So I was addicted to Facebook. Like, really addicted. While at work, anytime I found myself stuck on a problem I’d immediately open a new browser tab just to zone out by reading the latest posts from friends and from any of the dozen groups I had subscribed to. I was living in a cycle of shallow, getting easily overwhelmed by my work and taking quick escapes before I had to think too hard about anything. I was like a rat with a button – just going to Facebook was giving me small dopamine hits, so I kept going and kept going.
I was also addicted at home. Facebook was always the most used app on my phone. I got on immediately when I woke up in the morning, I’d scroll as I walked my dog three times a day, and I’d zone out while I ate dinner. Hardly an hour would go by in my life when I didn’t check Facebook at least once.
I knew something had to change. I was addicted. But at least I had taken the first step: admitting I had a problem. Now I just had to do something about it.
My goal was not to complete quit Facebook, nor did I want to go cold turkey. My only goal was to stop turning to Facebook any time I was feeling an emotion. Instead, I wanted to feel the emotion, to experience discomfort, push through it and grow from it.
Step one: Install a tab blocker
Because I felt like the worst part of my Facebook addiction was my frequent escape at work, the first thing did was install a tab blocker on Chrome. It wasn’t necessarily to keep me from being able to get on, it was just something I wanted to be a reminder, something that would cause me to stop and think before zoning out on Facebook. I opted for the Block Site extension since it was relatively easy to turn on and off – this way I could still get on if I really truly needed a break instead of locking me into an enforced time block.
I saw improvement immediately after taking this step. I still had moments when I’d get overwhelmed and I’d instinctively open a new tab and enter “facebook.com” into the address bar. Blocked. Just that little reminder was enough to keep me on task.
It took a while to completely break the habit though. I’d still try to get there just to have that little reminder pop up. The Block Site extension would keep a running count of the number of times I tried to get to Facebook, and the numbers were astonishing – I hit double digits in just two days, and quickly jumped up to over 30, then over 40 attempts. Every time I’d get that little reminder – you don’t need to be here, get back to work.
Eventually I did break the habit. The dopamine hits weren’t coming anymore, so finally I stopped trying. And my work improved. I was getting more done and was working more efficiently since I wasn’t making a context shift every few minutes.
Step two: Delete the Facebook mobile app
This next step was harder for me – to delete the Facebook mobile app. I’m not really sure why I hesitated, but I just didn’t want to let go. I hemmed and hawed about it for a while before my coworker finally pointed out the obvious – just because I delete the app doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. I can always reinstall if I want to.
So finally I deleted it. What a sigh of relief.
Without the app tempting me all the time I stopped checking my phone while walking my dog. I felt freer and more aware of what was going on around me. Instead I just enjoyed being outside, spending time with my dog and the urban environment around me.
I also stopped checking Facebook during every dull moment in my life. I was getting out of bed sooner and being more mindful of my time.
Step three: Log off of Facebook in Safari
It was still a little too easy for me to get on to Facebook since my web browser reminder my login and password and kept me signed in constantly. So I decided to log off of Facebook in Safari and deleted my cookies. I forced myself to only use Chrome Incognito when browsing, which meant I needed to take the step of logging in before I could get on the site (which is weirdly kinda hard to do on the web app for some reason). This also has the added benefit of keeping Facebook from snooping on me while I browse other sites.
So it took about a month to do, but I have successfully broken my Facebook habit. I have much better focus since I can think hard about things without trying to escape, and because I don’t endure the context shift of switching between Facebook and my work. I also stopped comparing myself with my friends since I’m not constantly seeing their curated snapshots from their lives. And there was one extra benefit that I really enjoy: my phone’s battery life is much longer now!
I didn’t completely quit Facebook though – I tend to check it about twice a week. It’s still important to me to keep up with friends and family and Facebook is genuinely a great way to do that. I’m just not drowning in it anymore.
I have found myself using other apps like Instagram a bit more, and in some ways they have taken the place of Facebook in taking my attention. But my Instagram addiction isn’t nearly as serious, and at this point I don’t think it ever will be – but if it does at least I know how to break that one!
If you’re struggling with tech addiction I’m here to tell you can can overcome it! The pain is not as hard as you think it will be, and the benefits are well worth it.
Have you had experience breaking an addiction like this? Struggling with it now? I’d love to hear about it. Let’s talk tech addiction.
Also published on Medium.