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Science Says Facebook Can be Bad for You: How to Cut Back (Without Quitting) and Feel Better Because of it

Several studies have correlated Facebook use with negative mental health.

If you're a high achiever bent on succeeding in business and life, Facebook is not where you spend much time.

For one thing, several studies have correlated Facebook use with negative mental health. I've written and complained about it, yet have continued to scroll through my feed mindlessly liking things for years.

I wanted out.

A couple of things are wrong with Facebook (scientific studies aside)
I was sick of Facebook serving me ads for companies whose websites I visited when not even using Facebook. I like to peruse Athleta and have stopped by Peloton to check out their high-tech bikes only to come back to Facebook and see ads for these companies in the margin of my feed. (It turns out that the web is basically one giant targeted ad now.)
Wait, is the problem with Facebook, or me?

And I was weary of how Facebook made me feel bad about myself. Granted, no one or nothing can actually make you feel insecure or envious. These character flaws are one's own responsibility. Yet, there I was wondering why my good friend, Cara, comments and likes another friend's posts seemingly much more than my own, making me second-guess how she really feels about me. Or, why do I continue to allow (meaning, not block) the posts of the woman who annoys me with daily gushings about her adoring husband and beautiful children?

Highly successful people don't waste their time

Plus, I know better. On my bookshelf at any given time are at least a half dozen books on self-improvement. Never has any expert on getting ahead suggested spending more time on Facebook. (Unless, of course, you're using it to market your business.) Certainly, there is a more virtuous way to conduct myself when standing in line, or bored in a waiting room. Sharpen my Spanish skills with the Duolingo app, perhaps? Or, read 15-minute summaries of best-selling non-fiction using Blinkist?

There are real benefits to decreasing your time on Facebook

So I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, thinking I'd spend no more than 10 minutes a week using the desktop version to catch up with what's going on with my 434 friends (FOMO anyone?).

I stuck to this plan and took pride in either using more cerebral iPhone apps during downtime. Or, better yet I endeavored to pay attention to what was going on around me in the moment, versus being head-down and scrolling through a feed.

This lasted about five weeks and I can attest to feeling lighter and more positive emotionally. I started lamenting how many of my coworkers scroll through Facebook (or Snapchat or Instagram) instead of chatting with me or anybody else at lunch. And I got more done--instead of using Facebook as an excuse to take a break, I was better at staying on task.

Marketplace might be Facebook's shiniest lure

But then I remembered the one thing I actually appreciate about Facebook--its marketplace. In the last year I've probably made $1,000 using this section of the social network. They've made it dead simple to use your phone to snap a few photos of whatever you're trying to unload, tap a simple description and bam--your ad is live to thousands of people who may actually want to buy your junk. For me, this is a big deal because de-cluttering and getting $10 or $20 for something I no longer want makes me feel thrifty and smart. Plus, my husband is a wheeler and dealer who collects things people oddly want and need. Marketplace has been a great little side hustle for our family, paying for plenty of Friday night meals out on the town.

Once I made this realization--that without Facebook there was no access to Marketplace--the deal was off. Facebook quickly was loaded back onto my iPhone.

You can be judicious about how you use Facebook

Now that I've seen the positive effects of life away from Facebook, I'm in a different position than I was five weeks ago. Facebook and the rest of the internet can stalk my online whereabouts all it wants. If my friend, Cara, likes other people more than me I'll never know it. My frenemy who brags about her family can continue to do so to her heart's content. At least for now--until Facebook comes up with some other way to keep my attention hostage--I'll be using Facebook for Marketplace only. The rest of that crap can stay behind the curtain I'll be holding up for myself.

Keep in mind, if you want to keep using Facebook and there are people posting things which you continually find annoying, you can limit or block how much of their stuff you see. Just click on the three small dots on the top right corner of any post and you can choose several options which decrease or stop yourself from receiving their posts without defriending the person. Knowing this, if you choose to continue seeing their aggravating posts it may be worth a bit of introspection: Do you secretly enjoy criticizing this person (even in your own mind)? Is this really good for your mental health and state of positivity?

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