Until recently, Facebook was probably one of the main destroyers of my productivity. I lost hours of daily productivity because of mindless Facebook usage. Those quick five minute scrolls through Facebook would add up to hours per day in wasted time. But about a year or so ago I decided that this is a bad habit that must be stopped, or at least controlled. So I tried various methods of putting an end to this bad habit—but I wasn’t too successful at first. But through trial-and-error, I was able to figure out a plan that worked for me. In this article I will show you the method that worked for me and also highlight some of the other popular methods that haven’t worked quite as well (in my opinion). Although this article mainly talks about Facebook, my method will work well for e-mails and almost every social media platform.
The Method that Works for Me
My method does not rely on willpower at all. Relying solely on willpower is a bad idea because will is limited. It is exhausting calling on your willpower to stop yourself from checking Facebook every time. My method relies on negating the negative the triggers and building roadblocks around the bad habit.
Step 1: Uninstall Facebook from Phone
The first thing I did was uninstall the Facebook app from my phone. I made a compromise with myself. The Facebook app made it all too easy to check Facebook. So the compromise was that if I wanted to check Facebook on my phone, I can do it on my browser. By allowing myself to check Facebook on my browser, I am making a compromise with myself so that it doesn’t get to the point where I ever have to install the Facebook app again.
The Facebook app is designed to promote more time spent on the app. More time on the Facebook app means more ad money for Facebook. When you have the app, you will be constantly bombarded by notifications, and thus it increases your compulsion to check your Facebook.
Step 2 (important!!!): Log out of Facebook after Every Use
The second step is critical in order for you to stop constantly checking your Facebook. You need to log out of Facebook after every use. This goes for checking Facebook on your computer or your mobile browser.
After doing this, my Facebook usage went from hours per day to just 15-30 minutes per day. Manually logging out was critical to my success after the Facebook app was deleted from my phone.
Why This Works
Going cold turkey rarely ever works. And who wants to go cold turkey for Facebook anyway? Social media is wonderful for keeping in touch with your friends and family, and an excellent way to get news. The goal is to stop checking Facebook frequently out of habit.
So why does this method work? It works for a few reasons:
- It adds a barrier between you and the bad habit. Habits are, by its nature, automatic and unconscious. For the majority of us, we don’t check Facebook because we are addicted, we do it because it is an unconscious habit. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are browsing through our newsfeed. When there is a barrier between you and your habit, your unconscious actions become conscious choice. Accessing Facebook is no longer just clicking on the app—you actually have to enter in your e-mail address and type in your password.
- It makes you reassess your decision. Every time you try to access your account and have to enter in your account information, you are faced with an internal decision. You have to ask yourself, do I want to access Facebook enough to go through the trouble of entering my account information? Most of the time, the answer should be a resounding NO.
- No prompts or triggers. Triggers (or cues) are important in developing habits. So by destroying the cue, you are destroying one of the main anchors of your habit. Because you have deleted your Facebook app, there are no cues for you to check your Facebook account. When you have a Facebook account, you will get a few notifications a day. These notifications are psychological triggers, intended to pique your interest and curiosity so that you will open the Facebook app. And if you have the Facebook app, checking your account is as easy as clicking on the app.
Although this post is mostly centered on Facebook, this can work for ANY account that you mindlessly and compulsively check. This will work especially well for those who have the compulsion to always check their e-mails.
For this to work, you have to do two things and only two things: delete the Facebook app from your phone and log out of Facebook after every use. It is not a choice of one or the other. You have to do both if you want this to work.
Popular Methods People Have Tried
As I have shown you my method for decreasing my Facebook usage, here are some of the methods that some of my friends have tried. You may have tried these before also. In my opinion, these methods do not work as well.
1) Disabling Your Facebook Account
Some people go this way to stop checking their Facebook. It worked for a few of my friends who were studying for finals. But as soon as finals were over, they would turn their Facebook back on. And as soon as their Facebook turned back on, so did their compulsion to constantly check it.
As for me, I never had cajones to disable my Facebook. I still like to keep in contact with my social circle and never found disabling my account necessary.
2) Disabling Access to Facebook on Your Computer and Mobile Devices
Some people use an app to disable Facebook around certain times of the day. There is program for Windows called Cold Turkey that blocks certain sites when you turn it on. I tried this program once to block Youtube and such—but the program was kind of spazzy.
But disabling access to Facebook around certain times is also not a solution, it just masks the symptoms. As soon as you have access to Facebook again, you will again compulsively check it.
Again, the goal is not to go cold turkey; we still want to use our favorite social networks. However, the goal is to use it much less. Once you stop checking on Facebook, or any account that you check consistently, you will find that you have a lot more time on your hands. It is crucial that you find something to do with that time so that you are not tempted to just check Facebook out of boredom. For me, I found that I have a couple of hours of free time a day as soon as I implemented these changes. I use those extra hours to write, read, or listen to podcasts to keep my mind occupied.