I am a CEO overcoming a Facebook addiction
Facebook addiction – like any addiction – has real consequences in the physical world that affect you and everyone around you. I am a Facebook addict. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact as plain as the nose on my face(book). While it may not be as life-threatening as a drug or alcohol addiction, the psychological aspects are very similar, to the point of being a recognized medical condition in Japan and elsewhere. It was also the single largest daily use of my time other than sleeping, which is pretty sad.
So, about two weeks ago, I went cold turkey.
I could easily justify using Facebook for my job as the CEO of SCOTTeVEST (a clothing line full of hidden pockets to carry gadgets). I even wrote a book about passionate self-promotion, and Facebook is certainly a tool for self-promotion. But it became clear to me that my addiction cut far deeper than any excuses I could make about it, and I decided to do something about that.
I am constantly experimenting in my e-commerce business and trying to optimize different aspects of it. I use A/B tests to make improvements to the site, and I test experimental designs in products. I applied that same experimentation mindset to kick my Facebook habit, and like any experimenter, I’ve been observing what has happened to me in my first weeks away, and planning for what comes next.
How addicted was I?
A lot of people spend hours of time on Facebook each day, but my habit pushed me far beyond simply being a frequent poster.
I was on Facebook constantly. I would check it first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. I would wait until I got “just one more Like” before I could turn out the lights and roll over in bed (to my wife, no less). It affected my marriage, but I was honestly blind to it.
In the past year I posted thousands of times to nearly 27,000 followers and received thousands of likes. I posted on weekdays, weekends and holidays, and I replied to many posts, too.
Part of me wonders if I became so wrapped up in Facebook because I live a geographically isolated life in the sleepy mountain town of Ketchum/Sun Valley, Idaho. In reality, I think that is just an excuse, and like any addict, I could cite a hundred excuses.
Very recently, I had the chance to meet in person many people I had only “known” through Facebook while on a book tour. In between the greetings of “nice to finally meet you,” something clicked: these interactions were a lot more genuine than through the screen, even when I was only interacting with someone for 5 minutes, or 3 minutes, or 30 seconds.
I started to pay attention to how much time I spent interacting in the real world vs. on Facebook, and the difference in the quality and satisfaction I got from those two distinct types of interactions. But most of all, I realized I was posting away hours of my life every single day.
After my self-revelation, I started to look at the time I spent on social media more critically than I had ever done before. The level of attention and measurement that I apply to my business was nowhere to be found in the rest of my life. I had become a creature of habit, and my habit was costing me time, which meant it was costing me money, too.
Facebook had become my entertainment, but also my validation, my default activity, and it may have even contributed to some magical thinking. As I would keep hitting refresh while laying in bed, I wasn’t just waiting for another Like, but I was almost willing it into existence.
It took some great interactions with real people (in person) for me to see the writing on the wall (literally): I was totally addicted to Facebook, and I needed to find a way to reclaim my life.
Cold turkey was the only way I could stop.
Is Facebook addiction so bad?
Yes. Is my experience extreme? Maybe, but try having a 10 minute conversation with a 12 year old and tell me you don’t believe that behavior like mine won’t be the norm in a few years.
I’m not a social crusader, and since I own a gadget-related clothing company, I’m not likely to denounce electricity and move to a hut in the woods. But as an experimenter and an optimizer, I feel compelled to take a long hard look at my habits and try to make them more purposeful and meaningful.
My bottom line: I am changing a mindless activity that has been ingrained in my neural pathways into a planned, scheduled activity.
My first weeks off Facebook
In the past two weeks I’ve gained time (over two hours a day), improved my focus, and experienced a better connection with real people in my life who were feeling neglected, whether they expressed it verbally or not. I have also lost connection with some great people online through Facebook, but the price of “being on Facebook” in total takes a harder toll than stepping away from people I’ve gotten to know. At least so far.
It wasn’t easy doing it. The first day, I kept wanting to post and I would need to catch myself before I went to Facebook. It was built into my muscle memory, and I found myself physically reaching for my phone to open the app. At about 1 o’clock my wife said something clever to me, and my first reaction was to post it… but I didn’t. Each time I stopped myself from posting I realized more about just how addicted I truly was. I felt out of control and honestly a little pathetic to be like a zombie drawn mindlessly to the screen by any little stimulus.
I’ve never in my life added “post to facebook” onto a to do list because I never had to… it was what I was doing in between my to do list items, and sometimes in the midst of them when I would post about an event or a meeting while it was still going on. I suppose I should have been paying attention….
I also don’t have all the answers to getting past my Facebook addiction, but what experimenter does – or can – have all the answers? What I do have are a few things I’m going to try as I cross the one-week mark away from Facebook, because while I don’t know what the right balance of Facebook and real face-to-face living in the world looks like, I know I was too far in the digital realm before.
Here are some things I’m going to try:
- Posting once per day with a recap of what stood out to me. I think this will give me much better perspective. When you post in the moment, the bar of “noteworthy” is a lot lower than when you can look back at your day and judge each postable event vs. every other postable event to decide what should make the cut.
- Fully recognizing that a daily Facebook habit could be the gateway back to an hourly habit, I may create some space between myself and the actual mechanics of posting by enlisting the help of my employees. I don’t want to lose the transparency I am known for in my Facebook posts, but I know if I log in, there might be trouble.
- I am definitely open to writing a weekly post instead of a daily post… just in case I start to feel a pull back in….
- And if all else fails, I may embrace Twitter as a smaller-scale personal outlet. How much damage could I do to my psyche with 160 characters? (Don’t answer that.)
At the end of my first couple weeks off Facebook, I’m enjoying the extra time. I feel a little less anxious. I am breaking the neural pathways that turned a fun website into a reflex and a craving. I’m traveling for about a week, and will try easing onto Facebook a little, in an experimental way. Let’s see if it works.
Will I be back on Facebook? In some form, yes. A healthier form. One that doesn’t become ingrained with my identity and need for validation in the shape of a tiny, two-dimensional thumb. If you would like updates on my progress, follow me on Facebook. Yes, the irony may kill me, but I promise I won’t be the one directly logging in to reply… at least for now. My experiment continues….
For even more stories about my approach to business, check out my top-rated book, Pocket Man.
If you want to learn more or just enjoy my “reality show” life, follow me on Facebook.
ABOUT SCOTT JORDAN and SCOTTeVEST
Scott Jordan is the CEO and Founder of SCOTTeVEST, which creates multi-pocket clothing designed to carry electronics. He is the author of Pocket Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of a Passionate, Personal Promoter.
Read a sample of Scott’s book for more about his experience on Shark Tank and the pocket empire he has built.