On one hand I think Facebook is a powerful way of staying in touch with friends, family and acquaintances – enabling you to stay current with what folks are up to and helping you to build stronger relationships with those who you consider important to you.
On the other hand, I’d suggest that Facebook can expose you to very negative influences, from snarky comments, to others inflicting their political and religious beliefs upon us. Also consider that most of us typically use Facebook status update to display the best parts of our life – our highlight reel. This “highlight reel” approach can lead us to compare what we consider to be our own dull and boring lives to the perceived brilliant lives others tell us about through their Facebook feed. Feelings of jealousy and inadequacy rear their ugly heads.
And let’s be honest – at a more basic level, Facebook can also be a complete and utter waste of time. Consider for a moment if you spent just half of the time you currently spend mindless “liking” posts on Facebook to instead learning a foreign language – besser, ja?
Should You Quit Facebook?
All of which leads to the question, “Should You Quit Facebook?”
More than once I’ve considered quitting Facebook altogether, and I know lots of people who have.
“It’s all depressing/irritating/annoying”, “It’s a waste of time!” and “It’s full of rubbish anyway” are just three justifications that you can offer for quitting Facebook.
Except those above statements can equally apply to any modern source of media. TV can be “full of rubbish”. Listening to the Radio can be “Depressing/Irritating/Annoying”. Social Media as a whole can be a complete and utter waste of time – if you don’t use it properly.
Any medium that becomes popular and widely adopted will suffer from problems of trying to please the masses while simultaneously annoying the masses too.
Quitting Facebook is one solution, although I do think that is rather like chucking out your TV because you don’t like watching those awful reality shows. If most TV annoys you, try buying yourself a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and record only the shows you like to watch when you’d like to watch them. By filtering the content and only choosing the bits that are relevant to you, you’ll find the medium of TV much more valuable and fun. Mindlessly watch what is served up to you, and you’ll inevitably become irritated/annoyed/depressed with what you see.
Instead, consider ways you can filter and customise Facebook to deliver to you the bits you like (important friends updates, news from groups you are passionate about, genuinely funny videos of Cats playing pianos) and never expose you to the bits you don’t like (thinly vieled racism or ignorance disguised as religious or political rallying, negative “friends”, annoying videos of Cats playing pianos).
How can you do this?
Improve the Facebook News Feed
The first step is to improve the Facebook news feed you receive. Facebook tries its best to show you updates from people, groups and companies that it thinks is important to you, yet what you often see is the stuff you don’t want to see.
You can change this so you see things you actually want to see, rather than the dross. It’s a simple process of accentuating the things you want to see more of, and de-emphasising the things you’d prefer not to see.
Click “Like” on status updates from friends and groups that you genuinely like. Not like a bit, but like a lot. There’s too much brilliant stuff out there for you to like the mediocre as well. Don’t rely on the news feed alone – directly visit pages from friends and groups and scroll through their recent updates “liking” the things you genuinely like. Pretty quickly you’ll see more of this stuff and less of the dross you don’t like on your main news feed.
If you see something your news feed that you don’t like, then click on the little arrow in the right hand corner of the item and click on “I don’t want to see this”. You’ll see less of that stuff going forward.
If you consistently see stuff from a person or group that you don’t want to see, then click “Unfollow” and you’ll never see their stuff again – and they’ll never be notified of this.
This also works for those annoying memes, “hilarious” images and chain letters you see shared by friends. Click on the “Hide All from” button and it doesn’t matter which of your friends wants to share them in the future, you won’t see them on your News feed.
Don’t visit Facebook any more
It’s possible to keep up to date with your friends via Facebook without visiting the Facebook web site or using the Facebook app. You can like their pictures, see important status updates and send them birthday wishes – all from a 3rd party app called EasilyDo.
EasilyDo is a free app available for Android and iOS and is one of a new category of personal Digital Assistants that is around to make your life easier by organising your electronic data. For instance, Easilydo can automatically add your hotel and flight email reservations to your calendar, notify you of any new bills you receive via email and much more besides. I personally use Easily.do and it’s a great timer saver.
One of the other features EasilyDo offers is to alert you to any important updates shared by friends on Facebook, as well as highlight any photographs you’ve been tagged in and display a daily summary of the Facebook pictures it thinks you’d like to see. This means you can see (and comment and like) on a load of Facebook activity all from within the EasilyDo app and all without ever having to visit Facebook directly. EasilyDo even suggests update text you should use!
If you’re somebody who is easily distracted by the things Facebook serves up for you and find a “quick visit” to Facebook can often result in you losing track of time, then using an app like EasilyDo could enable you to stay up to date on what is happening with your Facebook friends but without the temptation to fall down the digital rabbit hole…
Should you quit Facebook? That’s for you to decide, but you might find that by filtering how Facebook shares information with you – through customising the Facebook news feed to reduce the things you don’t like and accentuate the things you do – you eliminate that which annoys or upsets you altogether.
Using a 3rd party App like EasilyDo also allows you to reduce the time you spend on Facebook while not feeling as disconnected as you might if you quit Facebook altogether.
As Clay Shirky said, it’s not Information Overload, it’s filter failure. Just like Television, Smartphones and every other modern communication medium, if you put the right filters in place then your Facebook experience can be a positive one.
Left unfiltered, Facebook will probably annoy you to the point of distraction.