How Quitting Facebook Decreased My Anxiety 300%
*Scroll to the end of this post to read my update on how I quit Facebook in 30 days week by week*
Here it is…
I quit Facebook.
Okay…I didn’t quit totally. But – since dramatically reigning in my use of it, I’ve become a lot less anxious. It was one of the key elements of overcoming my generalised anxiety disorder.
As you may already know, I used to be anxious AF, constantly.
Many of the people I know and have grown up with are now becoming anxious (AF)
Partly because of social media addiction. Mostly because of the instant reward society we now live in.
Need to find out what your buddy ate for dinner last tuesday? Facebook.
Pointless meme? Facebook
This isn’t a dig at the social king. Well actually, it is, but it’s not just them. It’s everything, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp, Netflix and the like that are fuelling our anxiety and depression.
Do you remember what you used to do with your hands before 2007? Me neither.
In The Beginning…
In the beginning Facebook and the like had very humble starts. We had polite conversations, patiently waiting for friend requests to be answered and we organised events.
It was all very light hearted but instantly addictive.
I was instantly hooked. Hey, I love my gadgets and apps, there was something fun in them like all new things.
After a while the fun wore off and apps like these became part of everyday life. The value was gone in them and we started to take them for granted.
I then started to take Facebook too seriously. I put way too much value on my digital self and eagerly waited for those sweet likes and shares. I was becoming addicted.
Did you know companies like Facebook employ people just to find ways of making us pay more attention to them? That’s like Pablo Escobar paying a russian scientist to find a way of making cocaine more addictive.
Pleasure In Your Pocket
It’s well researched that the instant reward we give ourselves with checking our social accounts releases high levels of dopamine, the same chemical released into our monkey brains that gives a feeling of pleasure and reward. This excessive use over time makes us become addicted.
How did you feel the last time you left your phone at home or lost it? I’m guessing pretty shit.
You couldn’t check you emails and your social accounts right? That’s because it’s now ingrained in our daily habits.
However the simple matter of fact is…
We’re looking at the same boring, pointless shit that the same boring pointless people are saying. What kind of reward are you getting?
Are you checking your feed between ad breaks? During television watch time? Every ten minutes? It’s time to wake the fuck up. Seriously…
The next time you pick your phone up to scroll through your feed, ask yourself – Why am I doing this? If your answer is ‘because I’m bored’, I don’t think you’re being honest with yourself.
It’s because you cant help yourself.
Chances are your feed doesn’t look any different than it did 5 minutes ago, and if it does, there’s probably one more pointless meme back staring at you.
Fuel For Anxiety
The biggest issue here of course is the anxiety being caused. So many folks now suffer from social media anxiety disorder. They are anxious when they can’t check their feeds, anxious when they don’t receive 100 ‘likes’ on a selfie of them eating a piece of toast, and anxious that their life isn’t being presented as perfect to their fake friends.
When I stepped away from all the noise and stopped picking up my phone to feed it with more garbage, I felt like I was detoxing. It was difficult to consciously step back, but in the end it had a major impact on my mental state.
- It holds no real value in my life
- I don’t actually care what other people are doing
- I was watching other people do things for no reason
- The world is full of pointless memes
- People are using social media to make their lives look interesting
- People are using social media because they’re insecure
- People are using social media as a cry for attention
- People are using social media as a cry for help
Okay, I’m not saying everyone who uses social media falls into the above, however we’ve all seen those people who are posting constantly, for no reason other than to make it look like they do things.
Come Back Down To Earth
Let’s try and come back down to earth. Stepping away from social media can be hard. After all, we’re so used to it now.
I guarantee, if you left your phone in another room for a day you’d feel so much better and less anxious. The instant reward feeling you get from checking your accounts is fake and it’s going to cause serious long term health issues.
It’s well documented that this type of behaviour over time leads us to want something for little to no effort. A whole generation gets fed rewards for doing nothing all day everyday.
Okay so not all millennials are lazy, but, once we step into the real world and realise that we don’t get easy rewards and easy wins, we begin to experience anxiety and depression.
It’s time to become mindfully aware of what’s going on here.
It may be difficult to escape the instant reward culture when we also have things like Netflix which offer hours of mind numbing fun. I love a good documentary but I think the problem starts when we watch all the episodes of our favourite show in one big binge.
The point is, we don’t deserve these ‘rewards’.
I don’t care if you’ve been at work all day. (Okay maybe you deserve to watch one thing on Netflix)
But you don’t deserve the instant rewards you are getting from binging on social media content. The truth is, it is pulling you into a state of giving a shit whereas you should be putting your ‘giving a shit’ into something productive and real.
When I started drawing and writing again, my anxiety went way down. How did this millennial spend his time before?
Binging Netflix all day, playing video games all day and checking my Facebook feed 57 times throughout the day. What did I get from all of that?
Anxiety. And I’m far from alone in that.
- I was wasting my time
- I could be doing something productive
- I was guilty for doing these things
- I knew I was stuck in a rut
…and that’s the biggest issue here, we’re stuck in an addictive rut when we’re putting too much value on our constant content machines.
We are training multiple generations to watch other people have lives and not live our own.
Switch off the noise. Just do it.
I promise you won’t be missing anything.
How To Quit Facebook – My 30 Day Facebook Detox – Update 13/01/18
I felt like it was time to update this post after I recently decided to go on a 100% Facebook detox for at least 30 days. I think it’s also important for me to note that I did still use social media like Pinterest during this time but Facebook is the network that was causing me extra anxiety.
I was truly interested to see how this would affect me and make me feel, especially after already limiting my time on Facebook.
So here’s the deal – at the end of December 2017 I got a new mobile phone. Like all new phones, my home screen was barron and had no apps. I like getting new phones because it’s a chance to start afresh and only install apps that I actually use.
To my surprise, Facebook was one of the only 2 apps that was pre-installed on my phone. I went to log in, but something stopped me. Although I have gotten over my anxieties with Facebook, I decided to test myself. I decided that I would quit Facebook for 30 days and see if I could stick to this new habit.
I was happy to go for longer than 30 days, but anything else would be a bonus.
So now was the time to install apps that I actually use like Pinterest, Gmail, Youtube and Google properties that help me stay on top of my online projects.
Facebook was just a meaningless app that was not to be used.
Here’s what happened…
Because I had lowered my Facebook use prior to this experiment, I didn’t think that I would run into any hurdles at all and even thought it would be super easy to complete. I based all of this on the fact that I didn’t need Facebook anymore.
Problem was, everyone else still did, as I would soon discover…
Week One Of My Facebook Detox
Week one went very smoothly. I had completed seven days without feeling the need to check in with what was going on on my timeline and my Facebook detox was off to a great start. I didn’t want to log in and even managed to forget about going on Facebook if I’m totally honest.
I spent my time going on other apps, responding to emails from Projectenergise.com readers and watching videos on YouTube. Most of the time, I stuck my head in the blog and did a lot of research and writing.
I helped that my project took up a lot of my time and week one reinforced my theory that over Facebook use is largely influenced by boredom and too much spare time. if you don’t have a hobby or a project that you enjoy doing or working on, it could be time to take one up.
Week one was easy.
Week Two Of My Facebook Detox
“It seemed that other people thought it was weird someone would all of a sudden quit Facebook just like that!”
Week two started off great. I still didn’t feel a need check Facebook and I thought life after Facebook would be a breeze. A few days into week two I started receiving text messages from friends asking ‘here? Where did you go bro?’
It turns out that for nearly two weeks friends and family had been trying to get in touch with me by tagging me and messaging me on Facebook messenger. This was something that I didn’t predict. surely if they wanted to get in contact they would call or text? me I thought.
This showed me that people would rather communicate through Facebook over calls or texts. People assume that you have Facebook, are on Facebook a lot, and that you check it straight away when you get messages. This was the exact behaviour I was trying to stay away from.
After I text the people in question they were confused as to why and what I was doing. It seemed that people thought it was weird that someone would all of a sudden quit Facebook just like that! I might as well of told them that I was moving to mars! Maybe it is weird in this day and age. They thought that I was simply avoiding them.
It had never crossed my mind that this would occur. Regardless, I explained the situation and the experiment I was conducting and I resisted the temptation to see the messages I had been getting.
Week Three Of My Facebook Detox
After I had explained to others what I was doing, I carried on the same as week one. By this point the curiosity in me made me very tempted to see what and how many messages and notifications I would have. This was the longest period of time I’d gone without opening Facebook and it was starting to become more real that I had simply blown Facebook off.
We all know the feeling of seeing that little red notification we get on Facebook. It’s exciting and you want to check what happening right away. I knew I must have a ton of these little red notification by that point and if I’m honest I was curious to check what had been going on.
Something stopped me though.
I realised that I had been getting notifications in my email inbox that showed little snippets of Facebook activity. Normally I wouldn’t enter my social inbox as there’s nothing special that happens in there but I did at this point. When I saw the snippet pop up in my social inbox it just reminded me of why it was important for me to get through the Facebook detox.
I had been getting tagged in pointless Facebook page posts the entire time. Although the odd funny image might provide a laugh, it was not worth logging in. Once I had stopped guessing how many notifications I had racked up, I got back into the same mental space as week one and carried on.
Week Four Of My Facebook Detox – The Final Week
So I had made it to week four of my Facebook detox and I felt great. I still didn’t feel a need to log in and if I’m honest it felt like a weight had been taken off. I felt like the anchor that was my phone had been lifted and I was free to explore other things in my day to day life.
I felt a hell of a lot less anxious without feeling like I needed to feed my social media habit. I could see life after Facebook, and it looked great. It actually felt like I was living back in 2007 before I had any constant apps to check every 5 seconds. I managed to regain my free time to read and write like I used to.
Week four of my Facebook detox was spent doing a lot of reflection on the person I was before I relied on apps like Facebook. I could see that guy for the first time in a long time and I had mental clarity on how much weight and value I had been giving social media for the last 10 years. I had clarity on the fact that it had become a habit and addiction of mine that never really needed to exist in the first place.
Maybe you’re a drinker or a smoker, or maybe you check Facebook 30 times a day. There’s really no psychological difference. These 3 habits are all addictions, but the social media addiction is the silent ‘not so bad’ one that people don’t pay any attention to.
If you’re feeling like you constantly need attention or need to impress people with aimless updates about your life, maybe it’s time to start your own Facebook detox.
You might have relapses but it’s persistence that’s key. Break it down week by week and keep going.
I’m so glad I decided to challenge myself to quit Facebook for 30 days. I learnt that I can do it and was surprised how much better and freer I started feeling.
However confident you may feel about quitting Facebook yourself, it’s other people that will almost certainly try to drag you back in. As I found, most people rely on Facebook for their daily communication and so they will probably react in the same way as they did to me.
They may not understand what you’re doing but do not let them influence you to stop. It’s all about you and removing the negative influences on your mind and mood.
I’d love to hear if you’ve quit Facebook and your life after Facebook in the comments.
Here’s to your success – Sean