30 Days Without Facebook

What you once accepted as the norm you should question. Your life is limited both in time and energy. There are always improvements to be made.

After a decade of Facebook, I shut ‘er down…ok just temporally. The first years were pretty easy – those of us with a .edu email address would login. Maybe we would tag a few friends in photos or ask questions on an upcoming class. It was a brilliant idea and provided much entertainment. Naturally, as time went on, the addiction grew. The platform was opening up and mobile apps soon followed. Where only a few of us had our own platforms such as personal websites or blogs became a time in which everyone had a platform…and it was cool. People were talking and connecting.

facebook-delete

For me the decision to take a break from Facebook was never about time. My addiction was under control – quick browse walking into work, after dinner while doing some unwinding and usually a few page scrolls as I’m hunkering into bed. I’d like to think of those small periods as micro-moments; moments where there wasn’t much else I could do that was really productive anyways. Or so I thought.

I will say it was an interesting experiment. For those who know me, you’ve seen it before:

  • 30 days of waking up at 5:30 AM
  • 30 days of eliminating caffeine
  • 30 days of drinking PBR

…the list goes on is usually random in nature.

For me though, the biggie was that I had to reevaluate. Fact is everyone has opinions, but they now have this platform. Worst off, it’s a digital one. The problem here lies in that when communication is online, there are very small repercussions. People say things they wouldn’t say to someone’s face and receive thee ‘ol punch in the jaw. As far as opinions, I’m as guilty as guilty can be for on- or offline opinion pushing and argument escalating. I am wired for “my way or the highway”. If only I could get back the hours I’ve wasted arguing the superiority of Apple products. It’s similar to the new third rule:

  1. you mustn’t talk religion
  2. avoid politics
  3. do not argue Android vs iOS (what used to be Ford vs Chevy…which actually, both are wrong. See, there I go again.).

“Social media is like driving: Everyone wants to be on the road, but not everyone should be allowed behind the wheel.” – Marietta Gentles Crawford

I don’t know if it’s because of the couple gray hairs my wife Kristin has now found buried in my head or what, but my tolerance has dramatically shifted. Obama, mom slapping rioting son in head, Bruce Jenner, breastfeeding in public, The Chicago Bears, taxes on rich vs. poor. We can’t keep arguing on Facebook – let’s move on. These aren’t bad topics and they all have the potential to make great bar conversations with your friends…especially if they are like-minded. The constant Facebook blowups have got to go.

People must realize that many of these polarizing topics create anger in others and breed hate. Then the comments come…oh lord have I seen too many Facebook breakups happen here. I was once a commenter and my life changed once I learned to ignore posts that angered me.

Pro tip: If you feel the need to comment…comment, but don’t submit. Leave it for the next morning and I guarantee you will no longer feel the same urge to respond. Kristin witnessed me on countless occasions this year in a blank email typing franticly for 20 minutes on responses I would never submit. If it’s not nice, don’t say it. However, if you need to post or comment on something, we need rules.

New rule: 1 ugly rant a week or 1 ugly rant every 20 posts…whichever is less. And this is subject to change.

I kept notes in a pocket notebook during this experiment. Upon further examination, it is clear that if I had written this article at the beginning of the 30 days, it would have had held much less mercy. But let’s move on and be positive – let’s go back to baby photos. I’ve found that interesting articles, new music or hilarious videos have won the hearts of many and created countless next-day conversations. I recommend you start there if you’re a ranter. Stop being a jerk.

So what happened?

Thirty days ago I logged into Facebook for the last time – disabled people from posting on my wall, killed notifications and tweaked a few other settings to keep things where I left them while I took a break. I then found this neat little Chrome ad-on called StayFocused. StayFocused’s core feature is the ability to limit your time spent on websites. Have a problem with reddit? Pinterest? Simply configure a few settings…say 15 minutes a day and boom – your browser will shut those sites up for good once you reach the time limit so you can get back to work/life. This simply wasn’t enough for me so I went NUCLEAR (seriously, it’s actually a setting within the plugin). Setting = block facebook.com and all related domains for…720 hours. Perfect! But I wasn’t done – I next found my iPhone and iPad and deleted those sweet sweet apps for good. So long temptations!

facebook-stayfocused

Originally, I was really nervous about leaving Facebook. Today, I was really nervous about signing back in.

The Results.

  1. Happiness. I no longer had to read through people’s crappy posts while trying to stay in touch with the lives of my friends. My energy was restored and everything felt more positive.
  2. Compounding effect. I wanted to feel more of the positivity. I stopped my daily habit of political radio on the commutes. I stopped watching whatever amount of evening news I was previously watching (reasons – they are mostly negative). Hell (and sort of unrelated) I even deleted Snapchat permanently. Yeah it was fun, but incredibly disruptive to my day. Pictures of food, nights out at the bar, 100th dog photo of the afternoon, duck faces, rinse and repeat. Yawn..
  3. Time. Maybe not more time, but time spent better. Instead of browsing Facebook between meetings, I opened Quora on my phone and read fascinating questions like “What are some things that mechanical engineers know and others don’t?” or “What is the most valuable skill a person can have for their entire life?”. I even began to use Instagram again where I’ve always made a habit to follow good or inspiring photographers – not just any friend who posted much of what I said in my Snapchat rant. Sorry guys, I just need my moments of Zen.
  4. Lost moments. Kristin and I attended a wedding the weekend I first ditched Facebook. Apparently I was being tagged in photos, but had no clue what was going on. A few coworkers added me as a friend which I never accepted. They thought I was ignoring them. Another friend started a health activity group I wanted to join, but could not view as it was on Facebook. Heck, I couldn’t even login to my Spotify account as it utilized Facebook’s login API (again, I had it all blocked).
  5. It gets easier. Habits are hard to break, but luckily I had no choice with the circumstances I created. Nowadays, the urge to constantly check Facebook are completely gone.

Final Thoughts

There is a real issue here and the fact that when you type “taking a fac” into Google autocompletes into millions of results for “taking a Facebook break” is incredible. During this experiment I met many others who have done this experiment, have thought about trying it or have given Facebook up completely and I can understand their numerous reasons why such as depression and loneliness while they stare at everyone else’s fun, wedding/baby-filled lives. Don’t forget people are in a “big me” mindset with social media. If you want my opinion, just take a break. Reset, then optimize.

As for me, I’m back and here to stay but with a new approach. While I do not have the guts to delete my friends, I am going to start filtering them from the news feed. My goal is 10 of the worst offenders in the next 10 days. It’s harsh, I don’t want to do it, I want to see the GOOD posts they inspire me on…but I’m choosing to be surrounded in more positivity. Don’t be the person that people sigh about every time your name appears.

And I really miss sharing cool shit…that’s coming back.

Building Raised Garden Beds

Every year I get requests to share the steps I took to build our 2 raised garden beds sitting in our backyard. I figured it was about time to share the thought process and construction notes so others could take advantage of the gift that keeps on giving. They are incredibly easy to make, especially if you have the right tools. If you are lacking the tools, there are many ways to hack it and make it work no problem. If all else fails, call me after acquiring a 6-pack of brew (or at least teach me how to create better sketches on the computer).
Continue reading Building Raised Garden Beds

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker Review

I’ll never forget the sound I heard a few years back during a July 4th weekend. My wife, a number of other friends and I were in the northern woods of Wisconsin on our favorite beach of a local lake. You hear the usual suspects: V8-powered motorboats zipping around pulling screaming children. Jetski’s popping over waves. Birds chirping overhead and the clank of beer bottles in the cooler next to your chair. But then in all the shuffle of things I heard it. Loud, rich music coming from the tailgate of some dudes truck. This was the first time I ever heard such incredible sound that could light up a basement party or an active beach. I ran over to the guy and asked him what he was using to which his response was the “Bose SoundLink” (original, larger version in Bose’s bluetooth speaker lineup).

Continue reading Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker Review

Hawk Sightings

Fortunately living in Fox Point, nature does indeed present itself on an ongoing basis. Today was an incredible experience. Got home from work and while entering our back door, heard a rustle to my left. Look over and see these huge wings inside our line of cedar trees along property line. Then a small bird came shooting out, and after it, a large hawk which I believed to be a female Cooper’s Hawk. They dart past me to the edge of the house where I ran through the snow in my shoes to find the hawk chasing the little bird in a small tree on the side of our house. Crazy seeing a big bird like that move inside a dense tree. The little bird then shoots over to my neighbors yard to a bush and there went the hawk after it once again. I run through more snow and the hawk is just laying motionless, sprawled out over the snow covered bush. I was confused on what exactly she was doing. After a minute, she jumps to the ground and begins tearing at the bird she apparently had killed, for the next 5 minutes. Feathers everywhere. Beautiful creature. See below for video action.

Link to high-res photo: Flickr

How to be Productive with Evernote

There may be many pursuits in our life, but each of us has the same 24 hours in a day to achieve them. As we grow older, our lives get busier. Having a few productivity strategies in place will not only you to gain back more of your free time, but make that time more enjoyable. One strategy to gain the productivity edge is with software such as Evernote.

I’ve been using Evernote for work and life since 2008. For those of you who are not familiar with Evernote – think of it as your 2nd brain. Often we get caught up with numerous thoughts or new ideas, or things we would like to remember for a later day. Usually you’re stuck without a pen and paper (although carrying a pocket notebook is a sure way to success) and sending yourself another email is not the most helpful plan either. Instead, get Evernote.

evernote_meves

Evernote is a (free) serious note-taking app which runs on just about every desktop and mobile platform. Their app is both beautiful as it is functional. Features include the ability to create numerous notebooks, see notes by location thanks to automatic tagging, save images snapped by your phone, give notes their own tags, create checklists and more. Where Evernote really shines however is with the power of search. Whether tags, written text or even words within your saved images, Evernote can find exactly what you are looking for in an instant. With your computers, phones and tablets continuously synced in the cloud, you’re never far away from your digital notebooks.

Here’s how I use Evernote

I first started off with a personal notebook called “brandonmeves’s notebook”. This is where I keep the majority of my thoughts and ideas. See further below for examples. After using the notebook for awhile, I noticed there were trends in notes I took such as about fishing, camping, food, brewing beer and so on. I later created notebooks for each of those topics so I could group my notes appropriately. Some may simply tag the notes by subject as well – the choice is a personal one and with the power of search, it is not a big deal either way as both will work great.

evernote_food

You may also group notebooks as “stacks”. For example, I have a “Food” stack that contains 3 notebooks – one for recipes, one for drinks I want to remember how to make and another for restaurants/dishes I want to try again. I can view the whole stack at once, or dive deep into detail and just see the drink recipes for example. You can also use some of these notebook and tagging strategies for your job – perhaps you create a notebook for each project you are working on. Stack or tag them appropriately and you can view them independently of your personal stuff. The flexibility is all there and up to you to decide. If any of it seems confusing at first, the key is just to start creating notes. Overtime, you will create your own understanding of how it is most efficient for you to organize your data. You can modify your notes and notebook at any time.

Personal Evernote Uses

Here are just a few of the ways I’ve used Evernote in life…

  • Noting the types of gas/oil mixtures/spark plugs that my lawn & power equipment use. When you’re at Sears and need to know which spark plug to buy, just type “spark” in the search field and the results come instantly.
  • Schedule of changing furnace filter (and what size & type to use)
  • Favorite beer/wines to buy again
  • Movies I want to see
  • Combination of my Master Lock I always forget
  • Recipes
  • Good lakes and fishing spots
  • Favorite camping sites to reserve again and notes about trails and other things to do
  • My master camping checklist to make sure everything is packed for each trip
  • Ideas for this website projects
  • Favorite quotes
  • Pictures of health tips from magazines
  • Web clippings from favorite webpages (use the clipper extension for Chrome)
  • Life lessons
  • Scores of all the times my buddies and I go out shooting sporting clays at the shotgun club
  • Research and notes on new things to buy (dishwashers, vehicles, houses, etc)
  • Days at work that we have off as paid holidays
  • Hotel/plane info for trips – stash all confirmation numbers and itinerary into a note
  • Notes from books I read
  • Gym workouts
  • All of my dress shirt/pant sizes for the brands I usually buy so there’s never a question
  • Serial numbers for software

The list goes on. The key to success is to download the app and keep using it. Force yourself to interact with it daily and see what else you can unload from your head – you will be surprised how much more clearer you will be able to think. The best part is that you save time and become more efficient at the things you’re trying to get done. Just another way to make life more productive.

Persistence

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge

Eggs-periment

So I conducted an eggs-periment this morning for breakfast. What is the difference between a regular grocery market egg and a organic/cage-free egg? Price is certainly one thing. But taste? Kind of. If you blind tested me, I may not know which is which. But Kristin and I both could tell that the organic egg had a richer golden color. I can’t prove that it was because of being organic. Maybe something else in the chickens diet caused the deeper color. I did notice (and from my past experience) that regular eggs have a more fragile shell when you break them. Thin and brittle. Not so with the organic eggs. I would say that MAYBE taste and texture was a little better with the organic egg. But best yet – it should have higher nutritional value and omega 3’s and no hormones and antibiotics. Those will probably get us some day.
eggs
Anyways, thought someone would find this interesting. Note that a egg may be organic, but not cage-free. I pictured my cage-free chicken roaming a field outside the barn in the sunshine which made me feel good. I bet it was a healthy and happy chicken at one time..