. family photos), or the information you share will expire in 3 days anyway (e.g. you have some tickets for sale), then by all means share it on your Facebook wall. This is the best use of this resource.

My Facebook Usage

My usage is very simple.

  1. I have all notifications that are possible to have off as off. I don’t get email notifications. Chat is off.
  2. When I choose to go to Facebook I go directly to the messages page – so I really use it as email.
  3. I never visit the feed page.
  4. When I think of someone and I want to know what they are up to – I go directly to their wall.
  5. I use the events feature for joining and organizing events – this is one feature that Facebook has done well.
  6. I use groups only when I have a need to research some information.
  7. I manage one group at the moment. As a responsible manager I have notifications turned On just for this group to take good care of its members.
  8. I write anything of long term significance to others on my blogs and share the links to the posts on my wall. If some silly post of mine turns into a a meaningful conversation, I compile its comments into a digest and put it on my blog if I believe it’ll be useful to others.
  9. I prefer skype to Facebook chat as it’s non-invasive, doesn’t tempt to check out irrelevant things and as a engineer I find skype to be a much better chat tool, IMHO. (Except now it’s starting to copy Facebook and is starting to go downhill). So with a tiny handful of people that I communicate with a lot, I ask them to use skype to talk to me.
  10. Email is my preferred way of communication, so at times I ask people to switch to email, especially when discussing personal matters.

Useful Aids

Here are some browser extensions that I use in the context of Facebook to save my time and diminish stress:

  • Expand All Facebook Comments – it’s a maddening experience needing to click ‘See More’ in any busy discussion on Facebook. They couldn’t think of adding a button to expand them all. So the linked bookmarklet does that for you. It’s a great time saver. I use it on firefox on my desktop computer. I’m sure someone wrote something similar for other browsers/platforms. Just google it for your setup.
  • Seen Blocker – this is a psychological manipulation one – as humans if we know that someone knows we read their message we are likely to create a pressure on ourselves to reply. It’s a healthy built-in social normal in a real person to person conversation. But when it’s done over chat this is not so, because our correspondent has no clue what we are doing at the moment of them sending the message and us happening to read it. So yes I read your message, but do I really have to say: “I read your message, but I’m sorry I can’t reply to it right now as I’m on a toilet right now”? So these tools cancel Facebook’s mechanism of showing your correspondent that you read the message. And now you can attend to it when you’re ready to do so without feeling self-imposed shame that you haven’t done it as soon as you saw the message. And if it’s important you will surely tend to it as soon as you will find it practical. Basically it brings communications back to the simplicity and convenience of the good old email.

I hope this sharing was useful to you. If you have useful tips you have discovered to productive use of Facebook and similar platforms  and you would like to share – those are very welcome via the comments section below. Thank you.

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One Response to “How To Use Facebook Productively Without Letting It Consume Your Life”

  1. Freya says:

    Thanks for this Stas. I found it super helpful. I just spent a productive half hour turning every possible notification off on fb.

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