One Year Without Facebook

On January 1, 2014 I shut down my Facebook profile. The 365 days that followed were the most productive of my life.

I’d been wanting to deactivate my Facebook account for a long time, but I always had one thing or another holding me back. Late in 2013 I realized I no longer needed it, and decided I was pulling the plug. It was probably the best decision I’ve made in a long time. It was really difficult the first few weeks, but I can honestly say that I don’t miss it anymore. While my account was still active, I would find excuses to waste time browsing Facebook: standing in line at the store, riding the bus/train, taking a 5 minute break from work, during lunch, before bed, etc. I would fill countless hours scrolling through posts and photos of people with whom I rarely spoke. I’d challenge you to estimate the amount of time per week you spend on Facebook, multiply that by 52 weeks, and think about what you could accomplish if you had that many hours of extra time each year. Here are a few things I was able to do with my extra time that made 2014 stand out for me.

I became a better web developer.

Looking back on what I knew at the beginning of 2014, I would consider myself at that time to be very much a novice web developer. I could hack up some CSS if I had to, but I relied on frameworks like Bootstrap to do the heavy lifting, to a fault at times. I knew our department was using AngularJS in our web applications but I hadn’t even touched it. I had heard of NodeJS but didn’t even know what it was. If you put me in front of a computer with an open terminal, I could barely navigate a file structure.

Fast forward to the end of 2014. I’m on a cross-functional team at work that is focused on UI, and I’ve written a large portion of the CSS for a huge app that we’re releasing in early 2015. That same app is written using AngularJS, and I wrote a large portion of that code, as well as having written a dozen or so other Angular apps this year. I built a couple of apps on the MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, and NodeJS), and have started dabbling in more Node stuff. I rarely work without the terminal running, whether I’m using it to compile/serve apps on the localhost, quickly edit a file with Vim, or just navigate the filesystem (it’s much quicker than Finder once you get to know it). I still have loads to learn and plenty of room to grow as a developer, but 2014 was a standout year for me. I’m thrilled with all of the new things I have learned, and surprised at the things that are second nature to me that I would have struggled with immensely at this time last year.

I’m of the mindset that leaving Facebook is one of the reasons that I grew so much as a developer this year. Instead of getting onto a computer and opening a browser and jumping into Facebook (thus committing myself to wasting at least half an hour), I would read articles and blog posts on new web technologies, or watch lectures on YouTube about how to write better CSS. A 30 minute lecture on JavaScript performance enhancements is a much better use of time than 30 minutes stalking people I will most likely never see or talk to in real life. That leads me to the next area…

I became a better student.

What? But you graduated from college three years ago…

Very true, but in order to grow as a professional and as a person, I am a firm believer that you have to be a lifelong student. There is so much to learn, as evidenced by the last section, so why waste time when you can be learning something new, or getting better at something? In 2014, I spent time watching loads of videos and lectures on YouTube, reading articles and blog posts, and listening to podcasts instead of checking Facebook. I started using my RSS aggregator more religiously and found new feeds to subscribe to that help me keep abreast of news in the technology world. I found out about Medium and started reading articles here. All of these things were small habit changes that took the place of time I would previously spend checking Facebook. When I have a dull moment now, instead of going to Facebook (or even Twitter, which I check less often than I used to, but is still a good source of news/posts), I am more likely to check Medium or my RSS feed. These sources are much more conducive to learning than social media.

I made things.

I built a LOT of things in 2014, and not just web-related things (although I did a whole lot of that). I built a dozen or so web apps. I built a table for our deck. I built benches so that we could sit at that table. I built shelves for our kitchen so that my wife could put things on them. I made a cabinet-like thing that stores our trash can and recycle bin in pull-out drawers. I made a child (still a work in progress, ETA May 2015).

2014 was busy. It was fun. It got crazy at times, and was exhausting, but it was an incredible year. I’m not going to say that getting rid of Facebook was the only reason that all of this happened. I’m probably getting to the point in my life where I have more of an interest in doing things that are actually productive and less of an interest in things like Facebook and video games (although I still love playing video games). But realizing that it was a huge waste of time for me and choosing to spend it doing something more productive was definitely a big part of why I accomplished all that I did this year. I’m excited to see what 2015 brings.

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