Towards a Happier, Less Nastier Facebook
Passive use, loneliness and the agony of social comparisons are some of the "ills" being battled on social media and Facebook's answer to these are: easier ways to comment back, a dating feature and a time tracker to check overuse.
During the International Press Day event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Facebook's Research Vice President David Ginsberg said the social media giant invests heavily on understanding the impact of Facebook on users' well-being and works hard to make it less nastier and happier.
One of the outcomes of this research was Mark Zuckerberg announcing a slew of new measures last year to make Facebook a more pleasant experience.
David Ginsberg said the three broad focus areas of research on well-being was passive use, loneliness and social comparisons.
Research has found that those who only open Facebook page without actively engaging with content is not good for the well being as compared to others, who are active users.
Facebook has introduced several new features that bring the users out of passive mode through easier active interaction arrangements with friends and families. These are called "meaningful social interaction" or "MSI" that promotes content that is more likely to lead interactions between friends.
"When we look at behaviours, when people get into passive consumption mode, those types of activities tend not to be associated with increases in wellbeing. And what I mean by passive consumption is, and we've all been there, we've all had these moments where you're just sort of scrolling and you'rekind of mindlessly looking at it and you're not interacting, you're not really paying attention to most of it, of what's happening. And you kind of just get sucked into it, " said David.
The other major concern is loneliness. Facebook users can be lonely despite having a big friends list.
"It's going to be different for every person. And when you look at the academic research plus the research that we've done internally, it's really about this notion of the disconnect between the quality of relationships that you want to have and the quality of relationships that you feel you have. It's really sort of where that zone of loneliness lives," said David.
Among others, Facebook has launched its own dating service to help users find meaningful interactions. Facebook dating also has a "secret crush" and "share live location" features.
"The second thing that we've launched is a time tracker. So you sort of an alarm so you can set a little reminder for yourself now on Facebook and Instagram and say, I don't want to spend more than x amount of time on a daily basis."
"And when you hit that amount of time, sort of a window pops up and says you've hit your amount of time and you can move on to go do something else, should you want to."
"And then the third is something that we call Do Not Disturb, which allows you to sort of mute the notifications that come from Facebook or Instagram for an amount of time," David added.
Facebook research has found social comparisons to be one of the third areas to be looked into.
"So one of the things people talk a lot about with social media in general and online technology and online media technologies in general, is this notion of when I see my friends having this amazing vacation, this is an international audience. So in Bali and I'm sitting here, you know at home does it make me feel worse about my life?," he said.
But the research tells us both our internal and external is that social comparison happens both offline and on social media platforms, he said. Facebook wants to minimize this and ensure people are not interacting in a pressurised atmosphere. It is offering more controls like the new feature of disallowing mocking of a death. Or, if a person is posting something you do not want to see anymore, you can just snooze the content briefly. This tool can help people overcome break-ups.
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