"Ugh, I should just delete my Facebook." How many times have you heard this, or said it yourself and not done it?
I deactivated my Facebook account last spring to take a break from the noise, and I haven't gone back. I had an easy time leaving, because I took it slow. Like any bad habit you want to break, this one's tough to do cold turkey.
There's a lot to lose leaving Facebook. Everyone I know is there. It's how I've gotten to know coworkers, scheduled events, watched babies grow and gotten news. You might use the platform for professional networking, to run a business page, or advertise products or services. That's a lot to give up.
But the reasons to leave are mounting. Data breaches. Foreign political attacks. Distracting puppy videos. Your friends' cousins who comment and use the wrong "your" on every news article you share.
If you want to get off of Facebook without destroying your network, take these steps over the next few months.
If you rely on it to promote your business but still want to make a break, consider deactivating your account and creating a less-connected dummy account to manage your business page.
1. Discover other places to communicate.
You might not realize how easily you can stay connected elsewhere. Text messages and emails are obvious places to start. Here's what I use to keep up when those aren't a fit:
Slack lets me communicate with coworkers, professional contacts and volunteer groups. (Great replacement for Facebook groups!)
Feedly and email newsletters let me keep up with the other content I liked getting from Facebook (without the slurry of comments I did not like getting).
Cluster is a photo- and video-sharing social network you can limit to private groups, such as a local networking group or folks you met through a conference.
Other social networks can help you keep up without all the noise you endure on Facebook. I prefer LinkedIn for colleagues, professional networking and industry news, and Twitter for people I don't know.
Replacing Facebook with yet other social apps doesn't exactly create a Zen, screen-free lifestyle. Instead, for me, it helps compartmentalize the content so I can tackle it with the right mindset (e.g. social versus professional, interaction versus consumption).
2. Purge your friends.
Once you know where you prefer to communicate, start unfriending.
Migrate friends to other platforms if you want to stay in touch. If you were following them for professional reasons, for example, try connecting on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you love photos of their kids, follow them on Instagram.
You might have to do this in rounds, purging again after a couple of months as you realize who you don't need to stay in touch with.
3. Try a cleanse.
Before deactivating your account, give it a trial run. Stay off the platform (and, if it makes sense, all social media) for a week or so. Do it during a normal week -- not a week you're camping in Colorado.
This lets you see what you'll miss by not being on the network. Facebook cleansing helped me realize how much I relied on the network to deliver news analysis, so I signed up for Feedly.
4. Remove the app, and block the website on your phone.
I thought just taking the app away would remove the temptation to check in. But I found myself, like a real addict, just using the mobile website instead.
Blocking the site sounds like a serious intervention move, but here's why I did it: Tons of stuff links to Facebook. You probably don't even realize it. And once you're there the scrolling begins.
Through my iOS settings, I blocked Facebook.com in Safari. I could easily access the website with a PIN, but the warning that it was blocked was enough to make me ask whether I needed to. Spoiler: usually no.
5. Find other relaxing hobbies.
The final step to take before eliminating Facebook from your life is to find something else to do with your time.
We all hope we'll free up time to start a new business, finish a reading list or train for a 5,000 -- but be realistic. You pop into Facebook when you have a few minutes, you're exhausted from the day, you're trying to get to sleep, you're watching TV or you don't know anyone at a social event.
What else can you do to soothe your mind in the same way -- but avoid the negativity and clickbait?
Psst... don't worry. Your profile hangs around on Facebook when you deactivate, so you can return anytime.
If data's your concern, erase your digital footprint altogether.