I’m a Facebook addict. Up until recently, if I had a browser tab with Facebook open and it showed a notification that there was something new to see, I had to check it out immediately. This interfered with my productivity significantly. It’s one thing to stay in touch, but it’s quite another to obsessively check for new updates every 5 minutes. Seriously — what can people post that’s that important?
I realized that the problem was that Facebook was always in my face. One glance up at the little Facebook browser tab, and one glimpse of a “(1)” next to “Facebook”, I’d be clicking that tab and wasting another 5 to 15 minutes browsing Facebook again. Sounds familiar? It can be solved.
Realizing I had a serious issue, I decided to do two things. First, I started using a timer to make my online work time more focused. I tried Justin’s favorite, Tomato.es, but then settled on Toggl instead. Second, I decided to make Facebook itself a little less accessible, but still easy to check when I had the time.
To accomplish this, I tested a long list of browser-based and desktop-based Facebook apps, and finally settled on three solutions that I felt performed this task best. These three solutions make it possible to still use Facebook, but it keeps Facebook from using you. It keeps the visibility of Facebook just enough away from your normal Internet use that it won’t distract you quite so easily. Basically, these three solutions let you keep using Facebook, without Facebook taking over your life.
Making Facebook Do the Work
The key here is to use Facebook as a tool that serves you information about your friends and family. It should serve it to you when you ask for it, not throw it at you when you don’t. I really liked the idea of FlipToast, which Steve covered a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, it’s discontinued, which seems to be the fate of many Facebook desktop apps.
Thankfully, one desktop app that still works well, not only with Facebook but with LinkedIn and Twitter as well, is Sobees, which Evan reviewed a few years ago, and Aaron touched upon more recently in his post about 5 ways to easily access social networks from a single app.
Sobees Desktop App [Windows]
Sobees is my favorite of the three solutions I”m going to offer. Like most other social networking desktop apps like TweetDeck, Sobees lets you lay out Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn updates in column formats.
However, to make it less in-your-face than TweetDeck and other similar services, you can reconfigure Sobees to use a single column format.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can only see one service at a time. What it means is that your data is displayed in a single column only, but you can view different networks in different tabs. To enable this, go into the Sobees Options, you can change the “Switch to column/tab view” setting to the tab view option.
This keeps the Sobees windows small and off to the side of your desktop, but you can still toggle through and view your other social network updates when you want. You can also make Sobees less distracting by deselecting “Enable notifications” and selecting “Minimize to tray”.
This lets you keep everything to do with Facebook completely out of sight, until you’re ready to browse. When you are, you just right click on the Sobees icon in the system tray and open the app.
When you’re in the app, you’re focused on Facebook. When it’s closed, you’re focused only on your work, as you should be. No notifications and no distractions.
If you don’t use Windows, Sobees is also available as a Web app.
If you really prefer Facook to be inside your browser, you can still reduce the degree to which it distracts you by installing an extension for Chrome called Facebook for Chrome. This is a popular, highly-rated extension that places a Facebook icon in your browser toolbar. You can click the icon to get a quick glance at the latest Facebook updates.
Each of the small icons on the right gives you access to all of the same Facebook areas you’d browse if you visited the site. You can get updates, latest notifications, and you can post an update if you want. The beauty of this is that you aren’t going to Facebook itself, so you really won’t be distracted or tempted to stay there longer than it takes to just check updates and notifications.
You can even use it to post a few comments in reply to your friends’ posts, or publish a post to your wall if you want, and then call it quits.
You’re done with Facebook in a fraction of the time, and you can get back to work. It’s not quite as “out of the picture” as the Sobees solution, but if you really don’t want to go outside your browser to access Facebook, then this is the next best solution.
Send Facebook Updates To Your Email Inbox [Windows]
This last solution is for the extreme Facebook addict that needs to avoid going near anything that has to do with Facebook at all, but still wants to see what friends are posting. You don’t want to lose touch with your friends’ lives, which is perfectly understandable, but Facebook is taking over your life. To overcome your severe Facebook addiction, you can use two tools that I’ve covered previously — FBCMD and Blat — to extract status updates from Facebook, and send those via email, and all from a command line. Note that this is a Windows-only solution.
You’ll need to set up both FBCMD and Blat on your PC, so first visit those articles linked to above and go through the setup procedures described there. Important: make sure you’ve authorized FBCMD with full access to your Facebook account by following the instructions in that article.
Once you’re done, create a batch file called CheckFacebook.bat, with a single line in it.
fbcmd fstream 1>>c:\temp\blat\newstream.txt
Second, create another batch file called SendEmail.bat, and insert the following single line.
blat newstream.txt -to firstname.lastname@example.org -subject Latest_Friends_Update
These two BAT files should both be in your Blat folder where you installed the Blat application. Once you have these created, you can create a scheduled task to run the script to check Facebook every few hours. For example, you can create a new scheduled task, make the trigger every 4 hours for an entire day, and schedule it daily.
Make this task launch the CheckFacebook.bat job.
Finally, create a second scheduled task to run every 4 hours as well, but make the start time about 10 minutes after the first task you created.
What this setup does is this: The first batch job uses an FBCMD command to check for the last batch of friend status updates, and writes it to a text file called newstream.txt. The second batch job then emails the contents of that txt file to your email address of choice. This is what Blat looks like when it runs and sends over the Facebook status updates text file.
Here’s what the Facebook updates email looks like once received.
With this setup, you don’t even have to think about Facebook. You can rest assured that the latest updates from your friends and family will be delivered to your inbox. You’ll stay in the loop, even though you didn’t sit there checking Facebook every 5 minutes.
Facebook is a problem for a lot of people. Clearly, there’s something about it that works with the human psyche to foster this unusual addiction — this need to constantly check it. Hopefully, one of the three solutions above will help you overcome your addiction, if Facebook has become a problem for you too. If not, Tina wrote about how to deal with Facebook procrastination using different methods, you mind find your solution there!
Have you ever tried dropping Facebook entirely? Do you use any apps to keep Facebook from becoming such a distraction? Share your insights and feedback in the comments section below!
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