Would you miss Facebook?

What’s on your Facebook today? Maybe a birthday notification? New friend recommendation? Event notification? Photo of what your friends did yesterday (which you should tag!)? Even more important, what buttons will you hit in response?

Does Facebook need you more than you need Facebook? Can you do without Facebook? Can Facebook do without you?

With the recent controversy surrounding the harvesting of 50 million Facebook personal profiles, some people left Facebook, but most will return. Most did not leave. Why not? Well….it’s not easy to leave Facebook. There are too many negative side effects when it comes to your social life and status!

For example, think of the following influences of Facebook on your life:

  1. Your online relationships. You maintain many ongoing relationships with a range of people by clicking on “Like”, getting notified and sending birthday greetings, tagging others, etc. You have a stronger bond with family and friends, including those overseas.
  2. Your online image. You project a certain impression of yourself to others by your profile, the posts you make, the activities you are involved in and promote, etc. You have much control over your social image among a large community of “friends”.
  3. Your need to keep up with others and with news. You enjoy keeping up with what others (family, friends, their “friendships”, etc.) are doing. You don’t want to fall victim to FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out.

Would you want to miss this? What really would you miss if you were to leave Facebook? Then again, why does Facebook have so many ways to keep you on board? Why do they exploit human psychology to maintain and consume so much users time? (See a previous post on The conflict between social networks and parents. ) A few examples shows the means that Facebook uses to keep you coming back for more:

  1. Facebook encourages you to engage in social grooming by clicking on “likes”, tagging photos, sending birthday greetings, “waving” when others link to you, etc. Such tiny contacts with others are easy to do and gives them a renewed sense of your presence and that you are taking note of them. In turn, you hope to get plenty of these tiny contacts yourself.
  2. Facebook keeps pushing information at you, and “nudging” you to respond. For example, recommending friends, sending you notifications about events, reminding you of people’s birthdays, luring you to indicate an interest in something, etc. How does Facebook know what to send you, as the new friends recommendation usually is someone you know, or you do actually have an interest in the event? Simply really, it uses your profile and past/recent Facebook activity. The more you use Facebook, the more it tells you about things you are potentially interested in AND lures you to respond, thereby giving the Facebook algorithms even more knowledge about you.
  3. Even if you decide to leave Facebook, it will strongly nudge you and tell you how many (and even which of your closest!) friends will miss you and how you would be giving up your social circle! You wouldn’t want to do that, would you?

The interactions and lures of Facebook feed your desires for companionship, sense of belonging, feelings of gratification, curiosity, self-esteem, etc., related to individual psychological needs.

The problem of course is that our human desires and so-called needs are filled with sin including selfishness, self-gratification, self-admiration, self-promotion, etc. These attributes can very easily be the motive for Facebook activity, and the Facebook interactive tools, buttons and algorithms only lend themselves to such human-based gratifications.

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:16)

The challenge is for us to use Facebook, NOT in a way that human psychology expects, but in a way that promotes our love for each other. Using the Facebook posts, buttons and tools in such a way takes wisdom and a very different interaction than what Facebook promotes.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Some of the above examples were taken from a post on The Conversation by Sundar, Liu, DiRusso and Krieger from Penn State University. They provide 7 reasons why it is very difficult to get rid of Facebook. You can obtain more information from their post Why it’s so hard to #DeleteFace3book: Constant psychological boosts keep you hooked.