What Derek Sivers taught me about Facebook


I’ve just got into an argument with somebody, I’m confused by all of the options and I’m not sure if you’ll still want to be my friend.

Everybody wants to be popular, to have people like them.

But I had begun to enjoy being a hermit, sitting in the dark and being ignorant of all of the cool things my ex-Facebook friends were up to.

Except, for two things. I wanted more people to connect with my blog and I wanted to be able to connect more easily with real life friends, and those friends were really bad at staying in touch via email.

So I thought about Facebook again. And I started to feel depressed. It’s a messy, superficial, behemoth of a social network where you and I are the product, not the customer.

I’d looked at other social networks and many of them were better, more secure and more delightful to use. But nobody was on them, so they were useless.

What could I do?

Reach out to someone wiser, cooler and more unafraid than me. Derek Sivers.

For a gazillionaire, who writes and delivers some of the best online advice I’ve seen, he didn’t need to reply to me. But he did (and does reply to everyone who emails him)

I asked his advice and shortly afterwards I received a concise, thought out and friendly reply back.

Here’s what I do, and I recommend it for your situation:

– Don’t have it anywhere on your phone

– Give it a long password you can’t remember, but have it saved somewhere on your hard drive to copy-and-paste.  Really long one like vy43=x-TIpN^IVB.^~Se%V*8wWDpLaSjOcj1MjQJ so that there’s no chance you’ll ever type it in from your phone.

– Log in once every few days to see if there’s anything you need to know through direct messages or the few places that might message you there.

– Immediately log out.  Ideally about 2 minutes later.  10, max.

That’s it!  Don’t post anything personal in there.  No photos, no updates.  (Just one photo so people know it’s you.)  It’s not where you keep in touch with friends, even if it may be where they keep in touch with you.

And he was right. The key to me was the very last line “It’s not….

I’m not looking for Facebook to be where I keep in touch with friends. I’m looking for it to assist me in keeping in touch with friends. To allow me to arrange real life opportunities to spend time with people I want to be with. By not filling my timeline with pointless trivia I’m being more mindful of my attention and that of my friends too.

On my Facebook page, it’s a different story. Here it’s not about building relationships with friends, but rather helping me to show my work to a larger number of friends and acquaintances. Just like in my other channels of G+, Twitter and Instagram.

I feel more clear now about why I am using Facebook again and am approaching it from a much more mindful place.

Except I’m not…

You see I wrote the draft of this post (everything above the “Except I’m not…) back in May. I left it in my NValt files to look at and refine later. And then having completely forgotten about it I came to write a post with exactly the same title.

I wanted to write a post because post-Brexit vote I’ve become aware that I’ve slipped back into the negative side of Facebook. I’ve argued with people about their decision to stay or leave. I’ve corrected people who’s opinions I didn’t agree with. I’ve read comments by friends that have upset me or made me wonder about their motivations. Negative, negative, negative.

In short, what I was reading on Facebook was not bringing me much joy and with regards to what I was posting, I had stopped being mindful and polite.  In short I had become a bit of an arse.

I have my opinions on life, politics, etc. So do you dear reader. It’s OK to disagree. But Facebook seems to be the worst platform to have a discussion between friends on subjects such as politics. There’s no nuance, you can’t see my face when I disagree with you, to appreciate that I’m still here, I still like and care about you, it’s OK, we’re cool!

I’m going to go back the Sivers plan. My personal Facebook feed will only be a positive tool to help me keep real relationships with real friends, in a respectful and non-argumentative way. I’ll pull anything off my feed that doesn’t give me or you joy.

And I’m going to get back to real life, mindfulness, positivity and love.

Anyone want to join me? If so let me know in the comments.


  1. Whoa! Awesome! Thanks for posting this Alastair. I barely remember writing that email, so it’s so nice to hear it was helpful! (Even if it took a while.)

    I haven’t written publicly about my approach to social media, because I don’t want to sound like one of those smug “Why I quit Facebook” types. But my approach to it does make me very happy. Not a quit in anger. No anger about it at all. It just doesn’t help me with what I want in life – (which is to focus and create as much as I can). But because I also don’t feel like having to defend my lack of a Facebook account every week, it seems easier just to keep an account there, check it for a minute once every week or two, but otherwise ignore it.

    Actually there’s one more step that accidently helped me : because I change countries pretty often, Facebook kept blocking me from logging in. So now I only log in to Facebook using a VPN so that my IP address is always the same to them. It makes it even more of a pain in the ass to use it, which really keeps me from doing it more than once a week or so.

    Anyway – thanks again for posting this.

    – Derek

  2. Yes!!! Loved the post and mirror your thoughts. I have a similar blog and started a community in NYC to try and get offline and get out of our routines and get more mindful.
    Keep it up.

  3. Thank you. I so needed to see and hear this, as it outlines what has been on my mind for some time now. Going to take this advice very seriously and again, thanks. Right on the money. Cheers to you!

  4. Great post Alastair, Derek is an ace at this whole “what really matters” thing and so cool that he spends a bit of time to reply to everyone. I’m in on this Facebook thing, sometimes it becomes our default source of entertainment and prevent us from reading or consuming more interesting information in the long run.

    Let’s do this!

  5. I’ve written a bit on Facebook and its negative tendencies/consequences as well, but more so, how to formulate a game plan for a Facebook sabbatical. I’m linking one such post in my name if you’re interested in reading it.

    Facebook is easy to get roped into, and depending on personality-type, you have to take what some may consider extreme measures to stay off. Keep in mind though, even if it seems extreme, that Facebook and social media are all about pushing the dopamine lever. In a nutshell, they create an addiction-effect like drugs, so you have to take measures to rid to address it. Otherwise, whether you’re conscious or unconscious of it, you’re still going in for your fix.

  6. Very good,pretty much what I do on a week to week basis.Hey,I have made some great friends and I just ignore the ass holes.Keep it positive,keep it real and crikey keep it fun.

  7. Great article!

    I use Facebook a lot for work.. ie we gain a lot of our leads/enquiries through this channel. Does anyone know a way to use this, without using a personal page? Easy on mobile (as the apps are separate – business/personal) but desktop??

    1. I wish I knew this also. I promote my work using social media as that is the medium that fits my marketing budget. I feel torn because I feel like I have to nurture these relationships to expose my work but social media has become so negative and poisonous. I wish so much that I didn’t need to even be on social media at all.

  8. I get nothing out of my Facebook feed, but the moment I get bored with work, I find myself clicking the Facebook bookmark every 20 minutes. So I changed the bookmark to https://www.facebook.com/groups/?category=membership . I’m active on a number of Facebook groups that I get a lot of value from, so now instead of seeing my feed, I see my groups which makes me happy.

    I was also signing in because a number of people will only communicate via Facebook chat. Now I use Franz ( http://meetfranz.com ) so again I have no reason to go to my feed.

    The best part? Facebook now has a dedicated iPhone app for groups and chat. No more feed!

  9. Thank you for your post! I thought I was alone on this matter. About a year ago I was stuck in the same situation as you and I gave up using Facebook and Co. completely. This left me feeling odd so now I just use it like you do (e.g for my bujo). I’m not a blogger or do any private online business so I just use social media channels for my hobbies. I write letters to those who I care about and it just works better for me and helps me be mindful. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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