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Facebook: When is Enough Really Enough?

July 10, 2015

You don’t have to look very far to find articles talking about why Facebook is bad. The lopsided terms of service, the lack of privacy, private data sharing, any number of ethical issues – personal or professional –  you might want to talk about. Add to that list the disturbing and, because of the abundance of ads and game/friend suggestions, nearly useless interface, the fact that just about everything on the site is irrelevant* and the overall time suck and these all reasons, at least for me, to seriously question belonging to the popular site. But it wasn’t until just last week when I read a story from last year about Facebook’s experiment with member’s emotions that I started seriously thinking about what I’m doing on Facebook and, more importantly, why I’m still there.

During the week-long experiment, Facebook manipulated the feeds of nearly three-quarters of a million members (an admittedly small number in comparison to Facebook’s billion plus members) by changing the number of positive and negative messages these members saw on their news feeds. The site then tracked what those users posted after seeing those altered news feeds and whether or not their emotional states (happy or sad) spread to others on the site. Would angry people spread angry messages/content to their friends making those users in turn angry? Would happy people make their friends feel happy? In other words, an experiment testing the spread of an emotional contagion. If that sounds like an outrageous personal violation, one article I read said that Facebook says users consent to this sort of thing when they agree to the site’s terms of service. That makes me wonder what else we’re agreeing to.

I’m not sure that I want to know, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a part of the next experiment.

According to my Facebook page I have more friends now than I’ve ever had in my life but the reality is I don’t ‘know’ more than just a few of them. Maybe I’m an anachronism, maybe as we reach a certain age we’re all anachronisms, I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking these past few days that maybe it would be nice to talk to someone using my mouth and to do it while they’re sitting across from me and we’re having an actual conversation instead of just giving each other a thumbs-up. To that end I’ve been thinking that deleting my Facebook account might not be the worst thing in the world for me. I’m not sure what I’ll do once I have the freedom to look at old pictures every day of the week rather than just on Thursday, and I realize that I might have to actually go to the Humane Society in order to see cute dogs and cats, or go outside for a walk in a park to see cute squirrels and birds and other animals, but that might not be such a bad thing.

Giving up on the Facebook groups I’m a member of, especially the writing groups, will be unfortunate because I like those places and people, but no success without sacrifice, right? Or as Charles Bukowski says in Factotum: “If you are going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don’t even start.” Or, if you prefer something more philosophical, “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” maybe said by Buddha.

So now the big question that remains is: should I push the button?

If you have any thoughts on Facebook I’d love to hear them.

* If you’re one of my Facebook friends reading this I’m not saying that you’re irrelevant. I’m saying that as far as an informational internet source, the Facebook site is irrelevant in comparison to other sites.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 10, 2015 9:30 pm

    Can you include the link to the article/ information about facebook’s experiment?


    • Michael B. Fishman permalink*
      July 15, 2015 4:13 pm

      The article I read was in the NY Times. Headline: “Facebook Tinkers With Users’ Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry”


  2. July 11, 2015 5:18 am

    Don’t leave FB Michael! YOU got me onto it and FB is the way I keep in touch with you since all of the Yahoo groups are dormant now. Sure there’s a lot of negatives about FB but IMO the positives outweigh the negatives. I have up to the minute access to breaking news via FB thanks to following news sites not to mention people posting when something of importance is going down. Staying on FB lets you keep abreast of what your friends and family are doing/thinking/supporting and what their frame of mind it. I have reconnected with SO many people from high school that I haven’t seen in 40+ years and it’s nice to see how everybody fared through the years. Yes it can be a time waster but it can also be entertaining and informative. So I am willing to endure the negatives to be able to enjoy the positives. Everything in life has good and bad – few things/people are all good. The most important thing to ask yourself is if you would miss the contact with people you have come to know and converse with online that you would never be able to converse with on a regular basis if you deleted FB. Do you want to throw away these friendships just because they are virtual friends? Please reconsider!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael B. Fishman permalink*
      July 15, 2015 8:12 am

      I think I got depressed when I read that article. It’s easy enough to be depressed by just looking around the world without having Facebook experiment on moods by showing me depressing stories! I like the old Yahoo groups so much better but that isn’t an option 😦 Yes, I think I would miss contact with the people I’ve come to know and that’s a good point. I’ve gone over my friend list a couple of times these past few days and have removed a bunch of people I didn’t really know. Maybe when the list is smaller it’ll feel more “real” to me?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Judy Andersen Hogan permalink
    July 11, 2015 4:56 pm

    I see your points, but for me, moving 1400 miles away from my home town, has kept me in touch with family n friends left behind. But it also enables me to “speak” with cousins, old classmates, and new friends so much more quickly than writing a letter. I still send Christmas cards to most of them, too. I cherish my connections, because losing touch for whatever reason would break my heart. Your reasons are valid. I understand. Your practicality leads you more than your emotions. Whatever you decide to do, good luck! I do enjoy your blog posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael B. Fishman permalink*
      July 15, 2015 8:09 am

      You make a good point, Judy, and sometimes being overly practical, which I most of the time am, is not such a good thing. I like making and exchanging holiday cards and I’ve thought about starting some sort of ‘snail mail’ card group. If I ever do I’ll let you know!


  4. Anonymous permalink
    July 15, 2015 10:04 am

    I qm just wondering when is the last time you asked me to do something…


    • Michael B. Fishman permalink*
      July 15, 2015 2:25 pm

      If I knew who you were I could answer your question.


  5. December 1, 2016 2:23 pm

    I deactivated a few months ago. That experiment is creepy. I have enough trouble being in my own mind without someone from the outside messing with it! I had a lot of the same concerns as people mentioned above, the connection with people I’d lost touch with, being far away from people I love, etc. But honestly, I don’t miss it a bit now. It definitely doesn’t mean that the people on my friends list were irrelevant though. There are people I miss, just not the format. That probably sounds confusing, but I figured out it was more habit then actual connection.

    If you’re considering, maybe just give it a trial. Deactivate for one week and see how you do. Reactivating is easy, and you don’t lose anything from your account.

    Liked by 1 person

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