By Sarah Gayda
Facebook makes me feel bad. Here's the pattern: I click on the alluring 'f' icon, telling myself that I'm going to take just a few minutes to get caught up. Somehow, time falls away as I compulsively scroll and click, falling down one rabbit hole after another. I giggle, gawk and gape before forcing an end to my session of guilty voyeurism.
A close friend recently said that, "Facebook makes people jealous and judgey." She's right. There's nothing like staring out into endless sheets of Vancouver rain, seemingly alone in the city over spring break, while viewing pictures of perfect, happy, beautiful families on the beaches of Maui or the slopes of Whistler, to exacerbate my seasonal affective disorder. My cynicism is easily set off by the preponderance of humblebragging and selfies.
While I try to be an honest, loving, empathetic person focused on being a good mother, wife and friend, Facebook brings out the ugly in me. As a result, I try to resist Facebook's temptations the same way I resist picking up trashy magazines at the checkout counter. My close friend and I make bets with each other to see how long we can each go without checking Facebook. Here’s the thing: the longer we restrain ourselves, the better we feel.
There's research to suggest we're not alone. An article, Facebook can’t escape mounting evidence that it’s making people miserable, mirrors my sentiment that the more we use Facebook, the less happy we feel. The author notes, "The more hours Facebook users logged on the social network over time, the more their sense of wellbeing and happiness declined, according to the researchers."
Anecdotally, I see more and more aunts, uncles, grandparents and other members of older generations flocking to Facebook and testing out its features with zeal. At the same time, my teenage kids and their friends appear much less interested in what they consider an outdated social platform. My unscientific survey found that teens use Facebook largely for messaging and event information, but are loathe to post a party photo that a grandparent might (heaven forbid) comment on or that a university admissions officer or potential employer may find.
Snapchat currently seems to have the upper hand when it comes to winning over the hearts and user habits of today's teenagers. The app offers a space free of most parents and grandparents, and one that's largely unfiltered and temporary. (Although, kids, don’t kid yourselves: nothing is ephemeral on the web.) Why Snapchat is better than Facebook explains, "Snapchat lets millennials broadcast their lives only to people that they care about...There's no sense of warped virtual validation that arises via Facebook 'likes'...and no social pressure to conform to a public persona. Snapchat avoids the traps of Facebook and Instagram by keeping private lives private — a social network that isn't too social."
I would argue that many people well past their teenage years seek to keep some parts of their lives private on Facebook, too. I read many fantastic articles that I like but don't "like" or share on Facebook because I don't want everyone to know what I'm reading. However, that doesn’t stop the invasive, targeted ads that pop up on my page based on what I've read in the past. (But that’s another blog post.)
Lack of credibility is another huge issue plaguing Facebook these days. Most people no longer place much stock in how many followers a page or person has given the emerging big business of buying followers and likes. A quick search for "buy likes and followers on Facebook" returns close to 23 million results and many catchy pitches for these underhanded services.
Fake news is becoming an old story, but Facebook has been a guilty conduit with its largely unvetted and uncurated means of delivery. A recent survey of over 3,000 American adults showed that, "...more than half of those who use Facebook as a news source — 54% — said they trust news on the platform 'only a little' or 'not at all.'"
I do have to hand it to Facebook for trying to address its integrity issues and cracking down on 30,000 fake accounts ahead of the French election. This attempt backfired and instead drove up demand — but at least they tried.
So, if Facebook is making people miserable, failing to attract the younger generation and lacking trustworthiness, is it even still relevant? For certain things — watching my nieces and nephews grow up far away, being a part of my brother's wedding via live stream and getting a needed laugh from a clever meme every once in a while — yes. For other things — connecting deeply with real friends, staying current on my kids' lives, accessing reliable world news and nourishing my self-worth — no.
Perhaps Facebook isn't the best place to share this blog post.