How Facebook Contributes to Unhappiness and Saps Intellectual Stimulation
For a while, I was extremely addicted to social media in general and Facebook in particular. It became part of the dark playground as I procrastinated from homework and other obligations. I often used it to seek attention because I had zero close friends during college.
Here’s the thing. Facebook is genuinely terrible for your happiness.
To begin with, here is a rough function on happiness: happiness = results — expectations.
Facebook drives up personal expectations because it exposes you to nonstop comparisons of others’ careful image crafting. This results in wide expectations gaps, as well as feelings of envy and inadequacy.
However, Facebook’s limitations don’t stop there.
Facebook also has a tendency to crowd out in-person interaction. In tandem with competitive envy outlined above, it contributes to an epidemic of loneliness.
The implications of loneliness are very great. It increases susceptibility to (drug) addiction. Moreover, according to George Monobiot, “Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity. Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents — all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety, and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut.”
Furthermore, Facebook’s defining features — lack of privacy, knowing everyone you converse with, tendency to create echo chambers, and pressures to behave in conformist ways — make it a uniquely awful place for reasoned discussion.
Sometimes, even well-articulated dissent gets buried by inflammatory rhetoric. Given you know everyone you interact with, the stakes are too high; in addition, the lack of anonymity removes the safe spaces needed to have vibrant discussion.
All too often, controversial, emotionally charged, and complex topics get oversimplified into a polarizing “you’re either for us or you’re against us” mentality.
Whenever it gets to such a fight or flight response, the flow of conversation and learning has already shut down.
Finally, Facebook has a number of operating practices that are unfair to popular content producers. For instance, its algorithms tend to suppress content rather than promote it. Its advertising is vulnerable to clickfarms and actually reduces engagement over time.
Then there is the issue of freebooting. Popular channels get free publicity, Facebook keeps all the advertising revenues, and it does absolutely nothing to deter Intellectual Property violations. All the while, the original content producer suffers.
All this to keep us on a site that is already making us unhappy!