This is something that 48% of you do when you wake up, 28% before ever getting out of bed, that is making you miserable.
72% of you frequently go here.
700 billion minutes a month are spent here.
And 57% of you use this to communicate with friends and family more than you do in real life.
500,000,000 of you have a habit of using this.
And guess what? Studies have shown that this habit is making you miserable.
I have never been a compulsive Facebook user.
But in 2011 I came back to the Canada after being abroad for some time, and promptly had nothing to do for the first 3 months besides taking my kids to school.
I ended up finding myself spending hours on Facebook every day – looking at pictures from my friends, their travels, pictures of them getting into relationships, and just reminiscing about my own life in general.
…And I promptly ended up more bored and waist time than I’ve ever been in my entire life.
What Studies Show About How Facebook Makes You Miserable
Not long after, an article in TIME magazine came out called “Why Facebook Makes You Feel Miserable” talking about how people often feel envy, loneliness, and frustration (or even anger) after going through people’s pictures and watching their status updates on Facebook.
The article was based on a 2013 German study that sought to see if there were potential negative repercussions of using the site.
357 respondents were taken for the study and asked an initial question:
“The last time you used Facebook, what did you feel afterwards? Which emotions have you experienced?”
Overall, 43.8% responded with positive emotions, while 28.8% responded neutrally and 36.9% responded negatively.
The participants were then asked the following question:
“Many users report feeling frustrated and exhausted after using Facebook.
What do you think causes these feelings?”
The most common cause of unhappiness came from people who were comparing themselves to their friends, while the second most common source of unhappiness was “lack of attention” from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback compared to friends.
Pediatricians have even been warned to look out for symptoms of “Facebook depression” in which:
…some children who may be at risk for social isolation or poor self-esteem and spend a significant amount of time on the social-networking site may become depressed. The constant barrage of their peers’ happy status and photo updates and friend connections may present a skewed view of reality that could make at-risk kids feel that they don’t measure up (TIME)
Yet another found that people who are addicted to Facebook use show higher scores for neuroticism and lower scores for conscientiousness.
Interestingly enough, people who passively consumed others’ information were the most likely to be unhappy as well as report lower life satisfaction.
So Why Are We All Addicted To This Magical Facebook Drug?
I have a few theories about this, but for each person it might be slightly different.
But I think there’s one major, underlying cause: “boredom.” There have even been research studies showing that Facebook becomes a habit trigger in the presence of boredom (Source).
You can call it boredom, idleness, downtime – whatever. It’s a big trigger of mindless internet browsing.
How to Quit Facebook – When You Don’t Really Want to Quit, But Know You Should
Learning how to quit Facebook is a perfect example of how to re-train your habits like I’ve mentioned before.
For many people, checking Facebook is a habit, and is not conscious whatsoever. It’s compulsive – if you get bored using your computer or doing work, you quickly pop on over to Facebook. After weeks of this behavior it becomes encoded in your brain as one whole behavior.
So, for those of you that know you’re wasting a lot of time on Facebook (if you’re lying to yourself, use Rescuetime and find out just how much time you spend on it), or are just noticeably unhappy after using it, here’s how to kick the habit and cut down on mindless usage.
Part 1: Find Your Cues – Disabling the Boredom Trigger
Remember the method that I talked about in the post “Why All Diets Suck” ?
For every habit, there’s three parts:
- Cue (whatever triggers the behavior)
- Routine (what the behavior is)
- Reward (what feeling/sense of relief you get from engaging in the behavior)
In order to break the habits, there are two main things you can do: prevent/disable the cue or change the routine.
But in order to avoid or disable cues, you need to know what they are.
How to find your Facebook cues – The Awesomesauce Awareness Card Method:
This technique is frequently used to find out cues and triggers for behaviors – since many people don’t actually know why they compulsively start doing things.
So here’s how it goes:
- Carry an index card around with you for a week
- Any time you casually hop on over to Facebook, just write down what you were doing before you did (eating? mindlessly browsing internet? bored at work? just woke up, before work?), and what you were feeling (bored, anxious, excited, dunno what to do, etc.)
- At the end of the week tally everything up. Are there any common themes? Common triggers? Common emotions? Common activities you were engaging in before you hopped on over to Facebook?
Example: What my cues looked like.
After doing the Awesomesauce Awareness Card Method (AACM), I noticed four main cues:
- Stalling at work (any time I got stuck while at work, doing something too hard where I wanted to take a break, I’d pop on over to Facebook for a few minutes)
- Boredom (early afternoon while working, sitting in a class, waiting in line.)
- Procrastination tool (any time I knew what I should do, but wasn’t thrilled to be doing it, I hopped on facebook as a procrastination tool)
- Low energy (Any time I found myself with low energy and unable to focus, I would hop on Facebook becuase it was mindless and I couldn’t continue with my work)
This is the most important part of the entire process because without awareness behind your behavior, it’s very difficult to change it.
After a week of paying attention to your cues, you will have discovered the very moment right when you’re about to hop on Facebook and creep on your friend’s wife in a bikini.
Part 2: Once You Know Your Cues – How to Replace the Habit With a Better One
You now have two options to get rid of the behavior:
A. Avoid the cues
For example, if you’re bored don’t use your computer. Or if you have a project to do, go to the library (and don’t bring your computer). Once the boredom hits, your trigger, you won’t be able to engage in the behavior.
The same is true for your phone. If you are trying to avoid being on your phone 24/7, don’t bring it places. You’ll get into the habit of finding other ways to entertain yourself.
B. Replace the behavior
Once you know the cues and triggers, you know what you’re actually searching for (which isn’t Facebook).
For example, if boredom is a trigger, you’re looking to be….. not bored!
If you’re stalling on a project at work, you’re looking for… a break!
If you have low energy, you’re looking for… more energy!
Replacing boredom: For example: It’s 2:30 pm, early afternoon at work, and you’re feeling that afternoon slump. Usually around this time you feel yourself getting less productive, so you lay on one arm and mindlessly log into facebook for 20-30 minutes until you perk back up.
But after using the index cards for a week, you know you have that 2:30 pm slump where you get really bored. It’s 2:25 and you feel it settling in. This time, get up and go over and talk with a friend for a few minutes. Or walk up to the cafeteria. Or strategically place your lunch break around that time.
If you’re at home and you feel that boredom setting in (you’ll know when/where/what time after using the index cards), you consciously now know you’re bored and can go find an activity that’s engaging. You can go to the gym, go to a friend’s house, go read a book, walk the dog, cook tomorrow’s lunch, work on a project, etc. instead of hitting Facebook at 8 pm and staying there till midnight.
Replacing “stalling” and frustration: For example:
I developed the habit of checking Facebook frequently during stressful work periods where I would get frustrated and would want to take a break.
As soon as I hit a roadblock and my brain got stuck, I would just sigh and then tab over to Facebook. Time for my brainless distraction.
If I were a smoker, that probably would’ve been a good time for a smoke break.
Here’s how you’d replace the behavior with a better one: getting up, going for a walk, and doing some light stretching.
After doing the index card exercise for a week, you know that once you get stuck at work, or if a sales call goes bad, or if you’re just bored, you tend to flip on over to Facebook. You know when It’s coming.
This time, when it happens I want you to do one thing: stand up, walk away and just go stretch out or look out the window. Just get away from the work and computer.
I like to walk away from the computer, put my foot up on something and just stretch out my legs and back. It feels awesome if you sit all day too.
Do this for an entire day. Work ==> Stall ==> Get up for a de-stress walk. Work ==> Stall ==> Get up for a de-stress walk.
After a week or two this will replace your Facebook addiction.
Replacing low energy: For example:
A lot of people get that low energy slump in the afternoon. In fact, “low energy” is the #1 reason that people turn to nutritional supplements.
So you’re sitting at your desk between 2:30 and 4 and you’re really dragging. You stare at the computer screen or at the papers on your desk, and your eyes just go out of focus. You zone out. You stare at the work you need to do, but your brain isn’t processing.
Faaaaaaaaaacebook is calling. You know it.
But not this time. You’ve done the index card thing all week, and you know that you automatically flip on over to Facebook when you feel the low energy coming.
So you do something amazing – you get up….and you go get a coffee. Or drink some iced water. Or just go for a five minute walk around outside until you perk up.
It’s surprisingly easy to replace bad habits, but only if you have the awareness of when, where, why and how they are occurring.
What About You? Has Facebook Impacted Your Happiness or Made You Care About Justin Bieber a Little Too Much?
We’re experts at caring about the minutiae behind everyone else’s lives these days.
Everything from the celebrity gossip magazines, to internet news, to Facebook & Twitter updates – we’re consuming everyone else’s stuff, getting sucked into one story or the next.
In other words, our quality of life is sucking – we’re doing everything except the only thing that actually matters – caring about (and improving) our own lives.
Quitting Facebook is one of those things that will go a long way towards improving your day-to-day happiness, with the science right behind you on this one.
Try that out and let me know how it goes kickin’ the addiction.