On Leaving Facebook

For those of you who follow this blog on Facebook, you may have noticed the page is no longer active. That’s because last week I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook.

I don’t think I need to go into the details about why my trust in Facebook has been waning, so I won’t.

I will say that this move has been a long time coming regardless of any privacy concerns. Long before Cal Newport popularized the concept of Digital Minimalism, I had already made the decision to remove social media apps from my phone in an effort to be intentional with how I spent my time and attention.

Not having Facebook on my phone changed how I thought about the service. I stopped seeing it as a place to mindlessly scroll through friends’ updates. Instead, I came to rely on Facebook for event discovery. Whenever I had a free afternoon, I’d use it to look through nearby events and inevitably find one or two that looked interesting enough to check out. For that purpose alone it was great. Unfortunately, over time the quality of events declined, and I found myself back to mindlessly scrolling through events just as I used to do with status updates. Eventually, I stopped using it for events as well.

Over time, with no real use for it, Facebook faded into the background. I almost never felt a need to check in to see what others were posting or post my own updates, and because I wasn’t checking in regularly, friend requests, event invites, and all the other ways people can reach me often went unanswered until someone mentioned them to me in person.

Whenever this happened, I did my best to explain that I wasn’t ignoring them intentionally – I just didn’t check Facebook regularly, but it turns out when people see that you have a social media account, there’s an expectation that you use it to be social. Eventually, I switched to saying that I didn’t use Facebook at all, but that usually fell flat. Once someone searched for me and saw my account pop up, it seemed as if I was lying to them.

I grew tired of trying to justify how I did or didn’t use Facebook. I came to the conclusion that the only way I could stop people from thinking I was hiding things from them (which a few did) was to deactivate my account entirely. I put it off for months, hoping there’d be another way, but really more concerned that it’d be too much of a hassle.

How would I share pictures with people without Facebook?

How would I find out about events – both from nearby locations and from friends?

It turns out none of these were actual issues.

For starters, it turns out Facebook isn’t the only way to share photos. Messages, AirDrop, and iCloud work just fine.

I also realized that I can keep up with nearby events and family and friends through Instagram. Yes, I know Instagram is owned by Facebook. No, I’m not thrilled about it, but unlike Facebook, Instagram does serve a need for me, and it’s not just to broadcast my life.

Instagram gives me a platform to share my life in a creative way. Because my account is public, I pay more attention to what I share, and more importantly who I share on it. For example, I try to avoid sharing faces of friends and family as much as possible, which has encouraged me to come up with some very clever ways of capturing the moment (e.g. shadows doing something cool instead of the actual people) that I’d otherwise not have thought about.

As for my friends’ events, I wasn’t checking Facebook regularly as it was, yet somehow I still managed to find out about their events. Once again, Messages and in-person conversations work just fine.

All in all, I feel like a weight has been lifted since I deactivated my account. I have no regrets whatsoever, and I’ve not missed it one bit. I’m not going to stand on a soapbox and say you should stop using Facebook as well, but if you are on the fence, it may be worth reconsidering why you’re sticking around.

If nothing else, my hesitancy in deactivating Facebook painted a worrisome picture. Using Facebook has become so ingrained in the daily life of most people that I actually felt as though I should keep using it for others even when I was no longer getting any use out of it.

My Rules for Posting on Social Media

Photo by William Iven

This week on MacPowerUsers, Katie and David chatted about how they’re using social media, and it reignited my thoughts on social media as well. In particular, I’ve found it helpful to consider a few rules when deciding what to post and where.

Slack

I use Slack primarily for work and try to reserve it only for time-sensitive or urgent matters. Slack has the benefit of being able to reach a number of people at once easily which is important when a server goes down and the phones in my office start ringing off the hook.

For anything work-related that’s not time-sensitive, I defer to email or just save a reminder in Omnifocus to discuss the topic the next time I see the person or group.

My hope is that enacting these boundaries in my own use will subtlely affect how others in my workplace view these tools as well, but for now, it’s a work in progress.

Facebook

My Facebook account is reserved for communicating with friends and a few family members. I don’t post all that frequently, but it is the place I try to share a few vacation or holiday photos. Otherwise, Facebook is primarily used for staying connected to a few groups and finding interesting events to attend in the area.

Instagram

I made the decision to keep my Instagram account public on the basis of one rule. You won’t find photos of my friends or family. Cliche photos of cats, food, concerts, and sunsets, yes, but I make it a point to not share photos of anyone I know personally. It’s by far one of my strictest social media rules, and I’m not entirely sure where I got the idea, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed sticking with.

Twitter

I’ve always felt like Twitter’s own rules have dictated much of its culture. The character limit, ability to easily retweet, and its generally snarky disposition leads me to be a little less professional than I probably should be. That being said, unless there’s an Apple event, it’s rare I tweet anything original. I use Twitter primarily as a news ticker showing me what’s going on in the world.

Do you have any rules or considerations you make when deciding where and what to post online?

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A Case for Using Facebook – Finding Cool Events

When I was little, my favorite phrase must have been “I’m bored.” I used it all the time. Now I can’t even remember the last time I was bored. I always seem to have something to do, but more often than not that something to do is pretty routine. Maybe I’m not bored, but doing the same things over and over can get pretty darn monotonous so finding new and interesting things to do is important.

Now I can’t take credit for this tip entirely. It actually came from Kendra Wright in episode 83 of the Productivity Show Podcast, where she shared her Facebook “hack”. The one reason I haven’t abandoned Facebook entirely is events, and it turns out, if you take some time up front, the events feed in Facebook can be an incredibly powerful tool for finding cool things to do. Thankfully, this tip actually requires very little interaction with Facebook after the initial set up. (Another bonus given that I’m trying to reduce my time on Facebook.)

So first things first, go to your Likes page and unlike anything you don’t actually like. If you’re like me, you’ll find quite a few things you don’t even remember liking (e.g. that group about how Nickelodeon shows of the 90s were awesome), and quite a few more that you only liked because you had to (e.g. giveaway entries). Whether this actually helps in this tip is debatable, but you’ll need to be in your likes section for the next step, so you might as well clear it out while you’re there.

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Go through your Likes page and subscribe to the events for your favorite places, bands, and brands. Not all of my likes had this option, but most did. Now any time your favorite restaurant, band or whatever, has an event nearby it’ll show up in your events feed along with a few other suggestions based on some Facebook algorithm. Chances are going through this process will remind you of a few other places you might want to follow too. If you’re interested in their events, follow them too. (Remember, you’re not actually committing to all these events. You’re just making a list of potential things to do.)

With your events feed pulling in a ton of cool things to do, you’re almost done with the Facebook part. The last step is to grab your events calendar feed from the Events page. It’s on the right hand side towards the bottom and looks like this:

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I use Google Calendar as the backend for all my calendaring needs, so I subscribed to it there, but you can use whatever calendaring app you want. Most should support it. Along with the Facebook Events Calendar, I also subscribed to calendars for my favorite sports teams. Just add them by clicking Browse Interesting Calendars. For added ambiance, I set the color of the calendar to match the team colors. (Note: these are read-only calendars. Information only syncs one way – to you. You cannot change events on these calendars.)

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Now if you use Google Calendar, you likely already know that calendars can be toggled on or off. Kendra’s workflow consists of toggling the Facebook calendar on to check for possible things to do when she does her weekly planning. When she find’s something, she copies the event to her own calendar. If you only use Google Calendar, you’re done here.

I manage my calendars through Fantastical, which lets you make “calendar sets,” to quickly toggle multiple calendars on or off. It’s the calendar sets that makes this tip even better for me. I set up a “Sports & Events” set that toggles off all calendars except for sports, birthdays, and Facebook events all at once.

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Like Kendra, if I’m planning or just trying to find something interesting to do, I just switch to the Sports & Events set. If something catches my eye, I can right click the event and select the “Duplicate” option to automatically add that event to my own calendar, bringing over any event info with it. Admittedly, my favorite part of this workflow is that one of my last remaining reasons to visit Facebook, finding events, is gone.