Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Nudge - Essay from Newsletter 128

Big effects from small actions

Like coffee

It’s amazing how much a small nudge in either direction can have such a big impact.

I stopped posting on Facebook several years ago and deleted all of my posts, pictures, and comments.

But I am weak enough that I was still going to the site several - no more than several - many times a day to check in on others. From time to time I’d reach out and send a direct message and maybe have a short conversation. Nothing public, but honestly I couldn’t say that I was off of Facebook.

Every once in a while I’d see something that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Generally, a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while would post a picture of a trip or an event and I’d be glad I saw it.

I kept tabs on friends and DM’d to let them know I was happy for, sad for, impressed with, suprised by, … whatever seemed appropriate.

Anyway, my relationship with Meta is complicated. I really don’t like the company or its values but it provides a drug that I find myself addicted to.

Locked out

Last week my browser launched and in the tab where I’d last viewed Facebook I saw a notice saying that my Facebook account had been locked because I’d used an unfamiliar browser or logged in from an unfamiliar location.

I would have to change my password, somehow prove I was me, and then login using the new credentials.

I thought about it.

Then I thought, “no”.

It’s funny, I’d had that same thought earlier in the day when I turned in my Tesla at the end of its lease.

They had sent me an estimate for the final payment and asked me to set up a new connection to my bank account with which I could make the payment.


I’m leaving you Tesla. I’m happy to be leaving you. I’m not about to establish a new connection to you.

And so when Facebook asked me to reconnect to them, the answer was: no.

I can quit anytime I want

I’ll admit that I missed it a little bit.

I missed first day of school pics from friends and birthday announcements. I missed pictures of food, sunsets, and beaches.

I play a game with the suggested friends page where I look at each picture and try to guess who the friends are that we have in common. Even when I don’t get it right I usually nod after seeing the connection. I missed playing that game even though I never friend anyone new.

By the way, I play a similar game at airports. As I pass gates I look at the people seated there and try to guess where their plane is heading. In the states you can often guess right for Chicago, Boston, New York, and San Francisco.

Anyway, there were many things I didn’t miss. I didn’t miss finding out that someone I thought of as a friend had wild political views that made me question our friendship. I didn’t miss the snide remarks that people made to one another in comments.

For example, a woman posted that she couldn’t find a link to a newsletter from our local schools. She got an answer from a man (of course it was a man) who said it had only taken him two minutes of searching for him to find it so she clearly could find it herself.

Why, I thought, hadn’t he just sent her the link and told her where he found it?

I didn’t miss conversations like this.

After a day or so friends sent me tweets saying they were happier since leaving FB and I had to admit that I was mostly feeling better too.

Then something terrible happened.

Noticing the nudges

I woke up the next morning and noticed that the tab in Safari that had been refusing me entry to Facebook was now loaded up with the latest from my friends as well as short videos from people I’ve never met.

Nothing had changed.

I hadn’t provided them with any verification that I was me. I still could be that person they suspected of pretending to be me.

Somehow I once again had the full rights and privileges of a Facebook member.


The nudge to not visit the site had been small and easily overcome and yet it was enough to keep me off of the site for days.

The nudge provided by the “all clear” was similarly enough to push me back in the direction of the site.

I’ve checked in daily or less since then but I find it striking how these little pushes can be so impactful.

It’s what’s wrong with these sites.

The likes. The shares. The algorithms.

These are all the little pushes that change what we think and what we like without us even being aware.

There’s a great book called “Nudge” that explores this topic more carefully.

Try to notice when you’re being steered this way or that.

Try to nudge yourself into positive behavior.

Mostly, notice the nudges.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 128. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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