Double rainbow 05/03/15. Photo by Theresa Cassiday, Catena Creations

What I learned from my 1-month break from Facebook

Sometimes you don’t know how important something is in your life, or how well it works for your business, until you take it out for a while. I did that in May 2015 when I took a month-long break from Facebook.

I’d been wanting to try this for a long time. A couple of topic-based pages I follow had so many posts (15 or more per day!) that I was getting overwhelmed. Especially by the celebrity who links only to those annoying sites where it takes 7 pages to get through 15 photos.  And there’s all the posts you see from Facebook that tell you someone Liked or commented on a post, but you can only Share the post. I really don’t see the point in this.

I also wanted to see how much I used Facebook for business. I don’t have Catena Creations page on Facebook, just my personal one. I tried it for a year, but the business friends who found me were liking my personal page, not my business one. So that’s the only one I use.

Since I manage Facebook pages for five clients, I knew I couldn’t quit cold turkey. I’d have to figure out a way to keep track of those pages while cutting off the rest. A dispute with a Facebook-obsessed friend finally gave me the incentive to do it. Now I could take a break from both. Here’s what I ended up doing:

I kept all of my friends, but unfollowed most of them. To do this, you go to the friend’s timeline, then click the Following box so it changes to Follow. You stay friends with them, but their posts no longer appear in your news feed.

The only ones I continued to follow were three relatives in Germany, my niece and her husband in Chicago (gotta keep the cute baby pictures coming!), and a friend who was getting radiation therapy five times a week for breast cancer. She has finally finished and is doing well. A week before the test ended, I re-followed another friend whose mother died suddenly so I could keep up with him and the funeral arrangements.

On the information side, I kept following my clients, naturally. I unfollowed all other Likes pages and companies, except for a faith-based blog that’s very important to me, and one humor blog to keep the laughs coming.

catena-creations-bannerWhen I started, I announced it through a post. I also created a graphic for my Timeline photo that said I was taking a break, and changed my profile image as well. I let my clients know that I wouldn’t be on Facebook as often, in case they wanted me to check it more.

The changes dropped my news feed down to two to six posts a day. Wow. What a huge change!  I checked Facebook twice a day, in the morning and evening, and that was it. I just made sure my clients’ pages were OK, went through my posts, and posted blog links for clients as needed.

I admit, I went through some “withdrawal” the first few days. I was used to checking this four to six times a day and spending quite a bit of time on it. Fortunately, I was so busy last month that I had plenty of ways to divert my attention. But that meant so many things I wanted to post, both personally and professionally, were delayed or dismissed.

And that was probably the biggest surprise of all. I’m guessing that at least half of what I would have posted would have been related to my work as president and owner of Catena Creations. For example, we had a double rainbow here the day after I started the break. Being the photographer that I am, I ran outside and got a bunch of great photos before it disappeared. However, I resisted the urge to put them on Facebook, and posted them only on Twitter.

Most of the posts would have included thanking vendors and colleagues. So many things happened in May! Kristin Koopman at Midwest Impressions helped me create a banner for conference displays, and pick out p
ens to co-brand with my partners at The Gage Team. I added three new clients and renewed contracts with others. I went to a great networking event, and took photos at another client’s conference.

I came back online on Sunday night, May 31. Before I did, I went through my Friends list and unfriended several people. I also didn’t re-follow some of them. Same thing for the corporate Likes. I’m just not ready yet for all this information. Still, it was a bit overwhelming this morning when I went to check my news feed and had to spend some time on it.

Please note, I didn’t take a break from ALL social media — just Facebook. It’s the one I use the most, and the one that has the most interaction.

The experience has showed me how much I use this tool to interact with family, friends and business colleagues, and much I missed it when it was gone. But it also showed me how much information I was filtering and managing every day, just to stay in touch.

Social media can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I hate electronic conversations — one of those led to the dispute with my friend. There are times when a phone call needs to be made.

However, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends you normally wouldn’t see frequently, and family far away. It’s kept me connected to some cousins and some crazy people and some colleagues that if communication were left up to phone calls and emails, I’d probably have lost touch with them.

Facebook and other social media are also easy to use to keep people updated in quick-changing situations, such as my friend who had cancer and my other friend whose mom died. I didn’t have to call — I just had to log in. And they only had to post one thing, one time, to reach everyone. I have very much appreciated these quick, easy updates.

My next project will be to find some ways to better streamline what appears on my Facebook. Today I learned about the Facebook Purity plug-in for browsers that gives you greater control over what appears. However, most of my Facebook access comes through my iPad app, and I couldn’t find this in the App Store.

As I explore options to better manage the information, I’ll post them here — and on my Facebook.