Dan Hough

How to Leave Facebook (without Leaving Facebook)

Published 29 January 2013 in London, UK

I used to love Facebook. I found myself excited every time there was a new feature or a new design and I embraced Timeline like nobody else. No longer; I read Eric Bellim’s post about the Facebook of Days Gone By and felt nostalgia for a simpler time, when I would catch up with my friends over a beer and have absolutely no idea what was going on with their lives until that moment, and it was a joy to do that. I soon realised that I’d fallen out of love with the app. I made a decision: I was going to quit Facebook.

The problem is, I still have a lot of friends who rely on Facebook as a way of getting a direct message out to lots of people at once, or for planning events - two things which it’s really good at and aren’t degrading to my life in a huge way. As well as that, I have various side-projects which rely on it as a platform for getting a message out to lots of people at once. So, I couldn’t go cold-turkey. I came up with a compromise. I had to reduce the number of possible ways I could end up on my profile, on a friend’s profile or on my News Feed. If you find yourself in a similar situation to me, this list of advice should help.

1. Remove the Facebook App from your Phone

Seriously, just delete it. You don’t need it for messages or events. And before you think of the excuse “but I’m an interaction designer and I’m interested in keeping up with the tren–” NO! You do not need the Facebook app to see a good example of interaction design, there are plenty of other examples out there. Stop fooling yourself. If you take one thing away from this blog post let it be this advice: Remove the App from your Phone.

To keep in touch with those friends who want to continue using Facebook, for messages, just get Facebook Messengermobile/messenger. It’s available for Android, Blackberry and iPhone. And if you don’t have a smartphone, you can use SMS.

2. Get events on your calendar app

You probably use Google Calendar, iCal, CalenMob, or something for your calendar software. If you’re on Android and you use GCal, subscribe to your Facebook events feed. This means that sometimes you might need to visit FB just to look at these events but a direct link is provided in the feed, so that saves potentially tripping-up on a News Feed item.

If you’re on iOS6, then you should have integration with Facebook which automatically populates your calendar with Facebook events.

The key thing here though is that the feed is available freely - you can put it wherever you want if you want to stay up-to-date with Facebook events.

3. Prune the Friend List

This is mostly about cutting down on risk. The more friends you have on your list the more chance that inane and unimportant noise will get through the filter and pollute your day. If you use Facebook for events and hook the feed up to any calendar software, you’ll get stupid event requests for “Hey I lost my phone please put your number here” which show up on your calendar, and you’ll need to go into Facebook to remove it. Not good. It’s also about digital karma, though. It feels good to get rid of people from your life completely if you really have no need to speak to them. It’s not personally anything against them, but sometimes it’s just not necessary to have that link.

How to decide who to remove, though? Come up with some rules such as “if I haven’t interacted with them in a year as far as I can remember, or I don’t know where I met them, or we haven’t spoken from school and we never got on anyway, they get the chop” and once you’ve decided, just do it. Hit remove, don’t read the guilt-tripping copy to convince you that it’s a bad idea, just do it and don’t look back.

4. Ignore notifications

Every time you need to visit Facebook (you might need to, in order to find a picture or something), just ignore notifications. Don’t even click on them. It’s really that simple. It’s just a stupid red globe with a number next to it. Have some self-control.

If somebody really needs to get in touch with you, they will use your phone or send you a message.

5. Turn off email and SMS notifications

Go on, just do it. You don’t care.

How has it gone for me so far?

Before all of this, I was starting to realise how much time I spent on Facebook updating my status, reading my news feed, looking at photos of people whom I was not interested in and consuming advertisements that I had no interest in. Essentially, I was spending my time reading information which brought me no joy or improving me in any way, and giving back information which is not going to bring joy to anybody or improve them in any way. And I was doing it by habit, almost like an addiction.

Well, I did all of those things and I’ve pretty much found myself feeling less anxious about what other people were doing with their lives and focusing more on the things I wanted to do: working on side projects, playing the odd video game, creating and listening to music, and writing blog posts. As well as that, the conversations I’ve had directly with friends by phone, text or email have been more meaningful and full, and I remember them more vividly. When I catch up with friends, I really catch up with them because I have no idea what has been going on with them for the last couple of weeks, so I find these conversations even more interesting than they were before.

I feel like the compulsion to open up a new tab and type “fa” into Chrome then hit Enter has all but gone, now. Give it a go. You can still be a social creature in 2013 without Facebook.

Now, about Quora…

Heckle me on Twitter @basicallydan.