Facebook used to be a lot simpler — an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family.
Now, it’s a riotous mess. My news feed has descended into a chaos of food pictures, fake/real/cute news, and venomous rants that I don’t really give two figs about. Then buried somewhere in there are the few posts from friends and family that I do care about, which surface from time to time, depending on the weather and the whims of the algorithmic gods.
Maybe I’m getting crabby in my middle age, but I don’t know what Facebook is supposed to be anymore. And yet, I still mindlessly check in multiple times a day for — for what? A quick dopamine hit?
So I decided to do an experiment.
I couldn’t quit Facebook, as I need an account for my work. But what if I unfollowed everyone from Facebook? Would that make it a more pleasant experience and prevent me from checking in so often?
So that’s what I did. This is how I did it, and what happened next.
Facebook doesn’t make it easy to nuke everything you’re following. Instead, I had to do a lot of clicking. I clicked on the drop-down menu on the upper right, then chose News Feed Preferences.
On the pop-up window that followed, I clicked on Unfollow people to hide their posts. Then I clicked on each and every one of the friends, pages, and groups I was following to unfollow them.
This took a while. Facebook doesn’t show you everything you’re following on a single load, so after finishing a batch, I had to click out of the menu, and click back in again to continue clicking.
You know you’ve finished the clickathon when you use the drop-down menu in the unfollow box, and select Friends only, Pages only, Groups only, and find that nothing shows up anymore in any of the options.
My news feed was still showing me posts after I finished step two. I realized that Facebook was still intent on showing me posts from people I’d prioritized from before, so I had to go back to the modal window in step 1, select Prioritize who to see first, and unfollow everyone there.
That was when I finally reached ‘Facebook Zero.’ My news feed was no longer showing me posts from anyone. In fact, the only thing it’d show me from then on were ads, my most recent posts, and my ‘Facebook memories.’
It’s been more than four weeks since I went nuclear on my follows and turned my Facebook news feed into a silo of one. So what’s it been like?
I like it. Instead of feeling a desolate wasteland, my empty news feed is more like a sea of calm. With nothing to see, I’ve stopped going to Facebook as much on the desktop, and hardly ever at all on mobile (in fact, I’ve moved the Facebook app into a folder on the last page of my phone, and haven’t missed it).
I have missed things. I did my purge while my brother went overseas to Japan, and I missed all of his updates. My wife had to tell me about them, and I had to key in his name to view his profile (kind of like old Facebook, for you folks who remember). I have zero idea now what the rest of my friends are up to.
Lest you think I’ve become an anti-social grouch, I’ve actually discovered a better way to keep in touch with friends and family — WhatsApp. Yeah, seriously. The less I use Facebook, the more I’ve used WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook) when I have something to share.
Instead of watching from the sidelines into my friends’ lives, or throwing an opinion into the ether and hoping for a ‘Like,’ I simply message a friend and start a conversation. At least that way, I’m guaranteed a human connection instead of wishing someone responds to a post.
So, that’s what it’s been like to unfollow everyone on Facebook. Would I go back and refollow people again? After a month of living clean, I don’t feel the urge to do it, so Facebook Zero is probably going to be my new normal.
What about you? Would you unfollow everyone on Facebook and go on a news feed purge?
Note: This opinion was first published on 12th March 2017.
I like coffee and cameras, but not together.