I am an all-or-nothing kind of guy. So, when I tried to back down from my Facebook addiction, I quit cold turkey. I even wrote about it in this LinkedIn article, so consider this article to be my first follow-up. (And you know how important following up is to me.)
I know that I am not alone in my attempts to cut back the time I spend posting, clicking, commenting and liking on Facebook. Lots of people – maybe you – have hit the tipping point where your social media time consumes a little too much of your attention. Perhaps Facebook has become a bigger part of your daily activity than it should, based on whatever subjective measurement you want to apply to that.
The fact that there is a condition called Facebook Addiction Disorder tells me that a lot of lives are consumed with artificial relationships, mine included. About two months after my initial acceptance of my FB addiction, it feels like the right time to revisit what I experienced and learned in the hope that it might help other people struggling on the spectrum of social media addiction.
Back in January, when I decided to take a couple of weeks off from Facebook, I didn’t know if anything would change in my life as a result of the experiment. It turns out, a lot changed.
So, what did it take for me to get my Facebook addiction under control?
I admitted there was a problem
While I recognized my love-hate relationship with Facebook (my addiction), I did not recognize quite how much it monopolized my time and attention.
As the CEO and Founder of SCOTTeVEST, I create and sell tech-ready clothing designed to keep people connected to all of their devices while on the go. How ironic is it that I built my company around technology, and then that technology started taking over my life?
I quip about my Facebook addiction, but I assure you that the struggle is real. Putting things out there for the world to respond to has been my cathartic fix. I actually crave that excitement and attention. Facebook’s always-on availability and my urge to constantly post details of the action movie of my life is a destructive combination.
I finally admitted my Facebook activity amounted to a Facebook problem, which is always the first step to change. If you want to quit Facebook, this recognition is the only way to begin.
Human nature dictates that our pain threshold must reach a certain point to force change, and people will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.
I reached my threshold when I recognized the negative impact that my compulsive Facebook behavior was having on my real relationships and time. If something cool/fun/terrible/amazing/(insert adjective here) happened to me in the real world, my Pavlovian response was to tell everyone who follows me on Facebook.
It wasn’t “share this experience with my wife” or “revel in this moment,” my instant reaction was to share the experience with the world on Facebook. While I do personally know a lot of people in the real world, I have 4,900 friends and nearly 30K followers on FB. Let’s put it this way… I wouldn’t recognize most of them walking down the street. My first instinct when anything happens was to turn to the screen, not look up from it.
When I realized that the impulse to share online was becoming a higher priority than other tasks, or interacting with the people around me, I knew I had to change. With my all-or-nothing mindset, that meant logging off NOW and not looking back.
Trial and error
In my lifetime I have quit smoking and I have successfully lost a lot of weight. The struggle to fight the urges for cigarettes or late night snacks was sometimes all-consuming. Overcoming any addiction is a process of trial and error to figure out what works best for you.
These are some things I tried to stay off FB:
- I lost the App: Deleting the FB app from my phone was my single most successful tactic because it creates a thin layer of inconvenience between the urge to go on Facebook, and the steps it takes to actually get on the site. Only using a browser to get on Facebook means I have to deliberately (not mindlessly) check it.
- I lost the App (part deux): I used to live for those damn red alert dots. On the FB app, you see a red alert dot anytime there is any activity on your account. That could be a Like, a friend request, a message… anything. That same little dot with a number in it could indicate a dozen different things, and like a dog hearing the dinner bell, I would seek instant gratification whenever I saw it. Each alert bubble was an unanswered question that my addicted curiosity could never leave hanging. Deleting the app solved this… no alert bubble, no problem. Instead of waiting anxiously for the red beacon alerts on my app in real-time, I just get a summary of activity when I do check Facebook.
- I recorded audio diaries: I’m apparently interesting enough to warrant the attention of 30K+ people each time I share something on Facebook, so I can’t discount that FB was a pretty effective creative outlet for me. I found a way to maintain my creative flow by recording audio diaries to think out loud and express my thoughts. I found that sharing the relevant ones with people I actually know gave me a deeper satisfaction than posting a dozen random, hastily constructed items on FB.
- I restricted myself to posting once per day: This gave me a chance to share highlights of my day with the benefit of hindsight about what was actually important, and what was not. It was not as fun as posting in the moment, but it provided perspective about what was worth mentioning.
- I tried peeking at posts only: Peeking and reading – but not writing – is like taking a kid to the ice cream store and not allowing him to get a cone. It may work one or two times, but it does not offer the satisfaction of some of my other tricks. Ultimately, you’re just setting yourself up to fail.
I tried all of these. Some worked better than others, but through trial and error I found combinations that work for me and you can too. Deleting the app was overall the best thing I did.
When I re-claimed hours in my day by not posting on Facebook, my personal relationships improved, my productivity increased and my behavior changed… and I liked the change. That was the positive reinforcement that I needed to stick with it.
Instead of seeking approval from people I’ve mostly never met, I sought out other ways – in real life – to find that same kind of instant gratification.
Instead of asking for opinions on Facebook for how to redesign a part of our office, I sent a note to my employees (you know, the people who actually work in the office every day). It seemed old school, but it was refreshing to hear 15 opinions that matter rather than 150 opinions from people with no real stake in the outcome.
Personal contact cannot be replaced by soliciting advice from random “friends” online, even though I can sometimes solve a problem faster with 12 Likes and 18 comments instead of an in-depth conversation.
Give yourself permission to cheat on your diet… sometimes
Wait. Isn’t this about me telling you how to get away from Facebook?
It is. But stepping away (even cold turkey) does not mean forever, or permanently abandoning the opportunities that Facebook can offer. Conscious permission to connect is a smart thing, especially for a passionate self-promoter like me. In my book Pocket Man, I talk about seizing every opportunity to promote yourself, your brand, your products and your ideas.
I’m most susceptible to a Facebook binge while traveling, since I’m away from my support network: my wife, my in-person friends and my closest advisors. This is the one time I give myself permission to post passionately. During a recent trip to California, I gave myself the green light (or, Facebook blue) to log in full speed ahead.
I posted about everything! I was interviewed live on CNBC Closing Bell about my bid to buy SkyMall, and I reunited with my pocket rocket, the Polaris Slingshot that I use to promote my book and fulfill my other obsession: driving fast. I spent time with my close friend Robert Scoble (who is also on Facebook hiatus) and I enjoyed great food, art, the ocean and lots of friends along the way.
ALL of it went on Facebook!
My self-permission to post during my travels was my small reward, and my time on Facebook was more productive. Defining a start and an end to my “on” time allowed me limit the negatives of Facebook, but to tap into many of the benefits:
- Friendships – I build friendships through Facebook that I might not find otherwise, like my great pal Kevin Lieberman. We met on Facebook and now Kevin is one of my closest friends. In fact, he watches my Slingshot for me when I am not in California.
- Recruitment opportunities – I am looking for no-excuses people to join the SCOTTeVEST team and Facebook casts a wide net. Like fishing, sometimes I go home empty handed, but sometimes I connect with the kind of people I want to hire and the conversation begins. Maybe I should cast more of those nets on LinkedIn.
- Make my world bigger – I live in a town of 5,000 people so Facebook expands my circles. I truly enjoy the things I get to do in my life and find that other people like being along for the ride (sometimes literally if the Slingshot is nearby).
My plan going forward
I am a work in progress. Even though many of the tactics I tried worked for me, I still struggle for balance. For me there is no gray area, in anything, ever, but I am not giving up.
For now, I will continue to do the things that seem to work, try some new ways to keep my Facebook addiction in check, and focus on the rewards of my personal relationships.
At the end of the day, Facebook is about validation. It doesn’t matter that I’ve built a multi-million dollar a year business…it’s still about validation. On my good days, I find myself saying, “Who cares if someone likes my Facebook post?” On bad days, I find myself answering, “I do.”
If you have tried a Facebook hiatus, I want to know your secrets. How do youfind that balance?
For even more stories about my approach to business, check out my top-rated book, Pocket Man.
If you want to learn more or just enjoy my “reality show” life, follow me on Facebook.
ABOUT SCOTT JORDAN and SCOTTeVEST
Scott Jordan is the CEO and Founder of SCOTTeVEST, which creates multi-pocket clothing designed to carry electronics. He is the author of Pocket Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of a Passionate, Personal Promoter.
Read a sample of Scott’s book for more about his experience on Shark Tank and the pocket empire he has built.