Turning Off Facebook’s Newsfeed

3 minute read

It seems like more and more, that the only way to win at social media…is not to play.

Facebook definitely has some global problems right now, but that doesn’t mean that you as an individual have to be beholden to that.

You’re perfectly allowed to Kobayashi Maru the whole thing and find your way out of the un-winnable scenario that Facebook paints itself into as you use it.

Here’s my one example.

Two years ago, I unfollowed everyone on Facebook.

My Newsfeed

This is what Facebook looks like with no Newsfeed on mobile.

I didn’t delete the app, I didn’t unfriend everyone.

I simply clicked on each friend I had an then clicked ‘unfollow’. This way, their posts would no longer fill up my newsfeed — in fact it would completely remove the Newsfeed — and I would be using Facebook on my own terms.

See, I wanted to get rid of Facebook altogether. As the child of four psychologists, I take heed when I hear about how social media in general and Facebook in particular can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. It makes us depressed.

I’m not too proud to admit that I wasn’t immune to the negative effects of Facebook and increase in stress-related hormones. And I have FOMO just as much as the next person.

But I didn’t want to delete the app altogether. Truth be told, Facebook really has been a good channel for connecting with old friends and acquaintances (particularly as I work in the international sector), as well as a couple of work-related groups and for planning social events.

Fundamentally, there’s still some good stuff there and the nuclear option of deletion seemed like overkill — for now.

But there’s three things to keep in mind:

1. Facebook will try to stop you from unfollowing everyone.

At some point in the process (I think it took me an hour or so), there is a warning that came up and said, “Hey, we see you’re doing something unintended with Facebook, are you sure you want to do that?” — I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was something to that effect. It had the opposite impact on me and rather than feel hesitant it actually made me want to double down.

2. I can still get updates to my friends and family

So it turns out I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the important things anyway. I would find out what people were up to the old fashioned way — by talking with friends and family and hearing it from them. But what I ended up really appreciating was that I could still actually find out what they were up to by proactively checking up on their profile page. It sounds trivial, but there is something different about that tiny step of having someone pop up in your head and searching out updates versus simply assuming you’ll see something about them if it’s important and noteworthy (and don’t get me started on Facebook’s algorithm of what you will and won’t see anyway).

3. It really does feel better

I didn’t do a randomized control trial on myself or anything. But honestly I haven’t looked back since doing it.

Occasionally a friend will be surprised that I didn’t know about their engagement or about a new job — but honestly that was happening anyway while I still had a news feed, so who knows.

And yes, your close friends and family might feel miffed that you’ve unfollowed them too.

But hey, they should rejoice in knowing that you’re doing it to do exactly what you’d be doing just then anyway — talking to them about relationships in the real world.

So I wholeheartedly recommend removing yourself from the slings and arrows of Facebook’s addictive algorithms. Use messaging, phone calls, RSS feeds for news — my family even has a dedicated Slack team we use to share things.

As the Kobayashi Maru taught us — There is no such thing as an un-winnable scenario.