I have been thinking a lot lately about my relationship with Facebook. Actually for a couple of years now. Sometimes wishing I could just delete it permanently, but then thinking about all of my connections overseas I would loose touch with. Now that we are the ones overseas, the feeling of connection via FB is stronger. But is it really? A few weeks ago I sat in the Ikea restaurant (baller) with a friend, and we scrolled through our feeds intentionally and realized we didn’t care about most of the stuff being posted! We really wanted to see more personal updates from people. Less news and memes (I do love a good meme though), and more things that make us feel connected to other humans.
I have also been thinking about the idea of being addicted to social media. Sure it’s a thought that has come and gone in my mind plenty of times. Sometimes we give it up for Lent, or take a temporary break from it. But recently I had a shift of perspective. If you actually really truly view it as an addiction, or a substance that one can be addicted to, then all the reasons we come up with to keep using it are nothing more than the addiction talking. It might not feel like an addition, but imagine your life without it. Do you feel freedom, or maybe a little panic? Close your eyes and imagine pressing the “Delete Account” button. What is the emotion you feel? I personally feel a little panic. That reaction worries me.
That said, I am no where near an account deletion. My main excuse being the connection with people back home in Portland. I am not entirely sure if that is real or on some level, a social media addiction talking. I hope to have better insight into this by first making some changes in the way I use Facebook. It takes some time dedication, but I already feel freer from it!
Delete the Facebook App From your Smartphone
This first step is a must. I started with this one a few days prior to digging into the settings on my account. It immediately limits the way you use Facebook. You can only see it when you are on a computer. No more checking it while on the toilet, first thing in the morning, or last thing before bed. With the app, I found myself checking it without even thinking, or really wanting to. Just out of habit. So for me, this is the #1 thing you must do.
Preview your FaceBook Page with the “View As…” Function
A helpful tool throughout the process of weeding out unwanted noise or unwanted lurkers and trolls is the “View As…” option. This allows you to preview your page as if you were a specific person on your friend list, or view it as a non-friend (public view). This will help you get a good idea of what settings are left to be updated. Here are the steps:
1. Go to your profile page. Near the top on the right, there is “View Activity Log”. Next to that is “…” <- click that.
2. From the dropdown select “View As…”
3. Then your profile page will reload with the black bar at the top. This is your menu to choose if you want to view as “Public” or as a specific person. You can also close out of it from the little “x” in the top left corner.
Editing Privacy Settings for All Past Activity
This step is both easy and mostly permanent, so make sure you know what you are doing before you do it. You can change the privacy settings for your entire page and all past posts, photos etc. to be visible only by friends. It is a no brainer if you are concerned with privacy. Like me, if you have blog posts on your wall that you want to keep public, then you have to manually go back after and change the individual post settings back to “Public”. Here is how to do this:
1. Go to “Settings” -> then “Privacy”
2. Under the section “Who can see my stuff?”, there is a section called “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?” There is a link next to it “Limit Past Posts”. This is the one you want to click on.
Creating a “Restricted” List
This was the best thing I discovered throughout this process. I didn’t want to permanently “Un-friend” or “Block” people, but I also wanted to limit what was shared with them in a way that didn’t require me to change settings every time I posted something to my wall. The solution: A Restricted List. Anyone on this list remains a FB “Friend”, but can only view posts or photos that are set to “Public”.
It sounds more harsh than it is. At first I felt guilty for adding people to the restricted list. However my intention is not all negative behind it. Sure there are a few people who I feel have “troll” like behavior, or who I feel have unhealthy relationships with Facebook that I wanted to keep at a distance. However, my primary goal is to limit the way I use and my relationship with Facebook. But I still want to be able (for now) to share my blog posts and an occasional Instagram photos about our new life overseas. Think of it as social circles in life outside of the internet. You have an inner circle of friends that know more about you and have deeper relationships with you. From there, circles get bigger outwardly around that inner circle with varying levels of relationship. It’s natural, and there is no reason to feel it is un-natural to set your social media life up the same way. If I feel like sharing anything beyond blog posts, it’s now limited to a smaller group of people I am actually connected with outside of the internet. I can still stay updated on what is going on in everyones lives and feel connected in some way. Un-friending, and blocking would not allow me to do that.
Here is how to add people to a Restricted List:
1. Go to your friends list which you can access via your profile page.
2. Next to each friends profile pic, there is a rectangle that says “Friend” with a check mark. Click there, and then click “Add to Another List…”
3. From here if you scroll to the bottom, there should be an option for “Restricted”. Click there and that person can now only view your profile as “Public”. You can edit this at any time the same way.
You can also manage your entire “Restricted” list via the “Blocking” section within your “Settings” page.
Exporting your Photos & Data
I first did this when I considered Deleting my account all together. But I am glad I downloaded it anyway, as I now have a backup of all my photos (which there are a lot of). A good idea to make a backup of your data perhaps annually, and for sure if you plan on deleting your page completely. This one is easy: Go to your “Settings” page, and at the very bottom click “Download a Copy of your Facebook Data”.
Managing Who & What Can be Posted On Your Timeline
This one I have had set up for a few years already, but its worth checking from time to time to make sure your settings are still the way you want them. Just see the “Timelines and Tagging Settings” section within your “Settings” page. Here you can limit who can add things to your timeline, require your approval before anything can be added to your timeline, require approval if you are tagged in a photo or post, and more.
Restricting Who Can See Your Likes, Follows, and Comments on Advertisements
I find it very annoying that if I “like” an ad or make a comment on the page of a brand or local company, this information is added to my friend’s timelines. First of all, who really cares if I “liked” an advertisement for my favorite yogurt – yet it shows up in everyones activity feed if I do. And secondly, I don’t really want to see other people’s likes and comments. So if more people edit this setting, the Facebook world would be a better place 😛 Here is how to do it:
1. Go to your “Settings” page, and click on “Ads”.
2. The third option is “Ads with my social actions”. Here you can change who can see your interactions with advertisements from “Friends” to “No One”.
There are some other good preference options in this section, if you have the time its worth poking around in there.
Managing Email Notifications
I am not sure if anyone out there still have Facebook send them email notifications. I have had it turned off for years, but if you still have them, turning them off is a surefire way to limit your interaction with Facebook.
This is not really related, but it’s a really smart feature to set up for yourself. It allows you to select a close friend or family member who can manage your account if something should happen to you (for example God Forbid if you should die, or become a comatose etc.). To do this:
1. Go to your “Settings”, and select “Security”.
2. The second to last option is “Legacy Contact”. Here you can select the person, and also choose for Facebook to send them a message notifying them of this, or you can also add a personal message.
It has been about two weeks now since I put all of this into place. I have to say other than when we were on holiday, I have checked my FB account significantly less. And with the new settings, usually the things that pop up are more “life event” and less static than before. It is still an experiment as far as monitoring how this will affect my relationship with Facebook, but I feel a little freer from it already. I encourage you all to give it a try as well and see how it makes you feel.