Social media has dramatically changed the way we communicate and allowed us to keep in instant touch with an army of “friends” all over the globe. It also drawn much criticism for being a useless time waster, a great vehicle to rapidly disseminate misinformation, and a hindrance to constructive conversation. Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya slammed the company in no uncertain terms, stating, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” He later softened his stance (in a Facebook post, oddly enough), but the damage was done.
The company recently announced a series of changes to the site designed to reduce potential mental health concerns that could be experienced by frequent users, including an option called Snooze. It allows users to hide a person or group from their feed for 30 days without blocking them. Another called Take a Break hides an ex’s posts on the site.
So far, Mark Zuckerberg and company have avoided the most obvious point in their defense: use the site in moderation. Like anything, Facebook becomes a problem if you use it incorrectly or in excess.
Of course, no one there is about to tell anyone to lessen their time on the site. In response to claims that heavy Facebook use can result in issues like depression and negative social comparison, it argued that using the site more was a way to mitigate them. Their stance is that such problems are caused by too much passive consumption of information, while participating more through active engagement is an effective defense.
While we have no doubt that Facebook brings people together and has changed some lives for the better, the addictive nature of the site (which is very much by design) will continue to be an issue until there is a change of thinking at the very top of the company.