By Alex Altman
Four weeks ago, I made a decision that once seemed unfathomable.
I logged into Facebook, clicked on the settings and deactivated my account.
I first registered for “The Facebook” in 2005, when membership was exclusive to college students. In the decade that followed, Facebook was more than just a site I would frequent — it was a pipeline into my social world. I’d use it for sharing pictures, crowdsourcing, connecting with new friends and other mostly harmless activities.
But over the last few years, my Facebook experience changed.
My news feed, once flooded with posts from social acquaintances, had become a rabbit hole of click-bait. Passive browsing of random stories was now a daily routine that consumed huge chunks of time and left me simmering with feelings of guilt, anger and regret.
I did some research and found that my new Facebook experience was hardly unique. A case study by the Harvard Business Review found that the more you use Facebook, the worse you feel. And even Facebook admits that social media can harm your mental health.
This upsurge of negativity is the biggest threat Facebook faces, more so even than the criticism it continues to draw for selling $100,000 in ads to a Russian “troll farm” before the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook acknowledges its issues and recently rolled out changes to combat them. The big change is a shift to its algorithm designed to put what friends and family have to say before businesses, brands and media.
While this a good and necessary step to reduce passive browsing, Facebook has a long way to go if it wants to win me back as an active user. Beyond the measure outlined above, Facebook needs:
- to crack down on fake news
- to take a more proactive role in eradicating trolling
- to offer its features a la carte, so even non-active users such as myself could use services such as Messenger.
In a January 11, 2018 post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he hopes his company’s recent changes will result in more positive interactions between users — even if that means they spend less time on the platform.
“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
Whether Zuckerberg is right and Facebook is able to emerge from its PR death spiral makes for one of the most fascinating stories of the year.