Thursday, September 23, 2010

Addicted to Facebook? 4 tips for cutting down.

There are lots of reasons why I love Facebook: staying connected with people who I don't see every day, sharing pictures and updates on what's new in my world, "peeking in" on my friends and family's world in nice digestible bites.

There are lots of reasons why I hate Facebook, and why I barely tolerate it (for reasons mentioned above). I'm not going to go into all the things they are doing wrong with the UI, and what they are doing wrong with their UX research program. I'll save these rants for another day. BUT, one of the biggest reason why I hate it is because Facebook fragments my day. I feel compelled to check it all the time for such (let's face it) utter drivel. Wanting to restrict our attention, gain focus, and have moments for reflection is a big problem we face in the modern age (and will continue to face).

Here are 4 tips that have worked for me in limiting my Facebook gluttony to a more manageable level.

1. Remove Facebook from your Bookmarks (or Bookmarks Toolbar). This is probably the biggest thing I've done to limit my use. Frequently, I used to find myself in that vulnerable state between tasks, wondering, "Hm...let's see what new stuff was posted..." Now that I've culled my Bookmarks Toolbar to more work-related tasks and industry-specific blogs, etc. it forces me to actually type in the Facebook URL to visit the site. This slight barrier to access is uncomfortable enough to make it a less likely target for my attention.

2. Set up a Facebook folder in your email Inbox, and have all Facebook-related messages go in there. That pesky marketing team at Facebook is smart, and makes great use of email advertising to draw users to their site. This is one way I'd continue to get "sucked in" to Facebook - as I'm always monitoring incoming email in my primary Inbox, I was also vulnerable to the one-click mentality when I see a new notification roll into my email. I considered turning off the email notifications feature of Facebook, but I do like knowing when something relevant has gone on in my social network. I just don't need to check it right this very second. I used the settings features in Gmail to create a special Facebook folder, and I set it up to pull in all messages sent from the Facebook notifications 'bot. At the end of the day, when I'm responding to personal messages and screwing around online, I can check the folder and see what's happened over the course of the day all at once.

3. Double-check your Facebook Notifications Settings. Under Account Settings, you can find a tab that lists all the instances Facebook notifies you to your Inbox or (*gasp*) phone about something that's happened. Do you really need to get all those messages when your friends' friends' comment after you on a photo, link, or post? Maybe you do. But it's worth reflecting on how many distractions you want to get during the day, and establishing a reasonable limit with intention.

4. Cull your Friends list and turn off Applications. I realize there's a certain degree of social status that comes from having, like a bazillion Facebook friends, but after awhile that guy you met on the flight to Paris 4 years ago might not be worth your attention. We all have friends who post all the freaking time, and I really could give a rip that you need 15 shiny rubies in that Zynga game you're currently obsessed with. Facebook has responded to customer sentiment by allowing you a great deal of customization - use it. You can remove Friends from your feed without removing them from your friends list. You can turn off Updates from Applications. Again, be conscious about what you want to consume when you do spend time on Facebook, who you want to be talking to and hearing from.