I’ve never tried meth. I hear that it makes you feel powerful and clever. And then it never lets you go. My experience with Facebook tells me that I should probably never try meth.
Facebook wasn’t instantly addictive. I don’t remember when I joined, but I was working at a university, and back then the only way to get into FB was to have a .edu email address. So I signed up and messed around a bit. I didn’t know anybody else who was using FB. I saw there were some IT students at my university trying it out, but I didn’t really know them. So I kinda shrugged and quit logging in after a couple of days.
Fast forward a few years. A few months after they opened up the site to non .edu email addresses, I logged back in. Lots more people in there. I even know some of ’em. Seemed like more folks I knew were joining every day. That was kinda fun. Lots of opportunity for poking around and seeing what old classmates were up to. Pretty soon I’m setting up FB as a sort of digital hub for my online activities. This blog’s RSS feed pointed over there. My Twitter stream went over there. Same with various other services like Flickr, Last.FM, delicious, YouTube, etc. If it had a feed it got pushed to FB. I spent a lot of time there. Never really got into all the quizzes and games and stuff. I just liked seeing what people were up to, and I liked writing clever posts. I did some of those “about me” meme things that spread like wildfire. I was pretty pleased with my cleverness, and I liked it when other folks noticed and commented on my posts.
I made a lot of “friends”…somewhere north of 300, I guess. Normal people don’t really have 300 friends, of course. But the number was kind of a badge of honor. I didn’t really want to read everything they all wrote, and some of them clearly spent more time on FB than I did. So I got good at ‘hiding’ some of my ‘friends.’ I hid quizzes and games, and blocked tons of apps. I just wanted to receive real content from people. I wanted to know how they were doing, but I didn’t really care how their “farm” was doing.
I got really, really used to being on Facebook. It started to take up more time than email, which is kinda scary. I’m a natural procrastinator, and FB didn’t help with that problem. In fact, it kind of made it explode. Stuff wasn’t getting done, but I sure knew what was going on with that dude from 3rd grade! I realized what was happening, and I tried to cut back on my FB usage. Took the app off my phone, so I didn’t have the temptation there. But it was still too easy to just quickly log on with my computer. An hour later and my ToDo list hadn’t changed. Not good.
The tough thing was that, for me, FB was a legit business tool. I started a fan page (as they were then called) for the non profit organization I worked at. I started getting folks on board with the page, and pimped it out with a few tools to help build community, and pull in donations. I helped push content to the page, and helped moderate when needed.
But FB was still stealing all my time, and I really needed to figure out how to quit. By this time other folks were handling the fan page for the day job, so I didn’t really need to be on FB for work. I looked around and figured out how to deactivate my account. Seemed like an easy win, since deactivation made it look like you were never on FB, but you could easily reactivate and be right back where you were. So I did it. Went silent for a while. Kinda liked it. There really was a short withdrawal period where I had to redirect my attention when I started feeling the FB itch. That only lasted a couple of days. (BTW, if you want to truly delete your account, and not just deactivate, follow these instructions)
I’ve reactivated my account a couple of times since then. Once was to promote a school fundraising thing my son was doing. We had a specific goal for that, which was quickly achieved, then I shut the account down again. FB really is a good tool for broadcasting information to your “friends.” But really, there’s nothing I couldn’t do with a quick email. The difference is interesting though. Using my son’s fundraiser as an example, I could’ve sent an email to folks, but that would’ve been tantamount to a pretty hard fundraising ask–if they got the email, someone was hoping they would respond. Thus the email list would be relatively short. On the other hand, I could post it to FB and get it in front of hundreds of people, just as a sort of FYI. Maybe some would respond, but there’d be no implicit pressure like with an email. Just a different environment, I guess. Definitely well suited for specific goals, but for me personally, it’s just too much of a distraction.
Now that I’ve been off of FB for a few months, I heard that my mom just joined. 🙂