The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Anti-Procrastination Day (September 6): Stopping The Facebook Distraction
By now, everyone and their mother are using Facebook. While teenagers are less likely to use it, because their mothers are using it, it does not stop many adults from using it as their main source of communication. Most use it to keep in touch with family. I personally use it because I live across the country from my family, so having the ability to post updated photos and chat with them, even if I do pick up the phone and call my parents a few times a week, it still keeps every one up to date. I also have lived in several parts of the world, so it definitely helps me to keep in touch with those people as well, who are far more likely to respond to a Facebook message than an email.
As wonderful as Facebook is, it does come with its drawbacks, and that is: It is a huge procrastination and distraction tool. Most of us are too easily distracted by anything and everything. The excuse for a distraction pulls us right into procrastination and sometimes, we struggle to get out of it. Many people will even get on to their mobile phones and hop on to Facebook and scroll through their feeds to pass the time when traveling on a bus or train. Sometimes, people will even do it during a date! Really? Pretty sad when a Facebook feed is more important than the real life person that is probably paying for your dinner and trying to get to know you for a potential relationship. Even if the date is not going well, there are probably other things you can do to get out of it than hopping on your phone and expecting Facebook to solve your real life problems. It is not just Facebook itself, but its News Feed can be addicting to someone who wants to kill time, and time can certainly pass by while browsing it.
The Facebook News Feed can get us into a lot of trouble, as it shows articles and events based on what you have “liked” in the past. We also have this constant need, and I am certainly guilty of it, to have our voices heard. Therefore, we aimlessly reply with our witty or intelligent or biased or sometimes even devil’s advocate responses. Sometimes we generate a lot of “good likes”, while other times we also stir up a lot of other people who need to reply to your comment and go against what you are saying. Or, quite simply, attraction for the trolls. After all, it is the practice of exercising our First Amendment Rights. You are entitled to your opinion. I am entitled to my opinion. And so, everyone has an opinion. Since we are all hidden behind a computer, we happily share our thoughts with strangers and familiars.
Despite this “window” or “shield” that protects us from having to deal with “real life”, it is technically a form of real life. People have been fired for posting things on Facebook and Twitter. Imagine that: 140 characters can cost a person their entire career. Sometimes, for some of those people, that career was worth $100,000 or more a year. I don’t know about you, but to me, I’ll gladly take that kind of money, even if it means I have to hold my comments to myself. No matter who you are, you must be careful about what you post on your social media networks. Social media networks are certainly more acceptable and tolerated than they were in the past, but social media also gives us this empowerment, our voices, and sometimes, those voices need to remain in monologue and not shared with others. If anything, find a private group that shares your opinions and ideas, where no one knows you in real life and can damage you, and post everything there. If you have any doubts, if you are about to post something, and it crosses your mind that this statement could cost you a career, ask yourself: Is it really worth it?
Yes, the First Amendment protects us all from being jailed for saying something freely, but if a company feels threatened by keeping you employed, they do have the right to fire you for your thoughts and opinions. If you happen to be anti-establishment or you spew racial biases, yet you work in a very social setting with a lot of culturally different people, than your place of employment is technically going to protect them against you, and that might mean they have to fire you. No matter what company you work for, the company has its own best interests at heart first and foremost. If you do not represent the company’s ideals and values, you do not belong at that company.
Facebook feeds into our addictions of “not doing anything”, literally. The Facebook Feed is probably one of most powerful tools, capable of delivering tons of different news, articles, and events about anything and everything in minutes. This sucks most of our precious time away from us. Imagine if you took the amount of hours spent on Facebook, the minutes to hours spent just cruising, looking at headlines, looking at pictures your friends post, looking at the articles that are posted by the groups you liked in the past, and you spent time doing something productive, just think about all the things you could accomplish. For the majority of people, it is unfortunate, but it is true, that if we can take the easier path traveled, we will. People may argue with me on this, and there are certainly exceptions, of people rising up, above, and beyond to get out of their own bad habits, but for many people, they might work a few minutes and slack off for another few minutes.
I, myself, personally admit that I had a problem: If I was working on my own projects and it took a few seconds or a minute to load, I would navigate to Facebook even for just a minute or two, “while I waited”, to avoid “not doing anything”, and found myself constantly doing this no matter what. It was actually an addiction that I did not know was happening. Admitting this to myself and accepting the fact that I did it helped me understand that it was a problem. Fortunately, with the two extensions I am going to reveal below, I was able to combat my bad habit of Facebook navigation by simply eliminating my time (or limited to less than 5 minutes of day in the morning) on there and training myself for when I saw that button: Close the page.
Considering the fact that almost half of all Facebook users now get their news from Facebook directly and Facebook has a notorious problem it is trying to solve of stamping out fake news, the information people are actually reading is likely based on half-truths or outright lies, leading many people to make judgement, decisions, and conclusions based on nothing. The mainstream media is also losing credibility, as all the media tends to compete with each other for the “need to be the first, not to even be true anymore”, as Denzel Washington pointed out. If the society we live in starts believing these fake news stories, than we will create an illusion of falsehoods and believe them as truth. While it may seem harmless, the fact is: Fake news is extremely dangerous and has the potential to start a world war. If we cannot rely on any credible sources anymore, not even from the mainstream media, than we may as well shut off our televisions, stop reading the newspaper, stop finding articles to read online, and get right back into the dark ages of living in ignorance. All of this information available to us and most of it may not even be true. After all, “fake news” is still news that sells, and if people can make a living writing it, why not?
It took almost a week to break this bad habit of wanting to check Facebook, which as much as you may not even want to admit, but I will: Facebook is a waste of time. If you are spending more than 5 minutes a day on Facebook, you could be doing something better with your time. Fortunately, I was able to break the habit completely, but I did have to replace it with something else. I replaced my activity with checking my emails, reading an article (or articles) that I found interesting, or even just getting up and walking around the room instead. While this does not perfectly eliminate my habit, it has turned it into something that is more useful and productive.
For the most productive people, they have learned to slack off for a few minutes in the day, and that is their very small window. Any other time is not acceptable. In order to combat this desire to procrastinate, productive people have learned to either practice it on their own, or use tools to prevent them from distractions. The tools that I began using in order to prevent myself from getting distracted:
This tool gives you a set time limit to use Facebook and other websites you list. Once you visit these websites, a timer that you set, for the amount of time you set it at, begins and counts down. Once those minutes are gone, your ability to view the website ceases. Sure, you can uninstall the extension, but by that time, you can freely admit to yourself that you do have an issue with procrastination and you need to do other things to combat your situation. StayFocusd is good for people who still want to procrastinate for a period of time throughout the day, but also want to be held accountable for their procrastination.
This is another great tool for those who have a bit more self-control, but still find themselves hopping to Facebook for their procrastination needs. Rather than limit your time on Facebook, this hides the Facebook feed and gives you the ability to click a button in order to view it. Typing in “Facebook.com” into the address bar is an addiction for some people and may lead them on the path to procrastination. The Facebook Feed then feeds into the desire to prolong procrastination and not doing anything. Not seeing a Facebook Feed, however, changes your entire perception of Facebook, and upon seeing that button, and NOT clicking it, your ability to stay on Facebook actually ceases. Therein lies the cause of our addiction: The want to “know what else is going to come up on our feed”. (Speaking from personal experience of using this extension)
In giving up my Facebook News Feed, Facebook really becomes just a profile that you post things on. Similar to Twitter. Similar to LinkedIn. Similar to every other network. It loses its appeal completely. In understanding this, the truth of the matter is that, not to bash Facebook for its platform, as it has changed the entire world and helped many people keep in touch, but Facebook is not as “social” as we think it to be.
Hitting the emoticons, “like”, “love”, “sad”, “angry”, or “laugh” does not make us any more social at all. If anything, it worsens the social experience: Why “type out” something for a minute or two when I can spend 2 seconds hitting a link to a like button? Trolling some articles, most of which are probably fake news anyway, or biased news, and leaving a likely biased opinionated statement, while others either “like” or comment on your Facebook reply does not make you anymore social than sitting in your house all day. Spending time with your family, your children, your friends, and going outside and saying “hi” to people, volunteering your time to charity, spending time in the park walking your dog, even for a half hour a day is far more social than spending time on Facebook.
Facebook, in a way, makes us more anti-social. As if we are too busy in our day to actually reply and talk to an old friend from high school or our college days. Yes, that friend is more likely to reply to you on Facebook than in an email, but reconnecting on Facebook does not “rekindle” your friendship. I had a buddy from middle school, who I had lost all hope of finding, actually befriend me on Facebook. He wrote me a private message and said, “Hey Matt, this is my number, give me a call when you get a chance.”
And insanely enough, I had been traveling and was busy for the entire week, but a week later, I called my friend and we spoke for 2-3 hours on the phone, catching up. It was as if it was old times again and it was fun to listen to him, hear his voice, and have a conversation with my old buddy! That is being social. Not messaging back and forth and then forgetting the entire conversation existed, and walking away. No, rather, he had to actually go, and I was driving somewhere, so we said our goodbyes, knowing that we are back in touch, and hung up the phone.
These extensions are specifically for Google Chrome, but for every extension Chrome has, there is always an equivalent in Firefox and other browsers. I rarely use Firefox, so I would feel like I was cheating you if I did not review the plugins. Therefore, I leave you with these two tools that are powerful enough to at least lead you away from your desire to procrastinate on Facebook in order to get some real work done. I am 99% positive that Firefox has both of these, maybe by a different name, but they do exist.
If you want to test yourself, just see how much work you get done on a day where you cannot access Facebook vs. a day where you have unlimited access to Facebook. You will likely notice a huge difference. There are tools out there to help you stay focused and not lean towards procrastination. You will find probably find that you are much more productive. Take control of your life. Stop the distraction. Limit your time on Facebook.