Contrary to the goal of connecting people, Facebook increasingly makes users feel more lonely when joining the social network.
Launched in 2004, Facebook aims to help users stay connected with friends and family and share what matters to them. “When I first created an account, I could not wait to add friends to my profile, the more the merrier. I post photos, message, update status regularly, follow new friends…”, Helen Tarven, who lives in New York, told.
According to her, the average person has hundreds of “friends” on Facebook. It sounds like a lot of fun, but in reality, users only really trust and turn to a few of them for solace when they have problems. “Facebook is making me feel disconnected more and more. I’m absentmindedly scrolling through the News Feed, congratulating me on a wedding I wasn’t invited to, complimenting a photo of a kid I’ve never met… And it makes me feel lonely”.
According to Bloomberg, this loneliness is clearly portrayed during the pandemic. When users chose Facebook as a communication channel instead of face-to-face meetings. Internally, Meta’s employees began to realize the impact of this social network on the morale of users, but have not found a solution to completely overcome it.
Some surveys show that spending time on Facebook makes users lonelier than playing games and watching TV. “Young people who use Facebook for less than an hour a day appear to have higher levels of happiness and are less lonely than those who use the social network,” says Melissa Hunt, Associate Director of the psychology department for clinical training at the University of Pennsylvania.
And according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, lonely people often sleep more easily, exercise less and drink more alcohol. The more connections someone has on a social network like Facebook, the more similar they will appear.
Meta’s internal studies have also found that Facebook may exacerbate loneliness rather than act as an alleviation. A statistic from 2018 shows that some Facebook experiences can have a bad effect on users’ mood such as seeing negative posts, hurtful comments, seeing friends having fun without you, or seeing content that leads to comparisons on social networks.
“Facebook is a useless game because people only put up there the best photos, only show off when they go to the best restaurants. On it, you always see people with better jobs, traveling a lot and a lot of things better than yours. You never understand their dark side,” said Jake Reilly, who lives in Chicago and spent three months “doing” social media.
Deepening user loneliness research is also becoming important to Meta. In the financial report on February 2, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that, for the first time since its inception in 2004, the number of daily Facebook users in a quarter has decreased.
According to experts, there are many reasons for the decline. One of them is that users are no longer happy on social networks. Connectivity features like Groups inadvertently become incubators for fake news and extremism. Or the feature that displays commemorative photos were originally developed to “spark a sense of connection,” but in fact, it’s Facebook’s own internal studies that show them can cause more sadness.
In an effort to make users less lonely, a few years ago, Facebook held an internal contest to develop new ideas. One team proposed developing a robot named Max that could chat with users based on their moods. However, so far this robot has not become a reality. Meanwhile, WhatsApp – the messaging application belonging to Meta – has also launched a chatbot with a similar function. If someone says they’re lonely, this chatbot will send a comforting response like: “There’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about being alone, nearly everyone has experienced that at some point in their lives. “.
To curb accusations that social networks make users lonelier, Facebook is looking to approach new technology, building communities with lots of engaging content. However, this also does not help the company avoid intense scrutiny from the regulator. Lawmakers and activists argue that Facebook is making vulnerable people more dependent on its products, and the proposed content could adversely affect users’ mental health.