The second letter in the acronym “RESTORE” stands for “ELIMINATE” . Have the courage to eliminate the apps and distractions on your phone that make you feel bad or waste time. Here’s a story about digital elimination…
This is hard. Deleting the Facebook App from my phone has been like walking away from a slot machine with a cup full of coins and the knowledge that it’s just about to hit the jackpot. The Facebook scrolling interface is addictive and never ending. Flipping your thumb up the screen in search of the next big hit of dopamine… will it be a post from a college friend? Funny video? An article about Trump’s latest lie? Or a disappointing ad about the coolest new minimalist wallet? A passive aggressive Bible Quote? Dear Jesus, please make it stop!
While I’m reading the book A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel I’m reflecting on my use of the Facebook App on my iPhone. There’s no question it’s the biggest time suck on my device. Looking into my settings / battery report I can see 25% of my battery was burned by Facebook over the last three days. That means one quarter of my iPhone time is spent on Facebook. That’s absurd. This device is designed for me to read and send emails and text messages, or make phone calls. It also allows me to get directions for driving, check my bank account, even pay bills. But I’m spending a quarter of my time looking at posts I rarely care to see?
Matt Richtel does a great job of explaining why. Facebook is a lot like a slot machine because it leaves the user unsatisfied, “it works on the principle called variable and intermittent reinforcement.” (Richtel, A Deadly Wandering p.198) Most of the content I see on Facebook is totally useless, mind numbing, pointless digital content. I scroll through it quickly with my eyes scanning the text looking for that tiny reward of seeing something that actually interests me. And when it hits? I want more. The scrolling continues.
In addition to the scrolling, there’s the constant checking. Nothing to do for a minute? Let’s see if my last photo get any likes? Yep! There’s a another smiley face and two more thumbs up. Jackpot!
Let’s look at another hypothetical twist to this Facebook issue. Addiction. Is it addictive? Or is it a compulsion? Or, is it just a habit? Either way I believe it’s a problem. For me. I’m saying this for myself, I’m not trying to project anything onto you the reader. You don’t have Facebook addiction. Maybe. But for me, a person who possesses some characteristics of attention deficit, hyperactivity, and anxiety disorders, Facebook fuels these symptoms like a shot of nitro-methane.
I’m not completely sure without sticking my head into an MRI, so I’ll say this with caution – I think it’s very possible that scrolling through Facebook is not only a waste of my time, it’s also contributing to the decline of my attention span, instigating hyperactive tendencies, and triggering my anxieties. And if this is truly happening, it may be negatively impacting my ability to make good choices. So let’s go deep end and apply this diagnosis on a global platform.
What would happen if this was simultaneously occurring for everyone using Facebook? Which at the time of this blog post writing is 68% of the adult population in the United States (Pew Research Center). That’s roughly 167 million people currently active on Facebook. If 45% of them get their “news” from Facebook, that’s 75 million adults… and if 58% of them voted… what could go wrong?
A lot could go wrong. In a lot of different ways.
From fake news to fake friends. Spam. Russian hackers. Is our sense of reality being stolen right out from under our screen flicking thumbs? Identity theft seems benign compared to reality theft!
So this morning I’ve deleted the app. Again.
I originally removed both Facebook and Instagram from my phone before a week long trip to Hawaii and it felt great. There was a brief period of withdrawal followed by a new found sense of presence and focus. I enjoyed every moment of that trip.
Then last month I brought Facebook back thinking it would help communicate with family. I was wrong. I can communicate with family just fine by email, text, phone, and FaceTime.
I’ll keep Facebook on my computer to access from time to time, when I can sit down and focus. But there’s no more space on my phone for this app. Facebook is great for helping me communicate with my own fears and other peoples’ false realities, and who needs that?