Social Media Harms

4 Reasons to Delete Your Facebook Account Now

Meta’s Facebook Feed recommendation algorithm promotes posts of anxious and/or depressed users, misinformation, and violence

Sharon Winkler
Social Media Harms
Published in
4 min readOct 29, 2021

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen’s submission of the “Facebook Papers” to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Congress and to multiple news organizations has resulted in a flurry of new information regarding the internal workings of Facebook’s Feed algorithm and the decision-making processes of both technical personnel and Facebook management. These papers and the response of Facebook C-Suite executives to the revelations in them have made the following points very clear:

1. Facebook’s Feed Algorithm promotes harmful content

Facebook’s metric of Meaningful Social Interactions (MSI) — i. e. “engagement” with the goal of having more users spend more time Facebook-hopefully resulting in higher revenues, was the company’s north star. Any change to the News Feed algorithm that resulted in lower MSI, was rejected, even if that change would have resulted in less misinformation and harmful content being shared. Merril and Oremus’ Washington Post article, Five points for anger, one for a “like”: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation and Frances Haugen’s interview on the podcast Your Undivided Attention highlighted the following about the Feed:

  • Feed algorithm trained to monitor user engagement or MSI
  • Feed algorithm changed in 2017 to give posts that receive “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry” emoji response 5 times (X) the number of ranking points than a “like.”
  • Meta (i.e.Facebook) research revealed that people who are experiencing negative life experiences (loss of a significant other/spouse/loved one), or who are socially isolated spend more time on Facebook and therefore have higher MSI scores. These users posts are ranked higher than users who have lower engagement with FB, meaning that people who are not depressed have their Facebook News Feeds influenced by people who are depressed.
  • MSI. A user who posts, comments or uses emojis 1,000 times per day receives 20X more points than the average users. Users who are at 99.9 percentile of engagement get 100X points for posts than “average” FB user.

2. Peer-Reviewed Academic Studies Show that Facebook Use Causes Depression in 9.6 % of it adult users

Dr. Brian Primack, MD, Ph.D, Dean, College of Education and Health Professions, University of Arkansas and associates published the study Temporal Associations Between Social Media Use and Depression in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in February 2021. This six month study of 990 people ages 18–30 showed that 9.6% of participants developed depressive symptoms. The study found that increased engagement with social media platforms increased the probability that the participant would become depressed. This finding is not surprising as it is now widely known that the Facebook Feed promotes the posts of depressed, socially isolated individuals. Additional peer-reviewed, academic studies documenting the negative effects of social media use can be found at Social Media Harms.

3. Meta Leadership reluctant to change and the U.S. Congress is unlikely to act

Gilad Edelman in his Wired article How to Fix Facebook According to Facebook Employees, documents many employee discussions in the Facebook Papers that provide solutions to many of the problems with News Feed algorithmic curation. Some of these solutions were discussed as early as 2016. However, these employees’ ideas were not approved by Facebook’s management because they might reduce MSI — and Facebook user growth. Steven Levy in his newsletter “Plaintext” noted on October 29, 2021 that during the keynote speech announcing the renaming of Facebook to Meta that CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to address the current controversies with Facebook and wanted instead to only focus on the future of Meta. So much for fixing Facebook. On October 22, 2021, Didier Reynders, the European Union Commissioner for Justice told the Washington Post, that talks with U.S. government officials indicated that the chances of passing internet regulation legislation soon were slim.

4. Protect Your Privacy — Don’t Allow Facebook to Make Money on Your Private Information

If you do not delete your account, Facebook will still be able to sell all of the information it has collected on you. You can download a copy of all of your posts before you delete your account.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is another one of those internet scary stories. I guarantee you that the people that are truly helpful in your life will communicate with you in other ways — perhaps even a personal visit (or a text message or phone call or e-mail). Take the plunge…delete your Facebook account now!

Social Media Harms provides a listing of peer-reviewed studies, academic books and articles from authoritative sources that document the negative effects of social media use. The website also includes links to organizations that promote safe social media and internet use.

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Sharon Winkler
Social Media Harms

Publisher/Editor Social Media Harms, https://socialmediaharms.org. Mother, Grandmother, Retired U. S. Naval Officer