Facebook has received quite harsh criticism in recent days, and not from annoying users or external organizations, but from their own former executives, people who helped to create the social network since its inception and turn it into what it is today.
Sean Parker claims that its creators seek to exploit a human vulnerability, and Chamath Palihapitiya thinks that Facebook is doing great damage to society, even saying that he does not let his children “use that shit”. Faced with this, Facebook has decided to offer some answers.
The social network has published an article co-written by two scientists, who, of course, work for Facebook, so why would not we believe them. The question they try to answer: Is spending time on social networks bad for us?
Only 10 minutes on Facebook are enough to put you in a bad mood
The article dedicates a paragraph to the bad side of social networks and five to all its supposed benefits. Intriguing.
According to the research cited by Facebook, social networks in general are bad for our well-being when we spend a lot of time consuming passively , that is, reading but not interacting with others.
They talk about an experiment at the University of Michigan that caused several students to read Facebook for 10 minutes and they ended up in a worse mood than before . They also cite a study from the University of San Diego and Yale that found that people who click on posts have worse mental health than the average.
The reasons for this have not been determined but could be due to negative social comparisons we make of ourselves with others. Or, to the theory that the Internet diminishes the social interactions of people in person.
Share more and you will be happy
Now, when the time comes to talk about the benefits, is that Facebook shines. According to their own research, actively interacting with people, especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and remembering the past is linked to personal well-being.
In fact they cite a study they did with Carnegie Mellon University in which they found that people who receive or send more messages or comments report improvements in social support, depression and loneliness.
Curiously, at no time is there talk about the quality of these interactions , nor about the criticized short-term feedback loop that their former executives criticize so much.
While these accuse Facebook of offering superficial interactions pushed by dopamine through those “likes”, the social network seems to want to promote that circuit in infinity. Share more, get likes and comments, repeat and you’ll be happy. An interesting contrast with the finding that just entering 10 minutes to Facebook and doing four clicks puts you in a bad mood.
There is not a single mention of what happens when those interactions receive less feedback than others. How our mood affects to receive less comments and “I like”, to the need that is created to continue sharing to seek more validation, or comment and give likes to others only to do so in our own publications. Nor to how all these interactions are monitored by Facebook and then sell advertising.
At the end, Facebook takes a moment to mention the concerns of parents about the impact of technology on children. How it could affect long-term relations of the smallest and their levels of attention.
There are no answers yet, and on Facebook they admit that there is a lot to learn, that is why they have recently devoted a million dollars to research to better understand the relationship between these technologies, youth development and well-being.
Facebook entered more than 10,000 million dollars in the third quarter of 2017, it is good to know that 0.01% of that money will be dedicated to investigate how the social network affects future generations.