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Facebook and Its Ilk Are a Disease

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research finds in Tuning out: What happens when you drop Facebook? the following:

The team was able to study a wide range of Facebook’s impacts on users. Their findings show that, on average, users who turned off Facebook:

  • Spent less time online overall and more time engaged in a broad range of offline activities, including being with friends and family. They didn’t replace Facebook with another social media platform like Twitter.
  • Reported small but significant improvements in their levels of happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety.
  • Were just as likely to experience changes in well-being regardless of whether they were active or passive users. Facebook announced more than a year ago that scrolling through a news feed — as opposed to actively contributing to the site through comments and other activity — makes users feel worse about themselves.
  • Knew less about current events and political news.
  • Became significantly less politically polarized in their views on issues.
  • Used Facebook less after the experiment was over. Four weeks after the end of the experiment, treatment users spent 23 percent less time on their mobile Facebook apps than control users.


“Our study talks about average effects, but there might be vast differences across people,” Eichmeyer says. “Now that we have the data, we can start exploring potential distinctions.”

MPG: research to back up the “obvious” is good, but is this really a surprise to anyone who has a clue about real vs fake personalities? Those who have unusual self discipline will be OK presumably, but for most people—it’s long past due to delete accounts and sign out.

MPG has long recommended staying off social media platforms, which is why diglloyd on Facebook is a placeholder, existing only to protect the brand from squatters.

Next up prediction: addictive smart phones, e.g., the iPhone and its ugly effects on children, and most adults. With children, I see the iPhone as electronic heroin resulting in lifelong damage to thinking skills by displacing reading and thought with electronic brain farts.

Jason W writes:

You're absolutely right and the research is correct.

I stayed off Facebook for 30 days starting this new year and only jumped back on to share my particularly unusual trip from Death Valley last weekend. Quickly, I remembered why I stayed off.

One of the insidious things about Facebook is the asynchronous nature of the conversations. Debates that would have concluded quickly in person take more time and escalate to arguments as parties become overinvested in the outcome. Nobody wins and everyone goes home angry.

I've noticed Facebook has also harmed communication in other areas. The younger generation sometimes uses cellphone text messaging like Facebook. As someone that grew up with phones, I maintain the concept that respectful communication involves appropriate opening and closing of communication channels. Facebook, however, is a constantly open communication channel, it never closes. As such, I've been frustrated when younger people text and replies are sometimes instant and at other times non-existent. The explanation I get: "Well, I saw it.".

I share important pictures and log off.

MPG: etiquette is a casualty these days, even with email.

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