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“Meaningful Interactions” on Facebook

7 February 2019

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.

. . . .

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.”

. . . .

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.

. . . .

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.

. . . .

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.

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5 Comments to ““Meaningful Interactions” on Facebook”

  1. The more you interact with Facebook, the more information they have on your likes and dislikes, and the more they know about you–and thus–the more valuable you become when they want to sell that information to others.

    If you don’t interact, they have little to sell.

  2. ““Meaningful Interactions” on Facebook”

    Also heard said by Mark Zuckerberg: “They trust me. Stupid f***s.”

    Reminds my of the movie (War Games?) where the AI wakes up to the not-so-minor fact that the only winning move is not to play.

  3. For those who can’t or don’t get out, Facebook is literally a life saver.

    Your online support group is a source of what it would be exhausting to even try to find in real life – other people who know what you’re going through.

    Healthy people don’t even think about this need – their lives have plenty of appropriate relationships.

    But for people with rare diseases, finding others online to whom you don’t have to explain everything is a huge gift.

    Whether this is FB’s true intent, or any one of the desired outcomes, it is incredibly valuable to some groups, and more coherent than many other online venues.

    Too bad it can also bring groups of haters together, but that is the internet in general, not just FB.

    • At its core, Facebook IS providing online community. That is most definitely the value proposition behind the product. And it does it better than anything that has ever been invented. Its the way that is monetized that is bothersome to certain people. I don’t personally find it bothersome.

      The bottom line is that Facebook is a tool, like anything else. It can be abused, or it can be used to great effect. And like any tool connected to the internet, there are privacy concerns.

      • I agree with Alicia and Anthony. Facebook has done a great service to many people, especially because it opens up a type of interaction that would not be available to people without the technical chops of the folks here.

        I do have a suggestion as alternative that can be more private and less exploitative: start an old-fashioned email group. You can do it by simply putting together an email address list or use a free email group service like Groups.io. (I would avoid Yahoo Groups– they are in turmoil.)

        TPV is another type of online community that works well and avoids exploitation, but is entirely public. I doubt it is happening, but the ad biz could scan TPV to target ads.

        Just remember that email is never entirely private. Google scans Gmail traffic and content like it scans Google searches. Email can end up it court. Your recipient can easily forward your email to someone you would prefer did not see it.

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