I deleted Facebook from my phone and you won’t believe what happened next
Facebook gets a bad rap, and sometimes rightfully so. When you think about it, Zuckerberg and company truly aren’t in it to help you connect with your friends; they want your money. To get your money, they sell ads, which means they need to engineer an experience which is as addictive as possible.
The same goes for Apple and Samsung; they employ thousands of people and pay them hundreds of millions of dollars to make your latest device indispensable.
The result is distraction; lots of it. I’ve written before about the massive costs of distraction. Most damaging of all, it hinders our capacity to be present in the moment — the only moment we ever really possess — with our loved ones. It also blunts our careers; reducing our productivity and our capacity to work deeply. Behind the wheel of a car, it can even get you killed.
But for all that’s wrong with Facebook (and hey, let’s be honest, I wish I had invented it), I still find it useful. There are family, friends and former clients whom I wouldn’t make time to call or have coffee with, but Facebook helps me stay connected with them and what’s new in their lives. As a photographer and author, it also remains a valuable way to market my work and meet prospective clients.
Moving beyond Facebook, our phones connect us to other people via email, text message, apps and more. But is there a way to reap its benefits without succumbing to the lure of its addictive distraction?
In a word, yes. Here’s what works for me.
I turned off all audible notifications, except for my phone itself
As a father of two young children, the reality is that someone — their daycare provider or school, for example — may need to get ahold of me urgently. Or, say that my wife needs something important, or someone else whom I know. For these reasons, I chose not to abandon my phone completely.
However, in emergency circumstances, I can be sure that someone will call. So what would happen if I disable the audible notifications for every other form of communication? Including text messaging, email and Facebook?
As it turns out, nothing bad whatsoever. In the month since I’ve turned off all of my phone’s notifications, I haven’t actually missed anything of consequence, but I have appreciated a much deeper sense of focus and capacity to think clearly.
Here’s the thing. Once you have developed a habit of responding to every beep or buzz — whether from sense of obligation or curiosity — it is actually very difficult to begin ignoring them again. For me, it was better to simply disable these notifications, but to leave the home screen ones active so that I can see what’s up at a glance. This way, I can leave my phone on the counter and walk away — to play with my kids, or to get something meaningful done — and return to it at a later, scheduled time.
Taking another cue from Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, I try to schedule these “checking my phone” breaks throughout the day — currently, at 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm — to remain connected but avoid mindless browsing. I don’t always stick to this schedule, but even aspiring to it helps me to protect my personal time. Furthermore, rather than whip it out whenever I might feel bored — i.e., while waiting in line — I try to simply use that time to think about a current challenge or even to just be bored; not having to fill that those few moments with something else.
At first, I deleted Facebook outright, but in the end, I decided to put it back it again, but to also turn off its notifications altogether. This is a best-of-both-worlds compromise which allows me to check it a couple of times a day without having to power up my computer (and so risk being distracted again by my work), but to avoid being drawn in by someone posting something that I don’t really need to read at that moment any way.
What have you got to lose? I hope I’ve convinced you that you have much to gain. You can always restore them later if you really need to, but I’m confident you won’t go back.