Can We Trust Facebook?

Facebook (“Meta”) and their major platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Messenger) have become completely intertwined with our lives. Although we may not want to admit the extent of how dependent we really are on Facebook, we can’t ignore how the world started panicking when Facebook went offline for even just 6 hours in 2021.

We’ve given Facebook knowledge about almost everything about ourselves. We rely on Facebook to meet most of our social needs. We depend on Facebook for news and information. Many people rely on Facebook for their livelihood. Some meet their partners and spouses through Facebook.

It may seem that Facebook has made our lives better in many ways, but what are the negative effects of Facebook? How does Facebook affect mental health and societal health? How does Facebook influence governments and politics?

1) The Negative Effects of Facebook (and Instagram) on Self-Esteem

Facebook objectively causes a decrease in users’ overall self-esteem. The negative effects of Facebook on self-esteem stem from the tendency of people to compare themselves to others while using Facebook. This can cause feelings of inadequacy because everyone has a perfect life on Facebook.

Facebook and Instagram contribute to lower self-esteem as people tend to compare themselves to the perfect (fake) lives of others.

Photoshop, image filters, camera angles and fake candid photos all contribute to illusions of perfection. These illusions are what people (especially young people) end up comparing themselves to.

There is always somebody with more likes and more comments. There’s always someone at a fancier restaurant or on a more expensive holiday. For women, there’s always another girl getting more “Gorgeous!” and “Beautiful!” comments from random desperate men she’s never met.

Furthermore, an internal study by Facebook found that Instagram contributes to eating disorders and body-image disorders in 1 out of 3 teen girls. As well, the study found that many teens blame depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts on Instagram. When a Facebook whistleblower leaked evidence of the negative effects of Facebook and Instagram on teens’ self-esteem, Mark Zuckerberg dismissed these reports.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen came out in late 2021 with various different allegations implicating the negative effects of Facebook. She accused Facebook of sacrificing safety for profits, harming the mental health of young users, contributing to 24/7 cyberbullying, contributing to violence worldwide and failing to curb misinformation and hate speech.

2) Facebook Manufactures Narcissism

Another negative effect of Facebook on mental health is that Facebook is essentially a breeding ground for narcissism; narcissistic posts and behavior are generally rewarded. This is related to the last point as narcissists actually generally have a fragile sense of self-esteem deep down, hence the need for them to constantly show off a grandiose, false exterior.

As well, narcissists copy other narcissists that have received a lot of attention. TikTok dances are the epitome of this phenomenon, but Facebook also highly encourages and rewards narcissistic trends and content.

3) Facebook Divides and Polarizes

Possibly the most obviously noticed negative effect of Facebook is the way that many people interact with others while using Facebook. In most Facebook groups and on most public posts from large pages (particularly news publications), roughly 25-50% of the comments are confrontational and/or overly-opinionated. Everyone has the solution to all of the world’s problems on Facebook. Everyone is right on Facebook.

someone-on-the-internet-is-wrong-angry

Coming back to self-esteem again, many people seem to derive their entire sense of value as a human being from putting people down and “being right” on Facebook. People say things that they would never say to somebody’s face; Facebook makes being terrible to each other the accepted norm of the world.

On a macroscopic level, the negative effects of Facebook on polarization are even more concerning. Facebook’s algorithms tend to divide people into bubbles where they are only exposed to people, ideas, beliefs and values that they agree with. Facebook then amplifies and exaggerates these values. Sensationalist, polarizing, emotionally charged, “us against them” content generates more engagement on Facebook than rational, level-headed, conscientious, empathetic content does.

As a result, studies have shown that the negative effects of Facebook on polarization have contributed to creating a more divided and violent society.

4) Facebook Is Often Used to Incite Violence

The last few years have shown us some of the most severe consequences of the negative effects of Facebook on the world. Although Facebook claims to prevent violence and incitement, there have been numerous situations where Facebook has stood by and failed to act to prevent violence (and even genocide) that was incited on Facebook. Violence in Washington D.C., India, Ethiopia and Myanmar are all recent examples of militant groups using Facebook to rally, organize and plan violent events.

5) Facebook Has a History of Meddling with Elections

Studies and reports have shown that Facebook is often used by governments to influence and meddle with elections, both domestic and foreign.

A small sample of the plethora of ads produced by a foreign government to influence US elections.

Another whistleblower (Facebook has had numerous of them throughout the years) revealed to the world that Facebook user data was harvested by an outside organization (Cambridge Analytica) to create targeted political ads to users. Facebook knew about this but didn’t act against it for years.

6) The Negative Effects of Facebook on Privacy

Facebook has a history of leveraging user data when negotiating deals with third-party apps. Basically, they offer user data in return for compensation (often money) of some kind.

Mark Zuckerberg has a history of “giving” data away to companies in exchange for compensation of some type. Basically, Facebook uses this as a loophole to sell user data, but in a way that they aren’t able to be directly accused of selling data.

Aside from that, Facebook has created a world where it is now the norm for people to throw away their personal privacy. The typical Facebook user allows hundreds or thousands of other people (often strangers) to know everything about their life.

Of course, it is people’s choice as to whether or not to join Facebook, and it’s people’s choice as to how much about themself they reveal on Facebook. However, each year it gets more and more difficult to have a modern social life without Facebook.

Narcissism has become more important than privacy for many modern Facebook users; Facebook is at least partially responsible for gradually reshaping users’ values in this way.

7) The Negative Effects of Facebook on Human Connection

Mark Zuckerberg often likes to parade his message of how Facebook “connects people” and “brings people closer together“. He also states that this is Meta’s main agenda for developing the metaverse.

But what is human connection really?

Is human connection doling out and receiving little thumb-up icons and emoticons from other people all day?

Is this what the infinite complexities of human interaction have been reduced to?

Or is human connection living in a world where everybody doesn’t have their faces in their phones in every private and public area?

Facebook has “connected” us… to our devices.

To many, what happens on Facebook is more important than what happens in real life. Has Facebook really connected us? Or has it simply distracted us from reality?

8) Facebook Sells Out Increasingly More with Each Update

Every year, ads get progressively more prevalent on people’s Facebook newsfeeds. Now, in early 2022, every 4th item (25% of the content) on someone’s Facebook newsfeed is an advertisement (on Facebook’s mobile app).

On a desktop browser, every 5th item (20% of the content) on someone’s newsfeed is an advertisement.

Furthermore, posts from a Facebook business page are severely limited from appearing on anyone’s timeline unless the owner of that page pays Facebook (an exception to this is if someone favorites that page in their follow settings). Business page owners receive daily spam notifications from Facebook trying to convince them to pay Facebook to advertise or boost their page and posts.

At the end of the day, making money is more important to Facebook than anything else (such as user experience or social responsibility), and it’s becoming increasingly obvious and blatant.

9) Facebook Is Addictive

Facebook is undeniably addictive; this fact is what amplifies all of the other negative effects of Facebook.

Anytime someone receives a notification from Facebook, their brain releases a shot of dopamine. This is similar to what the brain does when it’s exposed to cocaine and other addictive drugs. Eventually, prolonged Facebook use can alter the reward thresholds of the brain, resulting in ordinary life becoming dull and stimulating. There isn’t much in the real world that can rapidly fire off the reward centers of the brain quite like Facebook can.


The Future of Facebook (“Meta”)

2022 sees Facebook (Meta) now rapidly developing the metaverse. Humanity is beginning to transition from having our faces in our phones to having our faces in VR and AR headsets. It’s possible (and likely) that the negative effects of Facebook (Meta) will be amplified and further solidified as we journey into this new world.

James | MosaicWriting.com

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