Eric Karjaluoto

My Year in “Social Exile”

TL;DR: Social media is hard to avoid, and leaving it won’t solve your problems. Stepping back might lend some perspective, though.

I left Facebook one year, two months, and some-odd days ago. (At the time, I wrote about my decision to do so.) Some say that quitting Facebook will wholly improve your life. I’m not sure that I agree with that. Still, I did notice some things. In this post, I’ll talk about my experience, what I observed, and what I’ll do next.

The experiment

I planned to never use Facebook again. This didn’t work out. I reactivated my account on three occasions. The first was to respond to a customer. The second was to access an app that required Facebook SSO. The third was to help a client reorganize their pages. Each session lasted ~10 minutes before I once again deactivated my account.

I set my personal Twitter feed to private and signed in to respond to some DMs. Around mid-summer, I posted links to blog articles. Doing so felt weird, given my stance against the platform. But, I caved because I felt like my articles might otherwise go unread.

I checked Linkedin notifications, but didn’t do much with it. I used Strava to track some workouts, but little else. I also posted some photos of a long drive, on Instagram, so family members could see our progress. After two weeks, I once again grew tired of it. Since then, I’ve only returned to post this photo of a (rather spectacular) golden telephone:

Personal findings

Although I did use social media last year, I dramatically reduced my usage (I estimate this reduction to be > 99%). For the most part, this is a positive change. I don’t miss Facebook. Meanwhile, I’m less reactive, more at ease, and better focused.

My brain fires in a lot of errant directions. This is hard to reign in. Not posting every idea that pops into my head helps with this. I also silenced most app/email notifications, which minimizes distraction. But, it’s not all about the technology.

Turns out, I crave distraction. I replaced passive Facebook scrolling with YouTube viewing and Reddit binging. I use DF Tube and StayFocusd to curb this. I also use Tomato One to focus my work, using the Pomodoro Technique.

Looking back, I regret how I behaved on social media. I promoted myself and our business too much. I got sucked into online arguments and took pleasure in those fights. I said foolish things in haste. A lot of times, I was a real dickhead.

General observations

I have two tricks for understanding something. The first is to get as deep into it as I can, and soaking in it. The second is to get far back from it, and try to achieve some new perspective. I’ve done both with social media. Here’s what I noticed:

Every big social network is like an all-ages dance. They contain many types of people with vastly different expectations. This means no one gets the experience they want. This leads to surface-level conversations that lack nuance. It also results in squabbles, because etiquette/conventions remain undefined.

Large social networks won’t go away, but I do expect usage will drop. Users will instead flock to smaller interest-based communities. Conversations there will be deeper, and etiquette clearer. Expect to see online forums flourish in the years ahead.

I also predict that something wholly new is coming. Companies are realizing that they’ve surrendered control of their marketing lists to social networks. They’ll soon start to take back ownership. This will result in the addition of social functionality right into their own websites. (I’m placing a personal bet on this, with Emetti Announce.)

Where do I go from here?

In leaving Facebook, I lost my connection to some acquaintances. I wish there were an online Rolodex of sorts that allowed me to stay in touch with these people. Facebook isn’t it, but I suspect someone’s building an app to do this better. For now, I’ll pick up the phone and send more 1:1 emails. This isn’t optimal, though.

I appreciate online community. Over the past year, I observed and participated in small communities like FounderCafe, Overland Bound, and even Tacoma World. These forums remind me of the web pre-Facebook. I’m discovering new things, and connecting with people based on interest—not past connection.

I intend to make note of blog articles I write, on Twitter and Linkedin. I still dislike both networks, but figure I’m only punishing myself by not using them for distribution. I won’t do much else on those networks. Meanwhile, I wrote a code of conduct for my use of these sites. I’ll continue to avoid Facebook and Instagram.

Most of my articles end with a tip, or recommendation on what to do next. I don’t have one of those, this time. I only share the above as notes of my experience. Perhaps some of this will ring familiar.

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