How I got Control of my Facebook Addiction

(Originally posted on Facebook, with a different summation.)

Two years ago, about this time, we made the decision to “kill da wabbit” and end the ten-year run of Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. At that time, I had over two thousand followers of my personal facebook profile. Up until that moment, I had an “I’ll friend anybody” attitude about it. I also had a terrible facebook addiction.

If you’ve been following along, then you know I began cutting folks from my friends list then. (And before folks get outta joint, I did have a method to this madness. Some might take it personally, but I’m here to tell ya, it had more to do with me than anyone else.)

First, I removed the Facebook app from my cell phone. When you work from home, it’s over the internet, but when you have to go out into the world again, it costs data. So, only the facebook messenger app travels with me.

Second, I spent MONTHS urging people to head over to my “professional” page at https://www.facebook.com/LHayesMinney/. I also set up a public Instagram profile, which is tied to my facebook page. (Instagram, IMHO, is a kindler, gentler place where people have to use photos and can’t go on angry or political rants. It also forces me to use photographs and limits my angry and political rants. While my page isn’t entirely “professional” I am less likely to “show my ass” there. There’s a side to me that the world doesn’t need to see, there’s a side that you “friends” see, then there’s the side that sends memes by private message because only people who know and love me need to know that side.)

Third, I started cutting complete strangers from the personal friends list. I spent much time going, “Who are you?” Looking at profiles to see if they were someone I could recognize. If not, cut. I also started building a friend list on Instagram, and if someone was posting the same to both — I unfriended from facebook and friended them on Instagram instead.

Fourth, I completely stopped taking new friend requests. If I did friend someone, I sent them a message to go like my page, then often, unfriended them again.

Then, I started culling lurkers. Politicos. Haters, Drama Queens, Trolls, Negative Nannies. Whiners. People who post pictures of abused animals. High school friends who didn’t speak to me then and wouldn’t speak to me now. I started unfollowing Pages I really didn’t care about and unfollowing certain friends to see if I actually missed seeing their posts.

At that point, I had trimmed my friends list to about 500. My time spent scrolling down the Facebook feed was also significantly diminished. I had removed the wheat from the chaff.

Then, my Aunt Sybil died. I have always tried (not always successfully) to behave myself on facebook because Aunt Sybil and Mother were watching. Now, I do have a post setting that is “Friends Except Mother and Sybil,” but very rarely did I use it. But knowing that Mother and Sybil are watching is the main reason for the PG setting of all my posts. (I also don’t post many political posts because the family I love is divided on many issues. And I still love them, of course.)

I started thinking more about watching who was friending me and why. Who watches? Who likes all my posts? Who likes only the really good posts? Who is stirring pots IRL because of my posts? Who, among my friend list, was actually interacting? Who was following me, supporting me? (All writers must consider their audience.)

I unfriended (nearly all of) my library board members. Not because of any real issue or event, but because I think that just makes a healthier workplace. They are welcome to follow my facebook page where I maintain some personal control, but I don’t want them to witness me when I rant. I don’t want to know their politics, they don’t need to know mine. (This is healthy for a work environment, this is necessary for a good library environment.)

I friend very few, if any, library patrons. Same reason I unfriended my library board members, but also–friending library patrons on facebook gives them 24/7 access to the librarian. This, my dearies, is a privilege I am not about to toss out willy-nilly. The library has a facebook page, I check it when I’m at work. If you don’t get the answer you want at 2 a.m., then you’ll have to just wait.

At this point, the Facebook algorithm got interesting. I was seeing posts I was interested in. Pictures of faces I love, posts about issues I’m interested in, people I know. I worried for a while that I might only be selecting folks who see the world the way I do, but that didn’t happen. Yes, there’s a good selection of like-minded folks on the list, but I will not go so far as to say my list is all people who have the same opinions I do.

I got to a point after that, where I made actual, personal choices on my friend list. Did I miss the ones I unfollowed? For several, I followed them again. Some, I unfriended. Who do I enjoy following? Who is funny? Interesting? Educational? Who are my storytellers? Who am I investing my time and energy in?

Who, of those who I unfriended, asked to be friended again? (Answer=3)

So today, nearly two years later, there are 95 of you left. My goal was always to get below 100. One hundred people I follow or check in on regularly. I can manage that. Less than a hundred people who get to witness that I’m kinda weird, and a little dark, and occasionally snarky.

There are days when I get on facebook and spend far too much time (like today). And I still check facebook daily, but sometimes I don’t. I don’t jump and run to respond to notifications anymore, I don’t gauge my post success by the number of likes (the record was 374) and I rarely spend more than 30 minutes total on any given day.

I’m blogging more (not much, but more), I’m writing more, and I’m working on a collection of my work as a book. I spend more time with family and enjoy more beauty on Instagram and less attitude on Facebook. I haven’t gone cold turkey, but it has changed my life.