The growth of Facebook from a fun and easy tool for keeping in touch with friends to a malevolent corporation that seems to exist only to advertise to its users seemed to be in the forefront of everyone’s minds this year. However, I thought that my usage was fairly minimal until I noticed more and more of my friends abstaining from Facebook, particularly in its app form.
Two specific events caused me to question why I spend time on Facebook. The first occurred this summer, when I was attending a summer school in Italy with two friends. The World Cup was in progress and we spent most evenings watching a match– or rather, with the TV on in the background while we scrolled through social media apps on our phones. One of my friends had quit Facebook at the start of the year, and we got on to the subject of social media. I maintained that it’s generally a force for good, to which he replied: “But you spend your whole life on there!”. I dismissed it at the time, but he was right.
The second event happened only a couple of days ago. Home for Christmas, I was sitting next to my brother on the sofa, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. He looked over and laughed, “Why are you wasting your time with that rubbish?”. This time, I really began to question my social media usage.
The key word here is mindless. Some reptilian part of our brain is presumably programmed to seek out bright colours and the endlessly refreshing icons and notification badges feed that rush of dopamine, reinforcing the addiction to zoned out scrolling.
This year has been a struggle for me in terms of productivity. My research has slumped, so in the new year I want to reignite that creative spark and push for a more disciplined approach to my work. The lack of attention that constantly looking at a phone breeds is clearly a big problem for me, and so I am resolving to reduce my social media usage as much as possible.
At the time of writing, I’ve already avoided looking at Facebook for at least 24 hours. I’ve muted all of its notifications and removed the app from my home screen. I’ve done the same for Twitter, Instagram, Slack and a host of other attention grabbing apps. On Twitter, I’ve also unfollowed a lot of the political commentators that I used to admire; it tends to be a very vitriolic environment and I’ve realised that I don’t enjoy reading their opinions any more.
Instead, my phone home screen now has a clock, a weather forecast, a step counter (which is already motivating me to get outside and exercise more) and four apps (besides those in the bottom tray): Spotify, Noisli, BBC Sounds and Gmail. Simply having the social apps out of immediate reach is quelling the urge to open them, and now when I glance at my phone I’m not tempted to quickly check Twitter, which inevitably turns into a black hole for my time, sucking away twenty minutes or more in the blink of an eye.
So here’s to a more productive 2019. This will be a year of mindfulness and growth, both personally and professionally– but I won’t be sharing any of my progress on Facebook!
Header image credit: Michele Doying / The Verge