A few months ago, I considered leaving Facebook. I was losing huge chunks of my time to the social network and often coming away feeling irritated, envious or upset after scrolling through my news feed. Despite the fact it provoked such negativity within me, I still found Facebook slightly addictive. Consequently, this meant that I was often ignoring the people who were really in front of me to spend time with the big blue F.
I decided this had to stop. Perhaps the only solution was to wave goodbye Facebook? I deleted the app from my phone to stop myself from using it. The result was I started paying more attention to the people in my life, notably my husband and children, and was free from the negative emotions Facebook seemed to invoke within me.
Deactivating my account altogether seemed to be the logical next step, right?
But then I thought again.
I was actually missing my interactions with the friends I truly cared about. I also missed the informative and interesting posts from pages I liked and my participation in groups I valued. After some time, I came to the conclusion that the problem wasn’t with Facebook itself but instead with my usage of it. If Facebook had been sucking away my time, irritating me and taking me away from my family, it was because I let it.
Before hitting ‘deactivate account’, I rethought my relationship with Facebook. Surely there had to be a way to use it in a more positive fashion? I played around for a while and then came up with six ways to do just that:
Follow friends who uplift you. Unfollow those who don’t
Karl Marx said, ‘Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through’. While social media came well after Marx’s time, his wise words can be applied to improve our usage of Facebook nonetheless.
Make sure your news feed is occupied with people whose voices you actually want to hear. Check your friends list and unfollow the people who annoy, anger or upset you (go to their profile and select ‘unfollow’).
If scrolling through your news feed results in you seeing posts that prompt negative or unkind thoughts, hide the people who trigger them. You know who I mean – the people who show off excessively, share every excruciatingly boring detail of their day or just rub you up the wrong way. You’re only harming yourself with this self-imposed negativity; it’s far better to make sure you follow friends who inspire and support you.
There is a train of thought that we become the five people we spend the most time with. This applies equally to Facebook. Make sure you are following people who make you feel good about yourself, who make you laugh and think. Choose who you spend your precious time with wisely – online as well as in the real world.
Understand the ‘highlight reel’ concept
One of the biggest downsides I have found with Facebook is that it accelerates our intrinsic habit of comparing ourselves to others.
When we see pictures of expensive cars, tropical holidays and expensive gifts or hear about job promotions, children’s achievements and perfect relationships, it’s very easy to feel lacking, unworthy and envious.
We tend to share only the best snapshots of our lives on Facebook. You rarely see posts highlighting negative experiences, worries and insecurities.
Steve Furtick said, ‘the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel’. Facebook is the ultimate highlight reel. When using Facebook, constantly remind yourself of this and don’t play the comparison game. You will never win. Instead, be happy for your friends and their achievements without relating them to your own life.
It’s easy for our ‘monkey minds’ to go on the rampage with comparison and self-criticism after spending time on Facebook. Be mindful in your use of the social network and don’t let this happen.
Make the most of ‘see first’
We often ‘like’ a page and then never see a post from it again. If there is a page that you want to hear from because its content inspires you – perhaps with uplifting quotes, useful articles or motivational videos, make sure you visit the page and activate the ‘see first’ function (hover over the ‘liked’ button and select ‘see first’ from the menu that appears).
I’ve chosen about ten pages I never want to miss a post from because I know they will fill me with positivity and inspiration. Those pages’ posts appear at the top of my news feed, meaning that whenever I log in I see them before anything else.
Become part of a community
Emerging yourself within the community of a group is an easy way to connect with others who you share common interests, issues and values with. Search Facebook to find some groups that you can really become involved with and whose members will encourage and enrich you.
Groups can be a lifeline for those who are shy, need support and advice or lack people in their ‘real lives’ who share the same interests. You won’t automatically be shown every group post, so if you want to make sure you never miss a post, visit ‘notifications’ and select ‘all’.
If you can’t find the exact type of group you’re looking for, why not create it?
Learn as much as you can
Kitten pictures and pointless status updates aside, there’s a huge amount of knowledge contained within Facebook. Think of Facebook as a school; all you need to do is find the entrance to the classroom you wish to attend.
Make sure you like pages that publish useful posts about your interests, hobbies or career. You can learn a great deal from journals, publications and people who churn out valuable content.
The save function is one of Facebook’s best kept secrets, meaning you never have to miss a post you want to read but don’t have time to in the moment it appears on your feed. To save a post, click on the grey arrow in the top right of the post and select ‘save post’. Fill your saved folder (which you can access from your dashboard) with interesting content so when you do find yourself with a bit of time on your hands you can use it wisely.
I can’t think of a better use for Facebook than education. And the best part is it’s free.
Prioritise real life
One of my issues with Facebook had been that it was interfering with my real life relationships. I would check it when talking to my husband or playing with my kids. This was entirely my fault, not Facebook’s. The last thing I want is for my kids to turn round one day and say, ‘mummy is always on her phone’.
I made a deal to prioritise my real life interactions and put my phone away until I was alone. Before Facebook and smartphones existed, my friends and family had my full attention at all times. In restoring this state, my relationships have greatly improved.
Be careful when you use Facebook and don’t let it overshadow your real life communications. In short, put real life first.
As it happens, I’m glad that I decided not to leave Facebook. Like anything, Facebook has its positive and negative aspects. By deciphering how to use it to your advantage, Facebook can indeed improve your life.