How to detox Facebook. Part 1 — what can consumers do?

This is a follow-up to my post: 10 things I learnt from leaving Facebook, also published in Dutch on Business Insider.

So: if you can’t leave, or think you can’t leave, how do you get a healthier relationship vis-a-vis Facebook, being an average consumer?

1. Know your dosage

Until you’ll relearn you can really live without the cigarette of the 21st century bring down your dosis in small steps.

That starts with more knowledge.

Tally the amount of time you spent on their products every day. On average that’s over 20 minutes. On minimum US pay, that’s $880 dollars a year. A week on the Italian riviera. When adding Instagram and WhatsApp, its even more: 50 minutes.

That’s two weeks on the Turkish Riviera. Plus souvenirs and expensive chianti.

So: assess your addiction. There’s even, you guessed it, a great app for it.

After a few weeks, ask yourself: was this time really worth it?

What did I get in return for the time invested?

What else could I have done with that time? Is this really an efficient way of staying in touch with other people, or is there a lot of chaff amongst the wheat?

2. Read these two gentlemen.

Browse through the list of links on Richard Stallman’s site to see what Facebook has been doing wrong, compared to other tech companies.

Read Salim Virani’s excellent piece filled with reasons to leave their toxic platform.

3. Take baby steps of rehabilitation.

Ready for the next step? You’ve seen how much time you lose (and you’re not getting any younger) and you’ve seen the shitty things they do and how bad it is for your health.

So remove the Facebook App and the Messenger App from your phone. As you’ve probably seen from step one, the first is a bottomless pit of time waste, the second aggregates more data than you think.

It was my first step towards complete disconnect.

If after some months, you still think you’re unable to remove your account, then remove autofills of the password from your browser and make your FB-password extremely difficult and unavailable in other places than, say, a desktop computer at home. That diminishes the lure.

4. Wanna share? Think about the three N’s

Still want to keep an account? Think of the three N’s.

Use it for the perceived “necessities”, lessen the “niceties”, and kill the “needlessly’s”.

A “necessity”: a friend’s birthday. An event. I’ve written the first down before I deleted my account and stil get more than enough invites for the second. You’ll be fine, but as things go, these are useful parts of FB.

A “nicety”: sharing a photo of your great night out. (Don’t show off virtually. Try and experience genuinely.)

A “needlessly”: photos of your kids. There is no need for your underaged kid to have their face bio-metrically stored until the end of time because you’re so proud of him or her. I get it, I really do. But you’re polluting your child’s digital future and it’s embarrassing. So stop it, right now. Distrust that particular flavor.

These are, of course all up to you decide. But think it over in terms of perceived added value and niceties, and you’ll share less.

5. Dip your toes into deeper water.

Luckily, it’s become a staple ingredient to many news outlets to report on the intersection of digital tech and ethics. Check out their stories. It’s a lot of fun to dive into. From Vice to the New Yorker, from The Guardian to Wired. And also go browse around the site of Electronic Frontier Foundation. Read The Intercept. Follow journalists like Kara Swisher or Natasha Lomas. There’s dozens of places and lovely publications all for the taking.

Bonus if you’re Dutch: read my book and learn more on how culture, digital technology and ethics intertwine — and on how Facebook operates. Go check out Bits of Freedom and read the plethora of great pieces on De Correspondent on privacy, security and data.

Tomorrow: How to detox Facebook part 2: what should companies do?

Sidney Vollmer.


I write for a living, produced this podcast on digital technology, published this novel and this diary. My third book, ON/OFF: searching for balance in digital times was published by Dutch publishers Nijgh & Van Ditmar.

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