Facebook is hurting you, and we need to talk about it.
If you’re like most people, you’re spending a lot of time there, and there are some things you need to know.
If seeing pictures of your friends together at social outings leaves you feeling left out, you’re not alone. Seeing your friends chat with others on threads and in pictures doing activities with other friends can give you a sense of being left out or of downright loneliness.
According to the University of Regensburg in Germany, “A sample of 65 participants was recruited from a local university and was followed for a study period of two weeks. Subjects were requested to assess their emotional state and the level of Facebook use several times a day. . . . Statistical analyses . . . indicated that state feelings of loneliness were predictive of a subsequent increase in Facebook use. (Reissmann, Andreas, Nov. 2018)”
The risk goes up the more time you spend on Facebook.
According to Brian Primack, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, “It turns out that the people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half-hour per day or less on those sites (Hobson, 2017)
The University at Buffalo studied social exclusion, a fancy pants term for feeling left out.
The researchers found that “The short-term effects of these posts create negative emotions in the users who read them and may affect thought processes in ways that make users more susceptible to advertising messages. (University at Buffalo, 26 Sept. 2018)”
You can bet your bottom dollar that advertisers are banking on making money off of your Facebook usage. Facebook games keep you on the site so that you will stick around to see more ads, and ads bring in the big bucks for Facebook.
According to Cal Newport, who gave a Ted Talk on quitting social media altogether, “many of the major social media companies hire individuals called attention engineers, who borrow principles from Las Vegas casino gambling, among other places, to try to make these products as addictive as possible. That is the desired use case of these products: is that you use it in an addictive fashion because that maximizes the profit that can be extracted from your attention and data (Newport, 2016).”
We’ve all had the experience of looking up at the clock and wondering where the time went. We were just going to check our feed for a few minutes, and suddenly a few hours had gone by.
For many, this becomes a regular habit. Depending on how much time you spend on Facebook regularly, you’re making yourself more susceptible to depression and anxiety.
According to The American Journal of Health Behavior, “In October 2014, a nationally-representative sample of 1730 US adults ages 19 to 32 completed an online survey. Cluster analysis was used to identify patterns of SMU. . . . Participants were characterized as “Wired,” “Connected,” “Diffuse Dabblers,” “Concentrated Dabblers” and “Unplugged.” (Shensa, 2018). The participants who were categorized as “Wired” and “Connected,” the highest social media usage categories, had increased odds of elevated depression and anxiety symptoms (Shensa, 2018).”
Aside from the increased risk of depression, anxiety, and loneliness, many can’t shake the feeling that they’re not being heard. They try to join the conversation in their friend’s threads, only to have no one respond to what they’ve said.
In the wake of the “me too” movement, many men were afraid to be another man saying “not all men,” when they wanted to say, “I empathize with your painful situation. I want you to know there are still men you can trust. We are not all like that jerk who hurt you.”
But they feared a social media lynch mob.
Angry women who felt their experiences were being invalidated by any man who said, “not all men” made it impossible for any man to speak up on behalf of his gender.
The silence forced upon men has been unfair. They’ve been cut out of the conversation, which is not the first conversation to divide the masses.
In the 2016 election, Facebook became a division of Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump. Both sides were angry at one another. Anyone who voiced an opinion seemed to be angrily attacked by a person with opposing views.
Accusations and name-calling circumvented civil dialogue. Suddenly Facebook was an ugly place to be. People were just hoping to get in and get out, having scored a few good memes, and if they were lucky — a meaningful status update.
Name-calling and other rude behavior aren’t limited to the 2016 election. Due to what’s known as the online disinhibition effect, people say things online, which they would not say in person.
I have a friend who posted pictures of his pet rats; people commented about exterminating them with sticky traps. Who would threaten the lives of someone’s pets in person? Probably no one, but online, people feel safe to be downright hateful.
John Suler, Ph.D., notes that online, “We witness rude language, harsh criticisms, anger, hatred, even threats (Suler, 2004).”
I know, I know, Facebook has its merit. You get to weigh in on discussions you wouldn’t get to have if it weren’t for the social media platform.
You can easily message a friend. You see pictures of friends and family even though they live far away. These are all great things, but the key is balance.
According to The New York Times, “Fifty minutes. That’s the average amount of time; the company said that users spend each day on its Facebook (Stewart, 2017).”
That’s enough to put you at risk for depression, anxiety, and loneliness. It’s also a lot when you look at how little time Americans spend with their children, relaxing, or hobbies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017 Results of the American Time Use Survey, Americans spend:
a) 16.5 minutes per day Reading
b) 78 minutes per day Socializing and Communication
c) 21.3 minutes per day Relaxing and thinking
d) 2.4 minutes per day Reading to their children
e) 3 minutes per day Talking to children under 18
f) 18 minutes per day Playing/doing hobbies with children under 18
g) 16.2 minutes per day on personal care (US Department of Labor, 28 June 2018)
So how can you strike a balance? How do you keep from getting lost on Facebook but still stay in touch with the people there?
You can pick three days a week you’re going to use Facebook and set a timer on your phone for thirty minutes.
If you’re like the average social media user, limiting your use of Facebook to three days a week, for 30 minutes, would reduce your use of social media time by 4.33 hours per week (Stewart,2017).
If you’re thinking I could never cut back that much, start small. Maybe set a timer on your phone for a chunk of time you think is reasonable each time you hop on Facebook. Download an app to keep track of your social media use.
Pick a day or two a week that you’re not going to use social media; instead, focus on family or hobbies. Start small and go from there.
In the end, we all have to live with our choices. The next time you use Facebook, I hope you’ll remember that on the other side of the screen are real people with real feelings and think before you type.
Try not to take it personally if no one responds to your comments. They may have decided to get off Facebook before your comment popped up.
If you’re feeling disconnected from friends, try inviting someone over for coffee or send someone a text asking how they’re doing. Go out of your way to make social connections beyond Facebook. The ball’s in your court.
“AMERICAN TIME USE SURVEY — 2017 RESULTS.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, 28 June 2018, 10:00 AM, www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/atus.pdf.
Hobson, Katherine. “Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time on Social Media May Be Why.” NPR, NPR, 6 Mar. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/06/518362255/feeling-lonely-too-much-time-on-social-media-may-be-why.
Newport, Cal. “Transcript of ‘Why You Should Quit Social Media.’” TED, TEDxTysons, June 2016, www.ted.com/talks/cal_newport_why_you_should_quit_social_media/transcript.
Translated by Peter Van de Ven
Reissmann, Andreas1, andreas.reissmann@ur. d., et al. “The Role of Loneliness in Emerging Adults’ Everyday Use of Facebook — An Experience Sampling Approach.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 88, Nov. 2018, pp. 47–60. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2018.06.011.
Shensa, Ariel, et al. “Social Media Use and Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: A Cluster Analysis.” American Journal of Health Behavior, vol. 42, no. 2, Mar. 2018, pp. 116–128. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5993/AJHB.42.2.11.
Stewart, James B. “Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2016/05/06/business/facebook-bends-the-rules-of-audience-engagement-to-its-advantage.html.
Suler, John. “The Online Disinhibition Effect.” Academia.edu, Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 2004, s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/30420106/suler.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1556130292&Signature=42KeMVFw1UxdVecLX I8vlLvEiw=&response-content-disposition=inline; filename=The_online_disinhibition_effect.pdf.
Volume 7, Number 3,
“Your Facebook Friends Don’t Mean It, but They’re Likely Hurting You Daily.” Your Facebook Friends Don’t Mean It, but They’re Likely Hurting You Daily — University at Buffalo, University at Buffalo, 26 Sept. 2018, www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2018/09/034.html.