End User Woes: Beating the Facebook Addiction
In the past six months, I have watched two separate movies about Facebook. The first was The Social Network, about how the site got started. The other was The Social Dilemma, revealing how it operates. I was horrified by the first – mobilized by the second.
When I watched The–incredibly compelling–Social Network about the invention of Facebook, I was shocked, but not surprised, that it was conceived in anger. Not just any anger, but the bitter rage of a lonely college student who had been taken down a peg by his girlfriend. As the movie tells it, he went back to his dorm room, started drinking, and invented a site whereby men could compare the faces of women on campus and decide which one was hotter. That site was called “Facemash,” and it was quickly followed by, “TheFacebook,” a social networking site for Harvard students. Hardly a tale of home-grown American ingenuity.
Since seeing The Social Network, I found this troubling truth turning over and over in my mind. Companies are said to have a top-down structure, in which the leadership influences the tone of the entire organization. It could also be said that the conception of an organization influences its direction and future. What does it say about Facebook that it was birthed from a revenge plot by an immature frat boy?
Actually, it seems fitting that Facebook started this way. After all, it’s the perfect outlet for trumpeting physical beauty and material success, while dumping on the less beautiful, less photogenic, and less accomplished. Studies have shown that the act of comparing yourself to others, which Facebook clearly encourages, has been linked to depressive symptoms.
Which brings us to the second movie I saw: The Social Dilemma, a recent documentary (ironically put out by Netflix) that shows the dark truths about various social media sites. It interviews an impressive array of higher-ups, investors, and innovators at sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others. They all agree on one thing: something needs to change.
These social media movers and shakers describe how Facebook, and similar sites, use targeted strategies to bring users back online – and keep them online – to show them more advertisements. They reveal how human psychology is implemented to increase member engagement, such as the positive reinforcement users receive as they check their “news feed” for fresh posts. One interviewee makes the chilling observation that only two industries refer to their clients as users: social media companies and drug dealers.
For me, this was the last straw. I wanted to start a new life, free from the shackles of end user addiction. Little did I know what an epic battle lay before me. True to its treatment of members as “users,” Facebook practically requires a Twelve Step Program to quit. All humor aside, many similarities have been found between addictions to social media and substance abuse.
When you try to quit Facebook, the first option is to disable your account, in which case it lurks in the shadows until a day when you’re feeling down, ready to swoop in like a wily drug dealer. For the truly committed, there is the option of – can I even say it – account deletion. If this is your chosen route, I hope you have a steadfast sponsor and an iron will, because this will not be an easy process.
To continue the apt analogy of addiction recovery, you must earn a your “one-day chip” by pressing that “delete account” button. However, you still have to wait thirty days before it will actually go away. (I’m sure you can still “recover” it, like an addict finding a secret stash he forgot about under his bed.) Finally, you must earn that thirty-day chip for full deletion: a fete any recovering addict will tell you is not for the faint of heart.
I suppose it’s fitting that Facebook is headquartered in California. Just like the cursed residence in the Eagles classic, “Hotel California,” it seems: You can check out any time you like/ But you can never leave.