By Angela Nelson.
If you’re feeling depressed, consider taking a break from the social media site. These strategies can make it less painful.
I deleted Facebook from my phone recently. Lately, for me, the app was doing more harm than good. Cruising through my feed had become an exercise in emotional torture, whether it was reading hate-filled political speech, seeing photos of wealthy friends on their fifth vacation of the year or wishing I had the time and energy to be as fit as some of my acquaintances.
Banishing Facebook from my iPhone was weird at first. But several days later, my brain feels less inundated with negativity and slightly more free of clutter. I haven’t decided yet if this will be a permanent change, but it could be. After all, several studies have linked social media use with depression, low self-esteem and internet addiction. A study published in March from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. And more than a quarter of the 1,787 U.S. adult participants were classified as having “high” indicators of depression.
While feelings of envy may be one cause of depression, there’s another more dangerous one in the mix: cyberbullying. While Facebook has some tools to protect yourself from abuse, like “unfriending” or blocking, it may not be enough if you’re facing verbal assaults from a really smart, persistent bully. This Psychology Today story makes a good point: “Since most Facebook users are alone when they go online (even if they’re at work), the social impact of this kind of negative self-evaluation can be even stronger.”
So if you find yourself growing weary of the land of likes, status updates and live videos, consider taking a break. A 2013 studyfound that the prescription for Facebook despair is less Facebook. These strategies may make the process less painful.
1. Track your use. How much time a day are you actually spending on Facebook? Your phone might be able to answer that question for you. On my iPhone, for example, under Settings > Battery, I can see what percent of my battery was used by which apps and how many hours or minutes that app was on my screen. You also can download apps that track how much time you spend on various sites. When you see the results, think about what you accomplished during the time you checked Facebook, and then consider whether another activity (exercise, reading a book) might have been a better use of that time.
As old-fashioned and analog as it may sound, meeting for face-to-face interactions or even a phone call will make you feel better than the digital interactions on Facebook, studies show. (Photo: ESB Professional/Shutterstock)
2. Find satisfaction elsewhere. A great suggestion courtesy of this WikiHow page: “Write down all of the things that Facebook has done for you, and the things that you’ll miss the most… Then, think of a way that you can still get these benefits without feeling the soul-crushing feeling of being chained to your Facebook account.”
For example, if Facebook helps you remember your friends’ birthdays, then write those dates down on a calendar or add them to your digital one instead. If you use Facebook to share photos with relatives far away, consider uploading pics to Shutterfly or Snapfish and emailing relatives a link to the slideshow. Or if you count Facebook as social time with friends, then make face-to-face plans or call them instead. The 2013 study mentioned earlier found that these types of personal interactions had the opposite effect, leading people to feel better.
3. Turn to another social media site. A 2014 study found that people who quit Facebook for three days had a lower desire to return if they’re introduced to other websites or apps that satisfied the need for online friendship. So if you like seeing everyone’s photos on Facebook but don’t like anything else you see, maybe Instagram might be a suitable substitute, for example. (Though admittedly, Twitter isn’t exactly a negativity-free zone either.)
4. Make sure you have other means of contact. Do your friends rely on Facebook invitations to alert you to upcoming birthday parties or holiday gatherings? Do your relatives use Facebook messenger to instant message you rather than sending a text? Does your child’s school/dance studio/summer camp have a way of distributing information or photos outside of a Facebook channel? These are all important communications you’ll need to find another way to receive and alert the senders accordingly.
Also, if you have contact information stored in Facebook — email addresses, phone numbers, addresses — export that information elsewhere so you can save it.
5. Announce your decision. Write a short post that will show up on your wall alerting your contacts that you’re not reachable on Facebook anymore. Making this public declaration may even help you stick to your decision of quitting.
6. Delete your account. Removing Facebook from your phone or not visiting the website is one thing. Deleting your account, along with every photo and status update you’ve ever posted, is another. I can’t delete my Facebook account entirely because I use it for work, but if you want to do that, it’s not that difficult. The instructions from Facebook are relatively simple; it’s more a question of how far down this road you want to go.