It’s well known that Facebook is bad for your mental health, and let’s be honest it’s likely bad for humanity at large. The engineers at Facebook purposefully create algorithms to get you hooked on the site and exploit your emotions so you spend more time on the site. Why? So they can sell your data to advertisers. This all combines to make an experience that feels good at the time, but is ultimately bad for you (like junk food). People who left Facebook report lower levels of depression and improved we’ll-being.
If deleting Facebook is too much for you, just reduce your use of the site. Trust me, once you stop regularly checking it you won’t miss it.
People who deactivated Facebook as part of the experiment were happier afterward, reporting higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The change was modest but significant — equal to about 25 to 40 percent of the beneficial effect typically reported for psychotherapy.
Why are people willing to pay so much money for something that reduces their happiness? One possibility is that social media acts like an addictive drug — in fact, the people Allcott et al. paid to deactivate Facebook ended up using it less after the experiment was over. But another possibility is that people use services like Facebook because they’re compelled by motivations other than the pursuit of happiness.
You’ve probably already seen this pop up in your filter bubble a couple weeks ago but I want to make sure it’s not forgotten. Facebook (and likely other platforms) are being manipulated by powerful interests to edit what can be said and shared on their sites. They are self-regulating to benefit themselves at the cost of our democracies. Sacha Baron Cohen, known for his comedy, has gotten serious about calling out Facebook and the “silicon six” on their complicity in spreading hate. It’s up to us to support him and do our best to fight back against these corporate interests putting profits before all else.
Zuckerberg tried to portray the issue as one involving “choices” around “free expression.” But freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. Facebook alone already counts about a third of the world’s population among its users. Social media platforms should not give bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target victims.
Zuckerberg seemed to equate regulation of companies like his to the actions of “the most repressive societies.” This, from one of the six people who run the companies that decide what information so much of the world sees: Zuckerberg at Facebook; Sundar Pichai at Google; Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google’s parent company, Alphabet; Brin’s ex-sister-in-law, Susan Wojcicki, at YouTube; and Jack Dorsey at Twitter. These super-rich “Silicon Six” care more about boosting their share price than about protecting democracy. This is ideological imperialism — six unelected individuals in Silicon Valley imposing their vision on the rest of the world, unaccountable to any government and acting like they’re above the reach of law. Surely, instead of letting the Silicon Six decide the fate of the world order, our democratically elected representatives should have at least some say.
If you’re like everyone else then you still have a Facebook profile that you barely check, yet still need. Yes it’s handy to be in touch with people using one network, but let’s face it: Facebook is garbage. The amount of lies spread and the lack of effective content moderation ensures that the site will prey on the weak and ill informed. Their advertising model ensures that they will always violate our privacy in the pursuit of profit.
Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, has created an alternative to Facebook. The new WT:Social exists as a counterpoint to the advertising led business model of other social networks and its early success is promising.
“We will foster an environment where bad actors are removed because it is right, not because it suddenly affects our bottom-line.”
In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Mr Wales described the advertising-led business model favoured by the social network giants as “problematic”.
“It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content,” he said.
Publicly Facebook, Twitter, and other social media services state that they cannot control what is posted and moderate it fast enough to make a difference. They argue that the technical solutions are inefficient and almost impossible. However, companies that distribute user generated adult content have effective measures to moderation to the point that they can take pride in their law-abiding. They have technical solutions and other moderation systems in place to ensure that illicit content doesn’t get posted to their sites.
Hopefully this serves as a demonstration that we can change how large social media companies distribute user generated content.
Take the difference in how Silicon Valley and Porn Valley handle user-generated content, for instance. On mainstream social media sites, instant posting is viewed as the norm — whether you’re posting a link to a New York Times piece, a personal update, or a racist invective, your thoughts will appear on the site as soon as you share them. Although some links and words do trigger a basic moderation algorithm that prevents the update from being posted, most moderation is done post hoc, often after problematic content is reported by users.
Aggressive content moderation isn’t the only way that xHamster controls what lands on the site. As the terms of service makes clear, chats between users are also periodically monitored to ensure that they’re in compliance with the site’s policies. That may seem extreme, but there’s a good reason: sites like xHamster literally cannot afford to have content that violates their policies appear on their platforms, even momentarily. The penalties imposed by the government, billing agents, and banks — which can include punishments ranging from being banned from processing user payments to being thrown in prison for years — mean that even the slightest slip up could put a porn company permanently out of business, or worse.
Last year a study was released that identified Facebook as a contributor to people’s depression, it’s likely that other forms of social media do the same. Researchers are finding that if you use social media and compare yourself to what you see posted there will indeed make you feel worse; however, if you use social media in a more conscious way you may find that it does not have that effect. There’s no evidence that using social media is good for you though. For now, the best thing to do is ensure you’re using social media in a conscious way to keep your mental space healthy.
The takeaway, the experts say, is that you can control how Facebook makes you feel. If you tend to compare yourself with others or get envious easily, you might consider limiting your time spent on social networking sites or make a conscious effort to use them in active rather than passive ways. “Our findings show the importance of human agency,” says Edson Tandoc, Jr., co-author of the February 2015 study and assistant professor in the Division of Journalism and Publishing at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “It is not technology such as Facebook that affects our feelings per se but rather how we use it.”