Although Facebook is a money-making powerhouse, 2017 has been rough on Mark Zuckerberg’s company in lots of ways. The fake Russian election ads scandal, for instance, generated countless negative headlines. More recently, a former company exec, Chamath Palihapitiya, made a statement that went viral in all the wrong ways: Facebook and other social media are “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he said.
Today, the company pushed back on that notion by way of a damage control-esque blog post written by director of research David Ginsberg and research scientist Moira Burke. In it, they note that “when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information–reading but not interacting with people–they report feeling worse afterward.”
I don’t think anyone who uses Facebook a lot can quibble with that statement. There is no shortage of people who say that substantial time spent on Facebook simply makes them feel awful. Of course, they don’t stop doing it–but it hurts, emotionally.
Facebook’s theory, which it backs up with quotes and research from a number of sociologists and psychologists, is that what really makes us feel bad about our social media addiction is spending that time alone. That is, passively scrolling through the site and not interacting. But if we spend our time on Facebook talking with others, “especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions,” we’ll feel better, Facebook asserts.
And recommends, as a solution, spending more time on social media!
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) December 15, 2017
Added Ginsberg and Burke: “This ability to connect with relatives, classmates, and colleagues is what drew many of us to Facebook in the first place, and it’s no surprise that staying in touch with these friends and loved ones brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.”
It’s hard to read that without some sense of cynicism. For starters, it’s a fairly self-serving conclusion–though the post tries to back it up with research from Cornell and Carnegie Mellon. Is it true? That may be something you have to ask yourself.
So Facebook isn't surfacing comments for its blog post on whether social media may be bad for us. Why is that? https://t.co/lk4TrMkOZB
— ryan mac (@RMac18) December 15, 2017
Either way, you won’t be able to talk about it in the comments section of the post itself. As BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac pointed out, Facebook isn’t surfacing comments on the post. Doesn’t Facebook want us sharing our thoughts about this?