I gave up Facebook for a month and tracked my productivity: here are the numbers

In the interest of staying true to the goals of this article (increased productivity for all!), I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

I run an application on my laptop called “Rescue Time.” It tracks everything I do in great detail, and breaks it down into “very productive,” “productive,” “neutral,” “distracting,” and “you’re wasting your life.” (ok, it’s called “very distracting,” but I know what they mean)

Since I installed the app, I noticed that I spend a ton of time on Facebook — lots more than I think I do, and certainly lots more than I can afford. On average, Social Networking takes up about 25% of my on-computer time every month (40 hours).

Here is an average month:

Dashboard for August, courtesy of “Rescue Time”

In the interest of finally getting my book draft to my editor (oh, about a year in the making), I decided to take all of September off of Facebook. If I didn’t get my book to the editor within that time, I was going to consider taking October off, too, damn it. The Book Had To Get Done.

Here’s my month without Facebook:

Dashboard for September, courtesy of “Rescue Time” — those two little red dips were when I had to go on to Facebook to ask someone something

YAY, right?

But did I finish my book?

Well, yes and no. I did get my book to the editor (on the first weekend of the month, no less), and she sent it back with tons of edits and notes (I mean, not tons tons, but I still have work to do). So now I’m working on it, slowly making my way through the book. I have given myself until the end of October to incorporate her notes.

Was quitting Facebook cold turkey difficult?

Yes. In fact, it was the hardest thing I have quit, ever.

I have quit smoking, quit drinking, quit grains, quit sugar, quit legumes, quit dairy, and cut back on TV. I am a full-fledged QUITTER.

But quitting Facebook was the hardest.

I’ve been on Facebook since right after it became open for non-students to use. I mean, I’ve been on there forever. I have friends from around the world — real friends who I met in person, as well as real friends who I am excited to someday meet — and we keep up with each other on Facebook. I live in a very rural area with six local friends (including my husband and both dogs), so I don’t see anyone, ever. I’m basically a shut-in. Facebook is one of my most important communication methods I have.

So quitting Facebook wasn’t just about looking up from a glowing screen and socializing, it is my entire socializing.

I’m lucky to work with some truly amazing, interesting, creative, cool, fun, funny people at Mozilla, so at least I wasn’t drowning in a hole of loneliness. But still, I missed people.

And the habit is so ingrained. Every morning, I check my email and then check Facebook. So I had to sign out of Facebook everywhere, and turn on “focus” (disable Facebook through Anti-Social) so whenever I accidentally ended up on autopilot to Facebook, I’d hit a dead end.

It wasn’t like I was just sitting idle (or working on my book) that whole time, either. I had a conference going on (part of my job was promoting it), I visited my friend in Berlin, and even visited an abandoned amusement park (it was creepy as hell).

It was rough not to share these exciting moments with my friends, because who doesn’t want to see this:

yes, those are “sleeping” dinosaurs in the foreground. the Ferris wheel spins on its own because of the wind.

I mean, things were amazing. And I love sharing amazing things, because the world is amazing.

Were people confused?

Um yeah. Lots. I put “I’m going off Facebook for all of September to work on my book, so here’s my email address” at the top of my profile, and people still sent me time-sensitive messages. It drove me absolutely crazy, because I came back to all these “hey, need your help with xyz” messages that people just must have assumed I was a jerk and not answering.

But there’s no “out of office” for Facebook, so I just have to accept that some people are going to be offended — and those people probably should look at my profile before direct messaging me anyways.

Pro Tip: Always check a person’s most recent posts before private messaging them in case their dad just died or something. Or if they won the lottery.
(I don’t know why my hypothetical situations are so sad.)

Am I going back to Facebook?

Yes and no. It’s hard to get back into the habit of it, and I kind of don’t miss it anymore. I have tons of time to do things like, you know, write Medium articles and GoDaddy blog posts.

But I also miss seeing updates from my amazing mom (seriously, you should follow her), and keeping up with friends. I got a lot of value from Facebook, and that’s why I stuck with it all these years.

It comes down to priorities: do I prioritize being social (yes, I still think social media is social) or do I prioritize my writing?

And the book is the deciding factor: until the book is out, I think Facebook has to take the back seat.