I’ve enjoyed Facebook to brag about my kids, reconnect with old friends and find out what they’re up to in their lives. In so many ways, Facebook can be a positive for us as individuals and society as a whole. As a Facebook user, I have moments when it makes me feel really good. Like when I reconnected with my best friend who I was rude to in junior high when I wanted to hang out with the cool kids. I hurt her feelings and I have never forgiven myself. Finally, I could apologize after all these years and continue our friendship—even if it’s only looking at each other’s photos of kids and travels.
But, now even Facebook admits that passively surfing through their website can make you feel sad. We know that perusing through glamour photos of our friends, looking at smiling faces of parties you’re not being invited to, or luxury exotic vacations can make you feel a little blue.
That’s why I found the article from Farad Manjoo this past week in the New York Times interesting. Here are the opening paragraphs from “Facebook Conceded It Might Make You Feel Bad. Here’s How to Interpret That:”
Facebook published a quietly groundbreaking admission on Friday. Social media, the company said in a blog post, can often make you feel good — but sometimes it can also make you feel bad.
Yes, I should have warned you to sit down first.
This is one of those stories where what’s being said isn’t as surprising as who’s saying it. Facebook’s using a corporate blog post to point to independent research that shows its product can sometimes lead to lower measures of physical and mental well-being should be regarded as a big deal. The post stands as a direct affront to the company’s reason for being; it’s as if Nike asked whether just doing it may not be the wisest life goal after all, or if Snapple conceded it wasn’t quite positive that it really was the best stuff on earth.
Consider Facebook’s place in the social-media firmament. Facebook — which also owns Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp — is the world’s largest and most profitable social media company. Its business model and its more airy social mission depend on the idea that social media is a new and permanently dominant force in the human condition.
So far, that idea has proved unwavering. Facebook’s leap into the ranks of the world’s most valuable companies less than 14 years after its founding can be attributed to this simple truth: Humans have shown no limit, so far, in their appetite for more Facebook.
But what if all that Facebook is not good for us? For several years, people have asked whether social media, on an individual level and globally, might be altering society and psychology in negative ways. Until about a year or so ago, Facebook’s public posture about its product had been overwhelmingly positive, as you’d expect. Facebook, Facebook insisted, was clearly good for the world.
Then came 2017. The concerns over social-media-born misinformation and propaganda during last year’s presidential race were one flavor of this worry. Another is what Facebook might be doing to our psychology and social relationships — whether it has addicted us to “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops” that “are destroying how society works,” to quote Chamath Palihapitiya, one of several former Facebook executives who have expressed some version of this concern over the last few months.
Mr. Palihapitiya, who is now a venture capitalist, made those comments during a talk at Stanford University last month; after the comments were widely reported this week, he walked them back. But his fears have been echoed across Silicon Valley and lately have become something like a meme: What if Facebook is rotting our brains?
This gets to why an otherwise in-the-weeds blog post from Facebook’s research team is so interesting. Though it is quite abstruse, the post, by David Ginsberg and Moira Burke, two company researchers, takes readers through a tour of the nuances on whether Facebook can be bad for you.
In Psychology Today, March 2016, Amy Morin wrote: “Science Explains How Facebook Makes You Sad And why you keep using it anyway.” Here’s an excerpt from her story, but if you read all of it you’ll learn that just being aware that Facebook can make you feel sad, can help you.
More than one billion people log into Facebook every day. Whether their intention is to post a duck face selfie, or they want to read the headlines from their favorite news outlet, Facebook remains the world’s most popular social networking site.
Of course, it would seem logical to assume that people use Facebook because it somehow enhances their lives. But oddly, research suggests the opposite. Studies show Facebook use is associated with lower life satisfaction.
Wasting Time on Facebook Will Make You Sad
According to a 2014 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, most people aren’t using social media to be social. Only about 9 percent of Facebook’s users’ activities involve communicating with others.
Instead, most users consume random pieces of content. And researchers found that passively consuming information isn’t fulfilling or satisfying.
Study participants experienced a sharp decline in their moods after scrolling through Facebook. Interestingly, they didn’t experience the same emotional decline when they surfed the internet. The toll on mental health was unique to Facebook.
Through a series of studies, researchers concluded that by the time people log out of Facebook, they feel like they’ve wasted their time. Their remorse over being unproductive causes them to feel sad.
What are your thoughts about social media and Facebook? Do you use it and how does it make you feel?