If you want to be mean, stick to Twitter.
Too much time on Facebook provokes envy which results in fear of missing out which ends in depression. Harvard Business School lists the problems:
Prior research has shown that the use of social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increasesedentary behavior by encouraging more screen time, lead to internet addiction, and erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison. Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to displaythe most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others. But some skeptics have wondered if perhaps people with lower well-being are more likely to use social media, rather than social media causing lower well-being. Moreover, other studies have found that social media use has a positive impact on well-being through increased social support and reinforcement of real world relationships.
Then there is the question of whether social media in general is resulting in political polarization. The verdict is out, but the anecdotal evidence is in: No one wants to hear friends and family opine about politics. Everyone is stupid.
A couple years ago, I started a tradition that my close friends thought was nuts. Since Facebook has no easy way to remove friends in bulk (there are apps that do this for Twitter), removing people was a pain. I hatched a plan. Every day, I’d go through all the birthdays and unfollow anyone I didn’t personally know well. The winnowing process was tedious since I didn’t go on Facebook daily and would forget to delete. I had ignornantly accepted friend requests from people I had just met never considering that going up to the 5000 limit was insane and a great way to feel disconnected from people — the exact opposite of Facebook’s supposed purpose (its real, unstated purpose is to sell your data and make Mark Zuckerberg even richer).
It took two or three years to slim the list to 1,200 or so people but it was still frustrating. The news feed was a random mess of stories from people I didn’t want to hear about. Finally, I started a new Facebook page altogether, carefully adding people who are related or close friends.
But even that wasn’t enough. The election came along and people got stupider. Stupidest. Facebook was unbearable — even the 280 Facebook friends who I knew and loved. So, I muted the worst offenders. I had friends, it turned out, that believe that killing babies is something to proudly proclaim from their Facebook pages. Since I didn’t want to end up hating these people, I muted them.
And still, my Facebook misery wasn’t mollified. Because Facebook is integral to my job, staying on it was mandatory. Understanding it was, and is, a necessity.
So what to do? I decided to be the change I sought in the world. On Facebook, I stopped posting anything political. I decided, wonder of wonders, to use it only for what it was meant to do: connect us with friends and family and talk about agreeable things. I decided to stop commenting on posts unless I could say something loving. I shared personal stories about my family. No politics, no religion, no treatises on vaccines or lack thereof, no disquisitions on the idiocy of vegans. I spared people my great insight into politics, religion, and sex. I saved all that for Twitter. Twitter was designed to be awful and awfulness belongs there.
Facebook is good for one thing: staying in touch with old friends and family. Each person’s Facebook page is like his home. There are books and music on the walls indicating interests, there are pictures of children, there are links to television shows. People don’t go into one another’s homes and dump radical political views on their neighbors. They don’t talk proudly of their abortions in VERY LOUD VOICES, yelling in faces. At least, they didn’t used to and judging by my current, broad group of friends, they don’t now.
On Facebook, though, people will go running into someone’s house (page) and feel free to dump judgmental, self-righteous opinions, and then get offended when someone is offended. Here’s the choice: either don’t go to that person’s house (page) anymore, or go, but keep the yap shut. Is the homeowner a jerk? Don’t stop by the house at all. Make a mental note and move on. Certainly don’t go into his or her house and yell. Do people really believe that by making a derisive comment on Facebook they’ll change the mind of the opinion-holder?
Facebook can be a place to share one another’s struggles and joys and stay in touch with people from days gone by. Or it can be a fetid hellscape where suburban housewives and men relaxing after work turn into primal vicious opinion-beasts. It’s too much the latter.
The world was better when we were deprived of the every thought rattling through our friends and families’ minds. We don’t need to know. We don’t. Let’s go back to the good old days where we just assume people believe most of the same things we do (it’s a safe assumption) and let the rest go.
It’s time to be the change we want to see on Facebook. Save the evil for Twitter where it belongs.
Photo credit: David Torcivia, Photo of Descent into Hell, Hieronymus Bosch, The Met