This Sunday morning, as I crash-landed from three days on Planet Rosh Hashana, my wonderful friend Leah Aharoni announced that, following a lot of reflection over the holiday, she had made a resolution for the New Year:
She wanted to get off Facebook.
I told her that I understood that since I had made a similar decision about 9 months ago.
She was a little surprised to hear me say that, especially since we were having that very conversation… on Facebook. As I began to explain to her my system for using Facebook while rarely visiting the platform itself, a few other people expressed interest in how I did this. This inspired me to finally write this post, which has been brewing in my mind for many months.
It explains exactly what I do to retain the key benefits of Facebook without getting sucked into the less positive aspects of it.
Whether you are looking to cut back on your FB use; increase your FB activity but without getting sucked in; or block the dratted thing all together (temporarily or permanently), let me show you how you can still get some of the benefits without the drawbacks.
We Understand Each Other, Right?
Before diving under the hood, I just want to say that this post is not intended as a judgement on anyone’s Facebook habits. Facebook is an incredibly effective platform for anyone with a message that they want to broadcast to the world. Facebook is a venue where people learn from each other and help each other all day long. There are many good reasons to use it and to all of you who plan on doing so until 120: Gezunte Heit!
Personally, I was never a very active Facebook poster due to my shyness, but I used to spend a lot of time there, mostly as a lurker (and a liker). About nine months ago, I decided to block my Facebook access using a double layer of web filtering software (similar to what I describe in this post). And since then I rarely visit – maybe briefly once every week or two.
Since then I’ve noticed something very interesting: whenever I reveal that I have severely limited my Facebook access by choice, almost all my fellow FB users understand why without me even explaining myself.
They react with comments like:
- “Wow! I’m jealous”
- “I should also do that”
- “If I didn’t need it for work, I would do that too”
It seems that there is no one who uses the platform who doesn’t understand the drawbacks of it. So I will not spend anytime delving into them over here.
I Miss You, Facebook
At first I blocked all access to FB, which was a necessary measure at the time. I was relieved to get away from the negative aspects of the FB experience but eventually I started to miss certain positive aspects. For example:
- There are two FB groups that I have found so valuable. They are small groups with lots of helping, nothing much off-topic, and not too many posts. I missed the advice and support of my fellow group member.
- Facebook friends can become real friends. I missed my friends. There were times when I wanted to receive certain updates from certain people.
- I had an issue that people would message me via Facebook – important messages that I did not want to miss – but I would not see the messages until too late, or not at all. I also want to be able to respond to them, at least so they won’t think I’m ignoring them.
- I wanted to know right away if people were tagging me on Facebook, as people usually expect a response to a tag. Also I am interested to know what they are saying about me.
- My blog traffic suffered because I had stopped promoting my content on FB. Not doing this is throwing away the easiest way to grow the traffic and readership of my site.
So I asked myself if I should get back on Facebook. After all, I am a mature adult who is in command of my behavior at all times, right?
Umm… not quite!
So rather than caving into temptation, I began experimenting with how to use Facebook via email. It took some trial and error, but I eventually figured out how to use Facebook without using it, and have the benefits I wanted, without the drawbacks.
Here’s how I do it:
How to Block Facebook and Still Use Facebook
In this section, I go through how to use Facebook without visiting the site or app, mostly via email. The issues I solve for you are specifically the five positive benefits listed above that I missed about FB.
Have Total Control over your Email Notifications from Facebook
You can direct whatever aspects of your Facebook feed that interest you most into your email inbox, while filtering out everything you don’t want to see.
The page you control everything from is your “Notifications Settings” page. This screenshot shows you how to get there from inside your FB account.
Then click on “Email Notifications” and you can select exactly what you want to be notified about. Also on that page, you can select what Facebook groups you want notifications from by clicking on “Group Activity”
Want to see a video of me adjusting my email notifications? This video walks you through it.
How to Respond to Facebook Discussions Via Email
Once you will have set up your notifications, as described above, statuses and discussions that you want to hear about will start appearing in your inbox. To reply to a Facebook post, just hit reply, type and send. Not all notifications will allow a response. It depends on the kind.
Here are a few tips to make sure your replies go through properly and look normal on Facebook.
- If you have an automatic email signature line, make sure to always delete it before posting to Facebook, as it will appear in your post. If you have a link in your signature, this will create a preview in your FB post, which will probably be irrelevant to what you wrote, and make you look like a nudnik.
- Don’t delete or trim anything else or any previous parts of the existing discussion before replying. They will not show up in your FB post, but if you delete them, your post won’t go through at all.
- Unlike on the FB platform itself, you cannot edit a post or comment that you sent via email. So review what you wrote before you press send!
How to Post to Facebook via Email
You can get a secret, personalized email address to post Facebook status updates straight from your email. Obviously if someone were to discover this address and abuse it, they could wreak havoc with your reputation. So Facebook requires you to first verify your identity via SMS before they will assign you a personalized email address.
Here are the steps, courtesy of About.com
- Make sure you have access to a cell phone or other device or web service where you can receive SMS text messages.
- Click the triangle pointing down (▾) in Facebook’s top navigation bar.
- Select Settings from the menu that appears.
- Go to the Mobile category.
- If no phone is listed under Your phones::
- Click Add a Phone.
- If prompted for your password:
- Type your Facebook password under Password.
- Click Submit.
- Follow the Add your phone number here link.
- Select your country under Country code.
- Enter your phone number (not including the country code) under Phone number.
- Click Continue.
- Enter the confirmation code you received at the phone number over Enter confirmation code.
- Click Confirm.
- Find your Facebook upload email address listed near the bottom.
Make sure to keep your secret email top secret.
How to Start New Discussions on Facebook Groups via Email
And what if you want to create a new discussion on a Facebook group, as opposed to respond to a discussion, as explained above? Each FB group has a unique email address that allows members to post via email. You will have to ask the group admin to share this address with you. If they don’t know what you are talking about, send them this link.
Assuming you have good standing in the group, most admins are glad to do this, since it increases activity on their group and makes it more user-friendly. The email address will look something like this: email@example.com
How to Receive and Send Facebook Messages Via Email
You can direct all FB messages to your email inbox and also reply to them from there. These notifications can be turned on on the “Settings Notifications” page pictured above.
How to Promote Your Blog Content on Facebook Remotely
Want to let the world know about your awesome new blog post? Don’t want to pay a visit to FB-land in person?
Here are three ways to do it:
- You can use your secret, personalized email address (as described above) to update your profile about your post.
- You can connect your Twitter account to your Facebook account, so when you post it to Twitter, it will automatically appear on FB too.
- If you are using WordPress, you can use a plugin that automatically updates FB when you publish a new post. The beauty of this is that you can use it to post to a page, as well as to your personal profile. This feature is included with the Jetpack’s “Publicize” feature, but there are many other plugins that will do this for you.
Warning: There’s No Place Like Facebook
This post contains a lot of practical tips for getting some of the benefits of FB without using the platform. However, I do not claim that these methods will allow you to maximize the marketing and networking potential of Facebook.
Not even close!
If it’s important to you to rapidly grow your audience and network via Facebook, you just have to be there. I don’t think you can grow your network like this, but you can maintain your existing relationships pretty well. So if your job, project or personal situation obligates you to do full-blown Facebook marketing, these tips will not cut it for you.
But if you are feeling the need for a break from Facebook or wondering what life could be like without it (even for a week), these tips allow you to do that, without totally cutting yourself off from the benefits.
So if you feel ready, you now have permission to give it a try.
And let me know how it goes.