Is Facebook evil or we are that weak?

Facebook wants us to spend more and more time on our News Feed. Data analysts and engineers work hard to make Facebook more addictive. It doesn’t sound nice but that’s what they want after all. They are using every possible detectable user action to customise it for our interest. They add every small changes for a better experience but in reality they do it to have even more data about us. If they have got data they can understand and predict our behaviour better. If they can predict our behaviour they can manipulate it easier. For more information about their improvements you can read their posts like this or this. If they showed us boring content or always the same on our feed we would less likely check new posts that often. It makes sense of course. And they are quite good at what they are doing. And it’s not only Facebook but there is Twitter and Instagram and who knows how many more.

On one hand they are only giving us a tool that we can use as we please therefore we are the ones who are responsible how to use it. It’s like offering us some drugs doesn’t make the person necessary evil. That person doesn’t make us an addict. It’s on us how we respond, if we get addicted or not. But does it matter how that person offers those drugs? Does that person’s way — words, tone, appearance — make any difference how we respond?

We are responsible for how we spend our time no one else. Especially if we are adults with a more or less mature personality.

On the other hand if we take a look at subliminal advertising and why it is banned in some countries we can asks questions like How is this form of unconscious manipulation different? Facebook is using weaknesses of human nature with its feed tailored just for us. Showing different posts to keep us going back again and again because there is always something new we haven’t seen yet, there is always the possibility to discover, to be surprised, to be entertained.

People usually have bad opinion of gambling companies. Why is that different? These social services make us lose time, and time is money. They makes us lose the possibility of doing something creative, productive, healthy instead of staring at our feed.

Can you tell how much time you spend on Facebook a day, a week, a month? Are you aware of it at all? What is the longest time you can spend without it?

There was a time when people were sitting on the bench in front of their houses just looking at others on the street, having a chat with some of them walking by or with their neighbours. They even were witnesses of their arguments sometimes or could look through their curtains and have a tiny insight of their everyday life. Their Facebook’s feed was the street, they saw real faces instead of pictures, they heard rumours instead of reading posts. So maybe things haven’t changed that much since then just the way of doing them.

But then do we really need to be constantly updated about every meal our friends had, about all their thoughts that suggest they are happy or lonely at that moment, about which series they are watching and which place they’ve just visited? Probably we don’t need to be but we definitely have the possibility now. Even if it’s only a distorted mirror of those people’s life and feelings it doesn’t really matter, because it’s not the point that we want to know more about our “friends”.

There are many studies about why and what people share and how likes, comments or the lack of them make them feel and think and probably some about why we read all those, why we check photos of people we don’t even know and how that effects our relationships, our everyday life (e.g. Self-presentation and belonging on Facebook: How personality influences social media use and motivations,“Are We Facebook Official?” Implications of Dating Partners’ Facebook Use and Profiles for Intimate Relationship Satisfaction, Examining How Gender and Emoticons Influence Facebook Jealousy). But, do we learn anything of these studies? Do we question our own behaviour? Do we change anything?

Are these social platforms evil? Is a knife considered evil? A knife that can be used to eat and to hurt someone at the same time. But can a knife manipulate our behaviour? There are different ways to use the same tools and we have the possibility to decide about how we want to use them. Is there a way to use Facebook for good? Could it be useful? Could it make things easier? People are different so are the answers to all these questions.

And again are they evil or we are weak? Probably both. But what can we do if we want more control for ourselves and less for them? First we have to understand our own behaviour. We have to be aware what we are doing when we are doing it and the reasons behind it. And ask questions from ourselves: how does this make my day better? what else I could do instead? could I call one of my real friends if I want to share or ask something? and more.

It’s easy to blame Facebook or the people who have created it or the society we live in but do we ever blame ourselves?

I’d like to believe that most of the time I’m aware of that moment when clicking to refresh my feed and sometimes I can even stop myself before actually doing it which makes me feel really good. Having the control over your life gives you confidence and much more. But obviously, I’m going to share this post hoping that many people will read it…

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