You are sitting at your desk, clicking refresh at the top of your inbox and your starting down that slide. You just got done boosting it and you brain has left the building. You go and click on Facebook.com, the social media site that will help you unwind. Just for a few minutes…
Is that really the break you want?
I get it, you are stressed. I am stressed too.
As of the start of October, I can speak for myself and say I’ve got tension and a few lines in the pond I’m watching and working.
In fact, there are times while working I want nothing more than to take a mental ‘5’ and click over to Facebook.com just to enjoy a break.
Is that really the break you want?
This is a genuine question, not a shaming ‘gotcha’. I ask because I ask myself this question and struggle with the answer.
You may have seen or heard of your friends on Facebook that have recently disconnected. There seems to be a growing pattern of distancing oneself from Facebook. There are even sites popping up showing you exactly how to delete your account and what you need to know. Either by using it less or deleting it permanently, people are taking various approaches. I think, in general, most people will probably agree it’s good to disconnect sometimes.
I find myself asking ‘why are they leaving Facebook?’ and should I consider the same?
Let me try to give you my take on why people are doing this.
Facebook is great for connecting, reconnecting and passing time.
Facebook is also great for sharing. People share extraordinary good things that happen. People also share extraordinary bad things that happen. That seems to balance out, right?
It’s a new society of sharing. So far I’ve mentioned extraordinary events or happenings. But what about normalcy? What about common good and bad things that happen?
Herein Lies the Rub
The way I see it, as a general rule, common good things that happen don’t often get shared while common bad things will more often get shared. If you are keeping score, this makes a skew in the favor of negativity on Facebook.
I believe that people are leaving Facebook because they see an increasing frequency (or perceived increasing frequency) of negatively skewed posts, outweighing the positive benefits to remain.
Let’s look at a Pascal’s Gambit style matrix to compare.
|Frequency of Facebook Posts||Lower Consequence||Higher Consequence|
|Negative Events||Normal/High||High/Very High|
Supposing we agree this chart covers all options, then we can see that Facebook has a higher frequency of Negative events overall. A corollary may be that Facebook posts in general have a tendency to be negatively weighted.
So far I’ve given you my anecdotal thoughts and feelings. I could be wrong about frequency. Sometimes your brain exaggerates.
A little digging online will uncover some scary articles about people’s mental state in general with Facebook use.
Lancaster University in the UK did a study in late 2016 to find “Comparing yourself with others on Facebook is more likely to lead to feelings of depression than making social comparisons offline”. They go on to suggest that they are only scratching the surface of social networking and depression due to their complicated ties.
The University of Michigan study in 2013 suggested Facebook use “predicts declines in a user’s well-being” and goes on to suggest the longer you use Facebook at a time, the worse you feel in general. Interestingly, it appears their conjectures that Facebook users tended to use Facebook when feeling bad held no ground, further suggesting complexities of this issue.
I also unearthed Betty White’s 2 cents…
I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what is is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time
My Facebook Feed is Fine
You might be thinking, “Now wait a minute, Jacob. My feed is fine. Isn’t it associated with each individual and their friend groups? How do I know my Facebook skews towards negativity?” It is indeed based on friend groups. And I suppose Facebook friends from Seahaven Island of the Truman Show would have pure positivism, skewing the other way. When I talk to people on the streets, that just doesn’t seem to be the case. My thoughts are anecdotal and my take only. Let me know if you agree or disagree.
I’m not smart enough to suppose why this negative skew exists and why people seem to post more “I got cut off in traffic” posts over “I had a stellar cup of joe” posts. I can say that this has a lot to do with that which you decide to follow and those people who you decide to be ‘friends’ with.
Consider too that humans tend to dwell on bad things. You don’t often remember all the good things, but may more accurately remember the bad things. So thinking back on interactions with Facebook may lead to prevailing thoughts of posts being negativity skewed, even if not the case in reality.
If you are a type of person who is easily affected by happenings on social media (or we’ll say exterior forces in general broadcasted through social media), this may have severe implications. Perhaps this could worsen your mood, cause anxiety, or cause anger with things happening. You weren’t even mad until you read it.
Similar Skew in News
If you’ll allow, I want to deviate and mention news outlets, which are a content cousin of social media, cut out of the same bytes.
News can also have a negative skew. Positive news just doesn’t shock or sell articles. You will sometimes hear this called the psychological negativity bias. I must say regarding the news, I used to read it often. Dr. Bill Lewis, (one of my favorite teachers of all time), gave the keynote at graduation one year and said, “read the newspaper everyday”. For some time I did and followed his advice. I don’t know if I agree anymore because for me, it can consume and I can be brought down by what I read. Or at minimum, it has a tendency to consume a lot of time.
My news consumption strategy today is to let most things propagate through the social and news outlet filters. Once time has allowed things to settle, the big articles will bubble up to the surface, and I can glance over. Sort of like my checking baseball scores the next day. I revisited Dr. Lewis’ call to action and believe his driver was to not take a back seat in your community. This I can agree to.
So I Don’t Use Facebook, Right?
Wrong. It has a time and a place. While I agree Facebook has changed drastically from when I used it back in 2006 for college (I resisted it but Dan Barker convinced me!), I do not agree that it is useless. I like Facebook for being able to quickly and efficiently communicate with friends. Particularly this is nice to communicate and reconnect with old friends and acquaintances.
Finally, I conduct business on Facebook. As a side topic, I believe anyone using Facebook should assume their work is watching and that their Facebook account is actually their work account, but that’s a topic for another day. (You know who you are)
In summary, before you shut it down you have to ask yourself…
Is that really the break you want?
I shared a lot of opinion today. I have had chats with friends and family about this but I want to know what you think! Drop me a line or comment below if you would like to weigh in. If you like the post, feel free to subscribe.