Facebook Makes You Sad, so Try to Use It Less Often.
Welcome to the special edition of the School of Nonsense Resistance. Today’s tutorial is based on a Facebook post admitting that Facebook is bad for your mental health . In conclusion, they want you to use Facebook more often. What to expect?
Here’s what Facebook researchers found:
- Scrolling through the news feed is distracting and discouraging.
- Interacting with people “brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.”
Hmm, that sounds like we should be spending less time on Facebook and more time talking to the people we love. Perhaps we should switch to other means of communication that do not require us to endlessly scroll through the depressing feed.
No, says Facebook. Let’s just make the pitch a little less depressing.
Even before I read this post, I thought a lot about this article by Tristan Harris , who calls himself “a former Google design ethicist.” He notes that one of the main ways to get addictive to social media apps is to restrict the menu available to you. We rarely think about asking what is not on the menu. For example, if you want to know where you can find a bar that you like, Yelp will ask you to ask the question, “Which of these bars has the best cocktail photography?”
This is how company-sponsored research works. It’s not that sponsored science is always fake or dishonest; it may be, but often it is not. What financing often does is the purchase issue . And here Facebook researchers decided that the question they want to answer is, “How can we make people feel better using Facebook?”
This is not the same as asking “How can we be happy?” or “Should we log out of Facebook?” although both of these questions are very good questions to ask after we know that we are sad when we view our feeds.
You can read the entire post of Facebook researchers and never see any questions about how much Facebook is a suitable amount of Facebook. This is not the question they want to answer, because the answer is likely to be “less.” Instead, they ask questions such as:
- How can you make people happier by reading their news feed?
- How can Facebook “support [adolescents] in their transitional stages”?
Perhaps a good takeaway at this point would be to stop encouraging people to scroll through their feed .
Bah! This is exactly what someone who has not invested in Facebook’s financial success would say. Instead, Facebook suggests shuffling the news feed content a bit to make it easier for you to scroll through it.
Candy and cola makers acknowledge that their products are bad for you and acknowledge that you should only eat very small amounts . The infant formula companies will happily tell you that “breasts are best,” and keep the intricacies of their marketing: they highlight the difficulties of breastfeeding, encourage you to keep samples “just in case.” Facebook is still at the stage where it is safe to recommend that you use the same (or possibly more) Facebook.
They are only trying to limit the menu. “Should you spend all day on Facebook with this feature, or on Facebook with this feature ?” they wonder. In their post, the researchers portray themselves as martyrs because they curbed clickbaits and fake news – which meant the company had to miss out on clicks! Boo-oo-oo, Facebook. Boo fuck, wow.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with less use of Facebook and social media in general. One day, as I was approaching the deadline for a major project, I asked my husband to change my Facebook password so that I would not be overwhelmed. I used to always keep the browser tab open for Slack, but now I close that tab when I write. I charge my phone in the bedroom when I want to spend time with the kids in the family room. I never let Facebook send me push notifications.
And I ‘m still addicted. If a friend is texting me using Messenger, I open my browser to facebook dot com and then somehow end up scrolling through my feed instead of chatting. The same thing happens when I open the Twitter app to convey some witty thought. Pretty soon there were 100 messages left in the feed, and I no longer understand what that witty thought was. On some stressful, lonely writing days, I crave human contact, but instead of finding someone to talk to, I endlessly scour my social media feeds and end up feeling more alone than I used to.
We don’t need a nicer meal. We need to spend less time on Facebook. But Facebook will never help us with this.