After giving this a lot of thought I’ve finally decided to quit Facebook on January 1, 2017 (2 days from now).
I’ve been telling everyone that I’m just “taking a 1-year break.” And that next year I’ll decide if I want to get on Facebook again.
But deep down I already know I won’t be back.
Why? Because for me this is bigger than just “quitting Facebook” because I’m annoyed at people bickering (although that did influence my decision). There are three main reasons why I decided to quit.
Reason #1: I Don’t Want to Waste My Life
For me it has more to do with the “big picture.” This thing we call life. I’m 32 and if I live to 100 then my “file” is already 32% of the way uploaded. Only 68% left and my time on this earth is done.
And I don’t want to waste my life on meaningless pursuits. I’ve already done enough of that in the past. I wasted years as an alcoholic and drug addict. Before that I wasted years of my life playing video games about 5–6 hours a day.
So in other words, I’ve done my time. If there’s a quota to meet on “time spent on meaningless activities” then I’ve met it.
I don’t know what it’ll be like to be an old man on my deathbed, but I suspect I’m not going to regret this decision to unplug from Facebook.
I could be wrong, but I doubt I’ll sit there and think, “Man, I wish I would have spent more time on Facebook during my 30s and 40s.”
Time is my most precious resource. I don’t want to squander it anymore, especially on activities I don’t really enjoy.
Reason #2: I Want to Have a Healthy Brain
The second reason why I’m quitting Facebook is a health related reason. The more I study the effect social media has on our brains the more I believe it’s unhealthy.
For example, there have been a number of psychological studies that reveal how addicting and destructive “variable rewards” are to people.
A good example of this are slot machines, “the crack cocaine of the gambling world.”
One of the reasons slot machines make more money in the U.S. than baseball, movies and theme parks combined is because of the “variable rewards” effect.
The “reward” we’re talking about here is dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. And to better understand the “variable” schedule of rewards part let’s consider a study done in the 1950s by B.F. Skinner:
Skinner observed two groups of lab mice. The first group would press a lever which would give them a treat. Every time they pressed the lever they’d get a treat.
In the second group, the mice would press a lever and sometimes they’d get a small treat, other times a large treat, and other times nothing. It was this second group, the one that received variable rewards, that would press the lever compulsively.
Sounds a lot like the slot machine addict, right?
Well, guess what? You have a slot machine in your pocket. Except your reward is the little squirt of dopamine you get when you see how many likes and comments your post got. Or some exciting news from one of your friends.
You scroll, scroll, scroll until all the 7’s line up and you get a “win.” I don’t know about you but I’m done playing that game. I don’t want my mind hijacked anymore.
Reason #3: I Want to Do Deep Work
The third reason I want to get off Facebook is because I want to do deep work, especially after reading Deep Work by Cal Newport.
I believe that spending so much time on things like social media and reading the news makes deep work almost impossible to do – at least for me.
For example, I’ve been on Facebook for nine years now. Who knows how many hours (funny how Facebook won’t ever tell you that) I’ve spent writing short little posts about politics, current events, rants, life happenings, etc.
What if I would have spent all that time and energy writing books? I estimate I would have at least three full length books done, maybe three.
I would love to have written two books. Instead what do I have to show for the last nine years I’ve spent on Facebook? A series of dopamine releases?
And even if I’m not writing books I’d at least prefer writing blog posts over Facebook posts. I’m committed to publishing a blog post every day for the next 10 years.
I suspect I’ll be happier, and it’ll be much more satisfying, looking back 10 years from now knowing I published content on a website I owned instead of working as a digital sharecropper.
So there you go. Those are my three big reasons why I’m quitting social media.
You may not choose to quit but I encourage you to at least take some time to think deeply about your decision to spend time on social media.
Remember, the average user spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook. That’s 304 hours a year. Whatever you do, make sure you at least make a conscious decision about how much time you spend on these sites. Life is short. Make sure you spend time where it matters most.
12/31/16 Update: Here’s a video of me deleting my Facebook account. This is my proof I actually followed through with this! 🙂