Detox Facebook to become a better writer


Social media – like Facebook and Twitter – help authors but we need to periodically detox Facebook to get the best out of it.

Recently, I took my Facebook account through a detox and I was amazed at how much more productive I was able to become. As a side effect, I started seeing posts by friends and family – stuff that matters to me – much more often. I felt cleaner, my feed was less cluttered, and I was wasted less time on things that don’t matter.

Detox Facebook to remove what stops your writing?

I am not talking about detoxing from Facebook – if you need to use it for marketing, use it. I am, however, talking about purifying those parts of your Facebook account that stop you from writing.

Social Media is designed to occupy your time – to distract you. Therefore, the more time you invest in a platform (like Facebook), the better it is for the people that own that platform. In any creative or self-employed situation, time wasting is bad for us.

Over time we build up a lot of different things on our Facebook account that are toxic to our objectives and suck time out of the day. This guide will show you have to stop those toxins from eating up your time.

What are these toxins on Facebook?

These Facebook toxins take different forms. They can be annoying “friends” who post a lot of irrelevant memes. Facebook toxins can be Pages or groups that post distracting content but provide no productive value. They can even be settings that let in too much of the wrong stuff. It is in Facebook’s interest to let that continue, so you have to be proactive to stop it.

Steps to detox Facebook

notebookThe first thing I did, before I made any changes was to define what mattered to me. I wanted:

  • Content that could help me be a better writer.
  • Things that made me feel inspired.
  • Important stuff from those close to me.
  • Sources that did not post “too much”.
  • Anything that was strongly relevant to me.

There is the famous question for decluttering your home “does this inspire joy?” and the more common “when was the last time I use this?”. Both are useful in decluttering.

Next, I made the decision that I was not going to unfriend, unlike, or leave anything if I could get away with not doing so.

I then spent two days doing nothing but trying to figure out my Facebook. Gradually, I came to see that I and, I think, most people go about Facebook all wrong.

Techniques to detox Facebook

The best way to find what needs to go is to simply go through your news feed looking for examples that do not match your list of “stuff that matters to me”.

If you already know how to use these features you can skip ahead to the next section. For the rest of us, here is a swift refresher.

Facebook cleaning options

Your options

You have a number of options on how you will detox this content. Which you pick will depend on what you think of the source, what you think of the person, page, or group, that shared it, and if you ever want to see content like that again.

Hide post

Hide Post will remove that one post from your news feed and will train Facebook’s newsfeed program to show you less like that. For the detox, this is a weak option. Save that for any leftovers that are hard to define at the end of the detox.

Snooze

Snooze for 30 days will shut down the sharer or the source for about a month. You don’t block them, or unfriend them – you just stop seeing their content for a while. This is ideal for contacts or pages that are going through a noisy period – say a wedding, a political campaign, or a marketing push. Snooze can help in groups where big debates that don’t involve you have erupted.

I used snooze only for those sources I was unsure about. It shut them down for now but left me with the option of seeing their stuff later when I have had time to miss it (or not).

Unfollow

Unfollow is like a permanent snooze. Toxic people with their drama should be unfollowed. People that post racist rants should be unfollowed (or unfriended). Unfollow is for all friends and contacts whose content adds nothing to your life.

Hide all from

Hide all is a great option for pages that you are not a fan of but your friends share content from. You tell Facebook that you just not interested and it goes away. For good. It’s like the permanent snooze of unfollowing but for content, you never subscribed to in the first place. Use hide all often.

Unfollow and hide all, in various forms, are the techniques I used most. It allows me to remain a part of groups, to remain friends, to stay a fan of a page, and generally remain connected without being bothered by content that does not help me be a writer.

Now it is time to look at what content to detox away. You might be surprised.

Detox your newsfeed

Detox Facebook groups in general

Facebook groups are great. I use a lot of them; I’ve joined more than I can count. However, most of the time you do not need the content of groups in your Facebook news feed. This content is may or may not be helpful at times but it should not be cluttering up your feed to distract you.

Unfollow a groupI know this is going to trigger a little FOMO – fear of missing out – but honestly, if anything important is going on in the group and the group matters to you – add it to your shortcuts and drop in when you have the time. I’d bet that for most groups, you don’t miss them, and you forget they even existed. When you need them again, they will be there.

You can silence a group from your feed without leaving. Just look for the unfollow option where you see the “joined” status. You are still in the group but the posts from the group will not clutter your timeline with content unrelated to writing or selling your writing.

Think of it like turning off the TV so you can focus on work.

Detox Facebook Buying and selling groups

I am a member of most of my local buying and selling groups. I have picked up some amazing bargains from them when I needed something specific. However, not one of these needs to be in my news feed or notifications.

The thing is Facebook provides a special search for items in this grassroots marketplace. With that search, you never need to see any content from buying, selling, and swapping groups. Not ever. As long as you only unfollow but remain in the group, it will be there waiting the next time you go shopping.

Detox Facebook Fan groups

Sir Terry PratchettI am a member of several groups for fans of Sir Terry Pratchett. I love his work and I was super sad when he died too.

The thing is with fan groups is that they mostly have nothing new to add. They are simply a place to chat to other members of your fan tribe. I wanted to keep them in place but I do not need the content of tens or hundreds of thousands of people filling up my feed.

I added one group that I particularly like to my shortcuts and unfollowed them all.

Groups and pages for good causes

I have liked and followed the pages of a lot of good causes. I’ve joined a lot of groups towards that end too. However, while I want to support them, I do not need to hear from them every day.

Take The Wildwood Trust, for example. That is a worthy cause and deserving of my support. That does not mean that my day needs to be filled with things that matter to them. When I am ready to visit, when I want to catch up with them, I can visit the page.

Even though I strongly support them, they still got an unfollow.

Detox Facebook writers’ and authors’ groups

This might surprise you but most writers groups on Facebook are not all that much help.

Maybe half of the groups that I am active in are writing related. I figured that I would probably want to keep a lot of those around in my feed. I was wrong.

After I detoxed away all the groups that were just desperate authors spamming book links, I was able to see a different picture of Facebook.

My feed had quite a lot of writer-related posts and almost all of them were junk. I saw the same beginner’s questions being asked, the same off-topic conversations, and the endless repetition of the getting-to-know-you quizzes.

Which writers’ groups do I keep?

Monkey at a typewriterThe answer, it turns out, is not that many.

I saw a huge number of posts from excited writers talking about works in progress. Works that would be a lot further along if the author got off Facebook and wrote them. Many of these posts were excerpts and, if I am honest, not many of those excerpts were much good.

I appreciate that these groups are good for encouraging people to start writing; for me, that adds nothing to my working day. I already run events for in-person critiquing and support – my daytime focus needs to be my own work.

Unfollow.

I kept whittling them down hoping to be left with groups that inspire me to write, encourage me to write, or otherwise push me in that direction. In the end, I found very few. I ended up adding a lot of content as future posts to some pages I manage to provide that over time.

Detox Facebook pages other people share

I’m friends with a lot of people on Facebook. With so many friends there are going to be shares from pages that are irrelevant to me.

That’s where “Hide All” really comes into its own. As part of my detox Facebook drive, I’ve been hiding all from any page that shows up and that I do not follow (and don’t, on reflection, plan to).

It is not that the content is uninteresting – some of it is very entertaining – but it sucks up my time and I do not need that.

Detox Facebook freinds that make needless noise

I have to confess, I tolerate a lot. During this process, I noticed that a few friends dominate my newsfeed with clickbate, and cat pictures. While there is nothing wrong with that sort of thing, it is just a time suck that adds no value to my life.

Those noisy few were quietly unfollowed. Not unfriended – I am not rejecting the person, just their content.

Detox Facebook politics and news

I blog about local politics and I am active in national politics. As a result, I am part of a lot of groups and have liked a huge number of pages. All of them are focused on issues I care about and support. Yet, I do not need them on my Facebook news feed. I have bookmarked the key ones and I check back with them when I am ready.

Unfollow, unfollow, hide all, unfollow.

Detox your notifications

Only after you have purged your news feed, is it time to take a look at the notifications.

I have Facebook notifications as pop-up notices on my desktop where I write. I have them on my phone too. All of which means they can be a huge time suck when I should be working on other things.

Customise your notifications

Wired.com suggests turning all notifications off. I did not go that far but I have tamed Facebook’s notifications a lot. Besides, you cannot turn notifications off entirely, but you can choose what you get notified about.

Get into your settings (here is how) and have a look at what you allow on desktop and mobile. You may need to train the mobile notifications by turning off things you don’t want. Come back every few days and train Facebook some more. Just like the detox of the newsfeed, say no to as much as you can.

Get group notifications under control

Groups can be tailored to notify you on every post, with just the highlights, when a friend posts, or never.

Notifications and not your newsfeed are the best place to keep updated on groups you want to monitor. For example, I moderate or admin around thirty groups on Facebook. I need to keep abreast of those.

Some groups are best set to never. Most writers’ groups, for example, were set to never. I know I can always come back and browse the group when I am in the mood to do so. A few groups, where I really feel part of the community or I am a moderator, need to stay. Most, however, have no business sending any notifications.

Of curse, this can mean going through all your groups. If like me, you have a lot of groups, monitor your notifications and turn down (or off) the ones you see too frequently.

After your detox Facebook drive

Like me, you may find that Facebook feels very different. I found that it did not feed my addiction to time wasting any more. I also found that what was left were people I really wanted to interact with.

More interestingly, I found that despite an abundance of certain types of content (groups, friends, and pages), some topic areas – like things that motivate me to get off Facebook and write – were missing. In one or two cases I found I needed to curate my own content to meet that need. Mostly, however, I just got to what mattered faster.

I highly recommend that you make a Facebook detox a yearly activity. Keep your newsfeed and notifications lean and relevant.

An expected lesson was this – I hid, snoozed and unfollowed 90% of the content I was connected to on Facebook. It was not relevant to me. It reminded me that I need to make sure the content I put on Facebook is strictly relevant and interesting to people. When I craft new content I need it to be the kind of content that would survive a purge like that.

If you detox Facebook, why not come back and share how it went. Feel free to tell us about anything interesting you discovered when you cleared the dross.


About Matthew Brown

Matthew is a writer and Geek from Kent (UK). He is the founder and current chair of Thanet Creative as well as head geek for Author Buzz. His ambitions include appearing on TableTop with Wil Wheaton and seeing a film or TV series based on something he wrote.

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