Note on Dec. 15, 2019: I updated the end of this blog post with how the detox went.
I just wanted to use social media less when I started this journey a few years ago.
But one year ago, I deleted my accounts completely.
If I had solved most of the problems I had with social media just by using them less, then why chuck them in the trash altogether? Because I noticed that whenever I did log in and browse for a bit, I’d always, always come away feeling worse.
Continuing to use them after they'd stopped serving me was a classic case of the “any-benefit” fallacy Cal Newport describes in his book Deep Work. 
I assumed that Facebook was still providing me some benefit by my face and name just existing as a profile in the online directory. But in practice, Facebook was only making my life worse on the occasional basis when I got lost down a rabbit-hole of viewing my acquaintance’s lives through a performative filter. (Am I the only one who finds this deeply depressing?)
Two-and-a-half years ago, I started with a 30-day detox of all my accounts, as Newport recommends. After a year without Facebook, I’m testing out his any-benefit principle again.
I’m doing a 30-day Facebook retox.
Can Facebook and I peacefully co-exist?
In another of Newport’s books, Digital Minimalism , he writes that studies have found that social media makes people both happier and sadder. What determines which way you go is how you use it.
That I felt an instant dread when I re-activated my Facebook was probably an indication of the way I was using it before: As a “connection” platform, with most of that “connection” being digital.
In a year without Facebook, here’s what I didn’t miss:
- Any interaction that takes place on Facebook
That means any Likes, comments, or status updates, both reading others’ or posting my own.
Basically, I didn’t miss the whole point of Facebook, to use it as an end in and of itself.
This aligns with Newport’s findings:
“The more you use social media to interact with your network, the less time you devote to offline communication…The key issue is that using social media tends to take people away from the real-world socializing that’s massively more valuable.”
My question for my retox then is: How can I use Facebook solely as a tool for finding that “massively more valuable” real-world socializing?
Because here’s what I DID miss in my year off of Facebook:
- The times that Facebook would have helped me interact with someone offline
I got the idea to try this retox because I’m living in the digital nomad mecca of Chiang Mai, Thailand for a month. There are a lot of events happening offline, but they’re often organized online.
Here’s my plan for using Facebook in the next 30 days:
The only time those things are allowed is if they lead directly to offline interaction.
(I also absolutely never use social media on my phone — desktop only. And I’m making a distinction here between Facebook and Messenger, the latter of which I do use on my phone, and have been using for the last year. I see it as a messaging app — not social media. As long I don’t watch stories.)
I’m skeptical, though. Is Facebook really worth it?
Newport’s “any-benefit” fallacy is the idea that if a tool provides you any benefit, no matter how small, you use it because you’re not taking into account the disadvantages it also has.
In my reactivation of Facebook, I’ve already gotten lost down the rabbit hole a couple of times.
And I’m just drawn back by FOMO?
When I quit Facebook altogether, it was because the negatives greatly outweighed any positives. In that year without it, there were three instances where I missed out on connecting with someone offline because I didn’t have it. Of course, there could have been more instances I was unaware of; these were only the ones that came to my attention later.
But is FOMO enough reason to rejoin Facebook? (The JOMO movement — Joy of Missing Out — would probably argue no.)
For me, being off Facebook has been a trade-off where I come out ahead. Sure, some opportunities are missed, but I’ll gladly miss them for what I gain: Peace of mind, a (mostly) distraction-free life, and a loss of that keep-up-with-the-Joneses mentality that I feel when I look at a highlight reel of the lives of everyone I’ve ever met.
I’m curious if I can make Facebook solely into a tool for offline connection. Can I turn the tide back to Facebook’s positives outweighing its negatives?
And do you have any tips on how to do so? Comment below.
Update on Dec. 15, 2019:
So, how did the retox go? It's largely been inconsequential. Initially, there were a couple of times that I fell down a social media rabbit hole, but that excitement waned quickly. I can tell the impulse doesn't hold the power it once did, and I'm able to extricate myself more easily, or avoid it altogether. It's like looking at a giant delicious cake, knowing that eating it would be pleasurable in the short-term, but would feel terrible immediately after.
I haven't used Facebook to connect in-person as much as I thought I would, but I'll keep my profile around just to exist in the largest online person directory, and keep that opportunity open.
I still find the world of social media fascinating, in a sort of anthropological way. But I feel like I'm ending the chapter on my personal struggles with trying to understand my relationship to it. It feels freeing, and peaceful.