Have you ever thought about quitting Facebook, or wondered to yourself if using Facebook actually does more harm than good?
Facebook is an amazing platform that anyone can benefit from using. However, most people use Facebook and other social media sites mindlessly. That is a recipe for unhappiness and for wasting hours of time each week.
Being more deliberate with your social media habits and what/who you follow provides many benefits. In this article, you will learn an excellent alternative to quitting Facebook: unfollow your Facebook friends.
Before we discuss how to unfollow your Facebook friends, let’s begin with why you might want to do it.
Most Facebook posts add no value (or worse)
Facebook, like any form of technology, can certainly be used for good. However, very little of what shows up in your Facebook news feed adds real value to your life.
Studies have even found that browsing through your Facebook news feed can make you unhappier. “Everyday Facebook use leads to declines in subjective well-being, both how happy you feel moment to moment and how satisfied you feel with your life,” says Ethan Kross, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.1
Next time that you sign on to Facebook, look at the first 10 posts in your feed. Here are the kinds of posts that you are most likely to see:
- Boastful posts: Many people use social media to show off or brag. Some people do this by posting selfies or group photos that are flattering (and often misleading). Others like to brag about recent awards or achievements. This is often done in the form of a post that begins with “I am so honored/humbled about _____” (insert award or achievement).
- Bored posts: Some people post on Facebook when they are bored. This often results in inane posts about someone’s pet, their latest meal, or anything else that is top of mind.
- Sympathy posts: Some people use social media as a way to attract sympathy. That could include complaining about the weather, traffic, work, or anything else. Or, it might include some upsetting personal news. Before I unfollowed all my Facebook friends (more to come on that in a bit), I saw posts where people talked about being dumped, getting fired, or even having an unplanned pregnancy.
- Political posts: Some people feel the need to share strong political beliefs through social media. Years ago, one of my best friends posted an expletive-laden rant about a political candidate. I can only imagine how much of this has gone on the last few years. Thankfully, I have missed all of it (since I no longer follow anyone on social media).
My decision to unfollow all of my Facebook friends
In 2015, I decided to unfollow all of my Facebook friends. There were two main reasons behind this move.
First of all, I noticed that I always felt worse after being on Facebook. As discussed above, much of what people post on social media is carefully edited. Many people try to use social media to boast and to give the false impression that their life is perfect.
It is easy to scroll through your Facebook news feed and feel bad about yourself or your current situation. If you sign in to Facebook when you are bored (what I used to do), this feeling is even more likely.
Secondly, I was wasting a lot of time on Facebook. As anyone who uses social media knows, it can be a total time-suck. While my usage was rarely longer than 20 minutes at a time, habits add up quickly. I was spending at least a few hours on Facebook each week.
Many people spend much more time on social media than I was. In fact, the typical person spends about two hours each day. One report even found that a typical teen spends up to nine hours on social media every day.2
An alternative to quitting Facebook
While it was time to change my social media habits, I did not want to quit Facebook altogether. It was providing (and it continues to provide) some valuable benefits for me. You may feel the same way.
First of all, many social events are organized through Facebook. If you do not use the site, there will be events that you will miss or not even be invited to.
Secondly, Facebook lets you know when your friends’ birthdays are. This can be helpful for remembering these special days.
Another benefit for me is that I have a Facebook page with hundreds of members for a workout group that I lead. I use this Facebook page to organize events for our group and to share relevant information. Quitting Facebook would have made it impossible for me to communicate with all these people so easily.
So, I came up with another idea: stay on Facebook and unfollow all my Facebook friends.
Why unfollow everyone? Well, I didn’t want it to be personal. If I had unfollowed some people and not others, it would have been personal.
It also would have taken a lot of time and energy to decide who to unfollow. It was not as simple as unfollowing everyone except for my closest friends. Even some of my best friends were posting things on Facebook that added no value (or worse).
Unfollowing everyone was the right decision for me. If that sounds too extreme for you, you could unfollow certain people. Just recognize that approach will require more time and energy. It would also be messy to think through who should make the cut.
But, Facebook helps you build relationships, right?
Some people will argue that Facebook helps you build relationships. That is obviously what Facebook wants you to think. However, the truth is that people have been building relationships without social media for thousands of years.
You do not need social media to connect with other people. Spending time with your friends and family in-person or on the phone does much more for your relationships than liking or commenting on their carefully edited online posts.
Even if you unfollow someone, you can still message them privately and visit their Facebook page if you want to see what they have been up to lately. Do you really need updates (most of which add no value or worse) from hundreds of people every day though?
3 benefits when you unfollow your Facebook friends
It has been years since I have followed anyone on Facebook. Now, whenever I become Facebook friends with a new person, I immediately unfollow him or her. It does not matter who they are. Again, it is not personal! I simply do not follow anyone on social media. It is one of my Personal Policies.
You might not want to be as strict as me when it comes to Facebook. It’s up to you. However, you will receive the following three benefits if you unfollow all (or most) of your Facebook friends:
- You will spend much less time online. When there are few posts (or no posts!) in your Facebook news feed, you will naturally spend much less time on Facebook. These days, I typically spend less than 15 minutes each week on Facebook (which means that I have 14 “extra” hours each week compared to the average person). A few minutes each week is all the time that I need to communicate with my workout group and to check birthdays and other upcoming events.
- You will become calmer and happier. When your mind is free from all the boasts, complaints, rants, and worthless posts that show up on social media, you will be calmer and more content with yourself and your life. While cutting back on social media is not the only way to improve your mental health and wellbeing, it is one of the most powerful ways.
- You will focus on the right people. When you are not able to view, like, or comment on posts from hundreds of Facebook friends, you will have more time and energy to focus on the people who really matter to you. If you are proactive about cultivating your most cherished relationships, they will blossom much more than if you waste time and energy trying to connect with hundreds of “friends” on Facebook.
How to unfollow your Facebook friends
You can actually unfollow (at one time) all your Facebook friends and any pages that you follow. Just take these simple steps, and your news feed can be clear in minutes:
- Log in to Facebook.
- Click on the drop-down menu (a small upside-down triangle) at the top right of your Facebook page and select “news feed preferences.”
- Click on “unfollow people and groups to hide their posts.”
- Select each person and group that you want to unfollow.
Can people tell if you unfollow them?
Unfollowing is very different from unfriending. The latter is much harsher and usually not necessary. While people can tell if you unfriend them, they cannot see if you unfollowed them. So, unfollow your Facebook friends and enjoy the time, energy and improved wellbeing that will result.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is a consultant, speaker, and author who helps leaders and companies thrive. He is the creator of StrongerHabits.com and he’s the bestselling author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work. Before writing Work Stronger, Pete worked as an executive recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles, a leadership advisory firm who serves the majority of the Fortune 500. In his free time, he teaches one of the largest group exercise classes in the Washington, D.C. area. He has also competed in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships.
References for this article:
- Lara Devgan, M.D. and Joanna Stern, “Facebook May Be Making You Sad,” ABC News, August 16, 2013, https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-making-sad-study/story?id=19975348.
- Asano, Evan, “How Much Time Do People Spend on Social Media? [Infographic],” SocialMediaToday, January 4, 2017, https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic.