It all seemed so promising when Facebook first burst onto the scene back in the day. A new and exciting way to stay in touch with our loved ones and check out all the gossip going on in our social circles. Now, years later, we know that it isn’t all peaches and cream with the big blue social network.
Recent problems, like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the spread of fake news in Myanmar contributing to genocide and increasing problems across Facebook-owned WhatsApp have eclipsed the more personal problems that have afflicted social media users because of practices designed to get people hooked on social networks. Depression and addiction are rife across social networks and a couple of recent studies have highlighted problems relating to time spent on social media and Facebook.
Facebook can make you feel lonely and makes young adults 3.5 times more likely to turn to alcohol
A study from the upcoming December edition of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Science Daily, recently highlighted by The Verge, reports some pretty astonishing findings on the effect social media has on people using it. Entitled “No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression” you don’t need to be a psychology major to understand what it is getting at.
There were 143 participants in the study and those that were put in the experimental group that limited time on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to 10 minutes per platform a day saw a statistically significant decrease in depression and loneliness. The control group that didn’t limit their social media use reported no improvement.
The lead psychologist on the study, Melissa G. Hunt, doesn’t believe that people should quit social media altogether, but she does believe that limits can be helpful.
Another damning report on Facebook, this time from the University of Connecticut, links Facebook to increasing the desire to drink in users by up to 3.5 times. The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, links alcohol ads on Facebook to increased engagement via the “Like” and “Share” buttons if there are pro-drinking comments attaching to the ad.
The problem seems to stem from the positive comments attached to the ads validating the message that the advertisers are trying to put across. For alcoholics struggling to stay away from temptation or young people deciding whether to try som,ething new the effect can be the same. Perceived social validation can act as a trigger, when, in fact, the comments of strangers are meaningless when considered in any real sense.
On the face of it, this could seem like it is irresponsible practice from the alcohol industry rather than Facebook itself. When you consider how problems like the spread of fake news in Myanmar stemmed from the fact that Facebook wasn’t doing enough to police what was being spread across its network, it becomes clear that this is just another case of irresponsible practices from the social giant. Facebook simply hasn’t done enough to consider the implications of its actions and as a result, Facebook users find themselves in harm’s way.