From Fast Company:
About a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg began publicly pushing a certain idea about social media and its supposed benefits, one he said was backed up by research: Facebook, the CEO claimed, is more beneficial to users when they engage more frequently with people they care about, rather than just scrolling through the news feed and passively looking at posts.
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New findings, revealed last week in a major study by researchers at Stanford University and New York University, threaten to undermine what has become one of Zuckerberg’s most salient pro-Facebook arguments, and a key justification he cited for controversial algorithm changes rolled out last year that favored posts from friends and family over those of news outlets and other pages. Those changes were part of the Facebook CEO’s new emphasis on “meaningful interactions,” something he outlined in a Facebook post in January 2018:
“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”
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While the study attracted a lot of attention last week for its conclusion that deactivating your Facebook accounts can be good for your mental health, it also called into question past research that seemed to place a premium on the kind of “active” Facebook use Zuckerberg has been publicly espousing.
“We find little evidence to support the hypothesis suggested by prior work that Facebook might be more beneficial for ‘active’ users—for example, users who regularly comment on pictures and posts from friends and family instead of just scrolling through their news feeds,” the researchers wrote.
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The Stanford study, however, found that people who deactivated their Facebook accounts reported similar effects on subjective well-being, regardless of whether they were active or passive Facebook users. “Perhaps surprisingly, we see no differences in the effects of deactivation on the subjective well-being index,” the researchers wrote.
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When Zuckerberg first wrote about his “meaningful interactions” mantra, it reflected a significant change in positioning, one that came in the wake of mounting evidence that too much screen time is having a negative impact on people’s well-being. Faced with that criticism, Zuckerberg said at the time that Facebook would no longer simply encourage people to use the service, but rather it would focus on encouraging them to use it the right way. That meant tweaking news feed algorithms and nudging users toward content from their friends and family.
Link to the rest at Fast Company
PG notes Facebook’s admission in 2018 that the personal information of 50 million of its users was compromised by hackers, many news stories about the increased number of people deactivating their personal accounts and the increasing use of fake accounts on Facebook for various political purposes and to facilitate personal attacks on others.
He finds himself disinclined to use Facebook for engaging in meaningful interactions with others.