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How, and why, to do a Facebook detox

Try to cut back on -- or give up -- Facebook for a while. It could do everyone some good.
Try to cut back on -- or give up -- Facebook for a while. It could do everyone some good.
  • Facebook's 500+ million active users spend 700 billion minutes per month on the site
  • If you stop using Facebook so often, you won't need it so much
  • To temporarily hit the "off" button, click on Account, then Deactivate

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as an associate editor at and Bartz is news editor at Psychology Today.

(CNN) -- Easter has passed, and you've finally finished cleaning the last of that weird basket-lining "grass" from the carpet. Beginning Sunday, millions of Americans can also celebrate the resurrection of their foregone vices -- whatever treat or habit they gave up for 40 long days of Lent.

After chocolate and fried foods (pound-droppage is a common additional motive), an increasingly popular thing to give up for Lent is Facebook -- anecdotally, at least. Two of our friends tried it this year, and they both reported the break made them pretty darn happy.

Collectively, Facebook's users spend -- wait for it -- 700 billion minutes per month on the site, according to company stats. Assuming the site has 500 million active users (they've hit 600 million but haven't updated the time-use stats on their site, so we're working with what we got -- thanks, Zuckerberg), that works out to 23 hours and 20 minutes per person a month -- on average.

An entire day, shoom, out the window, into the sunshine that you are not enjoying because you are clicking, zombie-like, through pictures of that chick from grade school looking sweaty in a maternity suite.

Now, the debate rages on: Passionate pundits on either end of the arena argue that Facebook is bringing us closer together, or, alternatively, turning us all into socially inept hermits who smell of Cheetos and squint like little voles.

But while we can't stop the churning tides of new technology, we can decide exactly how much time to devote to staring at glowing screens. And we'd like to recommend that, at least for a few weeks, you make that screen-time shrink.

With the tulips blazing, the birds singing and the spring breeze losing its chill, now just might be the time to take a break, or at least to set some self-limits (to go from "in a relationship" to "it's complicated" with the ol' FB, if you will.)

Here's the shocking truth: If you stop using Facebook so often, you won't need it so much. See, the whole "Facebook addict" trope isn't too far from reality: Recent research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that browsing the site is self-reinforcing. Frequent use paradoxically can make us feel disconnected, which we then try to cure by using Facebook even more.

In other words, the more you have it, the more you want it. (File that under "ways FB is like money and sex.")

The upshot -- and this is what my Facebook-eschewing friends reported -- is that after a few days away from the site, you kinda forget to miss it.

One said that she's now back on the site but using it only to check specific things, instead of burning up hours clicking through 483 wedding photos of that dude from high school whose name she otherwise wouldn't remember.

Research backs her up: People are happier when they're checking up on Facebook friends vs. clicking around without a target, according to a study from the University of Missouri.

Just, uh, don't let that target be a former flame and his or her adorable new significant other. (Hey, another perk of less Facebook face-time: lower odds of spotting infuriating updates from exes, rivals and frenemies.)

Now, if you're thinking about closing your profile down for a spell, know that it will be warm and waiting for you when you want to come back. To temporarily hit the "off" button, click on Account, then Deactivate. To reactivate the whole thing a week or month down the line, just log in as usual.

I hear the protestation, high-pitched and keening: If I'm not on Faaaacebook, how will I get inviiited to stuuuff? But recall that one can share events with nonusers by simply typing in their e-mail address under "Select Guests to Invite."

Remind your BFFs that you're Facebook-free and the good ones, at least, will know to pop you onto the invite list to their next Kafka-inspired gallery opening/speed hair-cutting contest.

What you will miss is another mass invite to that random guy's seventh pathetic open mic performance, during which he'll try a new ending on his jam, "My Burning Heart Must Be Extinguished." Somehow, I think you'll survive.

Now, admittedly, pulling the Facebook plug is not for everyone. To put it on the brown-out back-up generator instead, limit your time on the site. Minutes Please automatically pops you out of a given site after an allotted time. And browser-specific plug-ins can help you keep track of your site usage -- just Google "[your browser] track time on websites."

By our math, the average user is logging a little more than 45 minutes on Facebook a day. Cut that to 15 and poof! Like magic, 3.5 hours emerge each week to enjoy the spring -- to play on a playground, soak up the sunshine and run around on the (real, not blue-ish shredded plastic) grass.


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