My Six Month Vacation from Facebook

In November of 2016, I decided to quit Facebook. About 6 months later, I got back on. I made this decision based on a few different reasons. One of the reasons was that I was hugely influenced by the book Deep Work by Cal Newport.

In this book, Newport encourages you to think about what social media does to your mind and how easily it interrupts your train of thought.  He asks, “Is it adding value to your life?”

I decided that it was subtracting more value than adding, and decided to quit.  At the time, I believed it would be for good.  Alas, I am back on, and part of the Facebook community once again.

This post will offer my experiences and observations before quitting, while I was away, and my return.

Before Quitting

Prior to quitting, I used Facebook incorrectly, ostracizing myself from many family and friends. Believing I was doing some sort of good by including fact checks in comments, sharing different memes, and having very partisan posts both religiously and politically,

I felt that I was enlightening people, and would bring them over to the good side (which is the incorrect way of saying “my side”).

How many times have you been around someone who is beyond frustrated with somebody on Facebook, rolling their eyes as they vent to you about how insanely stupid that somebody is?  They may go as far as telling you what their comment to them was, giving them the feeling as if they had “set them straight.”

Is this healthy? Is this a good use of your time? Do you suppose this person set the other person straight?

Or, is it more likely they have pushed them farther away and exacerbated the situation?

Recognizing my behavior and having a desire to put the concepts inside Deep Work to practice led me to finally make the decision to quit.

While I Was Away

Quitting Facebook was difficult. They warn you at several points how much stuff will be lost, and repeatedly ask you “Are you Suuuuuure???”  Facebook will hold on to your page for a specific time, and will warn you that it will all go away if you don’t come back after that certain time.

Like a band-aid, I tore it off.  Then, I stayed gone so that I lost everything.  In a way, I wanted to lose everything (read the previous section).

It was bliss.

During this time, I engaged in conversation more. I was much less distracted (as I also quit all other social media including Instagram, Twitter, and Untappd).  The amount of work I was able to accomplish increased. I read more.

One important book that I read during this time was Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt is a moral psychologist, and explains in his book 5-6 different “moral matrices” that each of us put different levels of weight in.  These different levels provide an answer to the subtitle.

It was a very enlightening read that I highly recommend to everyone.

The strawman fallacy was another important concept of which I became aware, and understood I was guilty of during my time on Facebook.  I feel this is the most common logical fallacy that people on Facebook commit. You can click the link to get a definition of strawman as well as other logical fallacies, but I will put it below for convenience.

By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone’s argument, it’s much easier to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational debate.

Example: After Will said that we should put more money into health and education, Warren responded by saying that he was surprised that Will hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenseless by cutting military spending.


Just about every single political meme that is somehow in response to the other side’s actions is going to be guilty of this fallacy. Once you are aware of the strawman fallacy, you will begin to notice it everywhere!!

My Return

As a member of several organizations around town, and as someone who was blogging a little bit more, I began to get drawn back in to the usefulness of Facebook.

Using the group function of Facebook, you can organize and get messages out to a lot of people very easily.  Events can be created, and events around your community that you are interested can get on your radar much more easily (there are several events I have attended in the Topeka area and enjoyed that I would not have otherwise known about).

It is also nice to get my blog posts out to a wider audience.

Thus, I returned.  Besides one of my posts that came a little too close to political (which I have to thank my friend Gerrit for pointing out), I feel like I have done a decent job of staying away from ostracizing myself from friends and family who have differing views than me.

I’ve tried to stay positive.

It probably isn’t necessary to take as long a break as I did from Facebook, but I do encourage all of you to really think about how you’re using it.  Think twice about posting something that you don’t care how your so-and-so family member is going to interpret it.

What is the purpose?  Do you just want to get the likes and shares of the people you already agree with?  Do you honestly need that validation, at the expense of pushing others away?

Just think about it, please.  And keep me in check, as I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

Taking Your Own Advice

“How do you stay fit and drink a lot of beer?” I was asked this question recently, and it took some thought.

For those that know me pretty well, I have given the perception that I drink a lot of beer.  It is true that I really like beer (I even make the stuff at home) and that I probably drink a lot more than I should.  However, drinking beer is a very social thing to do.  To perceive me drinking a lot of it, you must be in my presence, which begets a social atmosphere.

There are a lot of times when you are not perceiving me. Although I drink beer when you are not observing as well, it isn’t nearly as much. My trick is that my activity level usually increases along with most of my social interactions.

But I heard a bigger, more overarching question, and that was this: How do I get myself to a point where I’m fit and I can seemingly eat and drink whatever it is that I want?

Why My Advice Won’t Help

I could tell you my daily routines, habits, and rituals.  I could fill you in on my diet and exercise routine.  I could explain how these rituals have broken bad habits that I thought I would really miss and not be able to quit.

What would inevitably happen is that you would find something within all of this advice that you just couldn’t do.  You would tell yourself that such-and-such would not work because of so-and-so.  Therefore, it is hopeless.

So, what advice would you give to a friend or family member coming to you with your problems?

On one level, wisdom is nothing more than the ability to take your own advice. It’s actually very easy to give people good advice. It’s very hard to follow the advice that you know is good… If someone came to me with my list of problems, I would be able to sort that person out very easily.

-Sam Harris

Small Changes

In order to take your own advice, you will need to be able to make small changes in your life and not be scared to fail and make mistakes.  To make these small changes stick, you’ll need to learn how to form good habits. In order to form good habits, you need to have the correct mindset, which is one of growth (as opposed to the fixed mindset that tells yourself that you are doomed).

To accomplish all of this, you need to fully KNOW with your entire being that you can and will accomplish the things you have set out within your own advice.  You also need to know that it will take small, incremental changes and adjustments.  One small success begets a larger success.

Find Your Carrot

It will help to find someone within your own life 1-10 years older than you whom you aspire to emulate, and may currently and incorrectly believe you could never become like when you get to be that age.

The truth is you can. It starts in your head, and then takes the first small step.

This post used the following references, all of which I highly recommend.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Mindset by Carol Dweck

A Confused Ass

Earlier this year, I adopted the habit of reading something short before I go to bed and right upon waking up.  The first book I used to build this habit was Seneca: Letters from a Stoic.

Seneca’s letters were short enough that this wasn’t a huge commitment.  The trick is to find a book with really short chapters or small tidbits of wisdom or advice.  My habit continues with Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, as it also has short sections that can be read pretty quickly.

Recently, I read the section devoted to Derek Sivers. When asked what advice he would give to his 30 year old self, he responded with “Don’t be a donkey.”

This would have been wonderful advice for my 30 year old self, since it has only resonated with me in recent years.

The idea is this: the donkey is right in the middle (equidistant) of some hay and water, and is both thirsty and hungry. The donkey looks left, looks right, and repeats this as the donkey doesn’t know what need to satisfy first until it falls over dead from both thirst and hunger.

At whatever age we are, many of us want to do so much with the life that we have remaining. We’d like to try, learn, or experiment with so many new things, that we don’t know where to start. Sadly, because of this decision fatigue, we don’t start anywhere.

We, like the donkey, die of that decision fatigue, when all we needed to do is understand that if we choose something, there will be time in the future for that other thing as well!

Just last week, my friend Jonathan reminded me of a very important and related concept, that The Time Will Pass Anyway!

Quite some time ago, I remember wanting to learn or strengthen another language. But of what language should I learn more?  I had a few years of Spanish in High School, a few semesters of German in college.  I have visited France and want to return someday.  I wanted to visit Scandinavia, but what country?

I finally made a decision to focus on Norwegian.  “I’m going to learn Norwegian,” I told myself.  This may take several years to get anywhere near fluent.

Those several years are going to pass me by, regardless of whether I had decided to learn a new language or not.  Now that I’ve chosen a path, several years from now, I can choose another path.

I can go toward the hay, now that I’ve had that drink of water (or vice versa).

So what about you?  Are you going to decide on something, or remain a confused ass?

Featured Photo by Spencer Watson on Unsplash

Stepping Away from Your Comfort Zone

Leaving one’s comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable.  Humans have a basic necessity of feeling competent at what they do in order to be content (Junger, Tribe).  Stemming from this need is a fear that taking on something new and different will lead to feeling incompetent.

This is The Resistance (Pressfield, The War of Art), and the more that you fight and overcome The Resistance, the easier it becomes.

The goal should be to step away from your comfort zone enough that the concept morphs into an oxymoron.

Do you know of a place outside my comfort zone?  There are plenty of such places, but as an insatiable experimenter and neophile, I continually pursue the eradication of these places.

I’m not convinced that I have found all of my potential passions in life. This is why I believe one should fight the resistance as much as one can, and get outside your comfort zone.

It was fighting this resistance that led me to learn Norwegian, begin Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and to plan a trip with Erin to Norway which includes a 10 mile hike to one of the most beautiful places on earth.  At the time of this post, we should be on our way from Stavenger back to Bergen for another three nights. I hope to share some pictures and details of our trip next week.

The Tribal Element

If an outside observer happened to look into a specific building around 6:25pm on Tuesday, May 1st, this is what they would have seen.

A bunch of individuals wearing different colored Japanese pajamas, with different colored belts, were lined up in two rows.  On a closer inspection, the observer may have noticed all those wearing white belts were lined up in the row against the wall, and the row in front of them had other colored belts (blue, purple, brown).  Standing out front, the leader of the group was wearing a black belt.

On this particular day, the leader called one of the white belts forward, took a piece of athletic tape, and wrapped it around a small black portion of the white belt. A sentiment was shared, others clapped, and the individual returned to the line along the wall.

Then there was running in circles, some sort of interpretive dance, and then quite a lot of very intense cuddling.

So what is this observer supposed to take from this?  What happened?  What does this mean to these individuals?

The Tribe

Within the tribe, this ritual has very specific and special meaning. Each time a teammate gets a stripe or moves up a belt, it is a promotion.  It is a sign of progress.  Although the individual is singled out in this moment and recognized in front of his/her teammates, it is understood on a tribal level, that this was a collective effort.

The tribe must exist before the individual.

In my previous post, Evaluating a New Venture, I introduced a very important and key component of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is a deep tribal aspect. I became interested enough that I wanted to look more into this instinct that is within us all.  Indeed, this is an evolutionary trait that we all have.

In Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, he describes the early human tribes, and the consequences and rewards of such instinctual behavior.

Junger outlines three basic human needs that keep us all from going crazy:

  • They need to feel competent at what they do.
  • They need to feel authentic in their lives.
  • They need to feel connected to others.

It is that third necessity that he really dives into, observing right away that “modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

This necessity is a root cause of PTSD in combat veterans. They go from a situation of intense interdependence within their troop, one in which they serve a crucial and necessary role, to the society just described.

It is this connectedness, camaraderie, and closeness that ignites the passion for Jiu Jitsu. This tribal feeling is powerful.  It is why combat veterans feel compelled to go back. It is why some teammates have turned down great offers elsewhere in their careers or lives.

We are born with a sense of the pleasantness of friendship just as other things. In the same way as there exists in man a distaste for solitude and a craving for society, natural instinct drawing one human being to another, so too with this there is something inherent in it that stimulates us into seeking friendships.