Facebook is part of our lives since almost a decade. It wasn’t that much popular in the beginning. Today, nobody can argue that it isn’t the equal (or almost) of email. It can be useful for many things like invitations for parties, sharing pictures or for birthdays. It’s also great to keep in touch with our favorite authors, blogs or brands. Unfortunately, Facebook has is share of bad sides. I was wondering how much time a day I could spend on that social network and how much of that time was really useful. That was the cause of my month without Facebook. I was bound to respect some rules during that month. No Facebook at all except if it was for work, which meant that I couldn’t go on my private page. I could answer personal message if it was really useful and if it was my only way to reach that person. I’ve also extended the challenge to other social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. To help me during the challenge, I was writing a log of my experiences every three days. Then, I’ve removed the Facebook icon on my cell home screen. This was seriously helpful, simply not seeing the icon was good deal useful.
I can’t lie, the first few days were hard. I was going on Facebook almost instinctively without even thinking about it. It’s like my brain was triggered to go on it every once in a while. To my astonishment, it was even automatic when I was doing work or personal task. I couldn’t open my internet browser without going a 5 minutes on Facebook. My other problem was the sudden interruption of tasks to go on Facebook. With the challenge it was way easier to observe my behavior. It took nearly 10 days to stop my visits by mistakes. I still needed to control consciously my urges. After 20 day, it was already a habit to avoid it.
I’ve observe many interesting things during the 30 days challenge. Here are a few of them:
- Social networks can create a huge lost of time : I’ve come to conclusion that I was easily spending 45 minutes to an hour everyday on Facebook (if not more). It was most of time split with many session of 4-5 minutes here and there. Never underestimate the cumulative time of small visits. Make the calculus (45 x 7) and you get 315 minutes in a week. What could I do with 315 minutes more? It’s more than 5 hours!
- It can easily break your productivity : If you are unaware of it, you will interrupt your task to go on Facebook. research show that in a work environment, each time you make an interruption, you will spend 25 minutes going back to your original task (the time spent on the distraction plus the whatever you did after that). You will rarely go back straight to your original task. It’s also obvious that you won’t be as focus as you were when starting again. By the way, this can also be applied to not only Facebook but other things like reading news, emails, sms, etc.
- Understanding the Facebook distraction help to understand other distractions : It’s a common pattern. We use distractions without being aware of them. In Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg talk about keystones habits. Starting a habit, can make you aware of other things that you want to change. This first habit will be like a domino effect on others. I now see how much I’m loosing time watching sport news, looking at my emails a bunch of times a day or opening my cellphone for sms. Once you’re aware of it, you can start working on the other distractions that come to surface.
- Old distractions will be replace by new distractions : This is something interesting, at one point instead of going on Facebook as usual I was browsing the IMDB. Usually, I only go on that website once in a while (when I want to see a movie). Your brain will crave to find new distractions be aware of it.
- I didn’t miss that much: Nothing that I’ve missed was really important. The only thing that could have been important was event invitations, but I was already receiving notifications by email about it. I didn’t miss anything dramatic by not going on Facebook.
- Less and less noise: I read so many trivial things on Facebook it isn’t even funny. A break of Facebook spared me a lot of time reading things I don’t even care about.
During my 30 day challenge, one big question came to my mind: How can I do that for a year? Doing a challenge for a month is a thing, doing it for good is another. One good tool is the Parkinson’s Law that I learned a few years ago in The 4 Hour Workweek. The idea is to use force deadline to avoid any kind of distractions. For example, you want to read a book. Start a timer for an 1 hour and read it without doing anything else. Another tool that I like is the « don’t do list ». Make a list of all your distractions and keep track of not doing them (don’t go on sport news website, do go on YouTube, etc.). Leo Babauta in The Power of Less suggest to set limitations. For example : I can go X amount of time on Twitter each week no more.
I plan to go on with the Facebook diet, I will probably set myself a limit of time to use it each week. I would like to add my other distractions in it. Those distractions are : sport news (UFC and Hockey mainly), daily news, IMDB, emails, watching my cell all the time for sms and YouTube. My goal is to see new distractions come and simply cut them off. I think we lose a lot of time with distractions of any sort, time that could be much better spent elsewhere. Is it really worth it? Try it for yourself.