Humans like being around other humans. We are extraordinarily social animals. In fact, we are so social, that simply interacting with other people has been shown to be use similar brain areas as those involved with the processing of very basic rewards such as food, suggesting that interacting with people tends to make us feel good.
However, it doesn’t take much reflection to notice that the way people interact with each other has radically changed in recent years. Much of our contact happens not face-to-face, but rather while staring at screen-based digital representations of each other, with Facebook being the most prominent example. This raises a very fundamental question – how does online interaction with other people differ from interacting with people in person?
One possible way these two interaction styles might differ is through how rewarding we find them to be. Does interacting with Facebook make us feel good as does interacting with people in real life? A recent paper suggests that the answer is “probably not.” In fact, the data from this paper suggest that the more we interact with Facebook, the worse we tend to feel.
This discussion on Facebook hosted by the NY Times raises the question of whether young people today are more narcissistic than their elders and, if so, does social networking have anything to do with it.
You Like Me! You Really Like Me!
A Times article recently debated whether young people are more narcissistic than previous generations, mentioning Facebook as a possible factor. And a University of Michigan study, published in June, seems to support this theory.
Are social media like Facebook turning us into narcissists?
So, a couple of PhD students at MIT—finding themselves too addicted to do their actual research—developed a system that tracks your online activity and zaps you with a painful shock if it sees you’re spending too much time on Facebook.
They’re calling it the Pavlov Poke, after 19th century Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, famous for discovering classical conditioning—the concept of using positive or negative stimuli to encourage a behavior change. We employ the psychological trick all the time: Finish homework, get cookie, the homework gets done. Cat jumps on counter, gets sprayed with water bottle, it no longer jumps on counter. The Pavlov Poke works like an electric fence: youre the dog and Facebook is the neighbors yard.
“To be truly effective, many shock exposures are probably needed. Proper conditioning procedures should be followed,” wrote Robert Morris, one of the students, for an article on Medium. However after electrocuting themselves several times in the name of science, the pair decided the shocks were a bit too unpleasant, and decided to try a different approach: peer ridicule.They enlisted Amazons Mechanical Turk and paid strangers $1.40 to call them up and yell at them for wasting too much time Facebooking. The callers read from pre-written scripts: “Hey, stop using Facebook! What the hell is wrong with you? You lazy piece of garbage. Youre a dumb freaking idiot, you know that? Get it together!”
“Bang With Friends” is a new Facebook app that says it helps you “anonymously find friends who are down for the night.” But as you might expect of a Facebook app, its not all that anonymous.
But when Facebook giveth, Facebook taketh away.
The company is eliminating the ability for people to hide themselves on Facebook’s search, a control, that until now, has existed in the privacy settings on the company’s Web site.
But as more people wallpaper their Facebook pages with status updates, photographs, and video—more than half a petabyte of information flows through Facebook’s data warehouse on a daily basis—that question of ownership has taken a new and much-debated dimension: how much control do users actually have over Facebook’s policies and regulations?
The question exposes certain tensions inherent in Facebook’s very existence. On one hand, the social network needs to leverage user data in order to sell advertising. But if Facebook appears to disregard users’ privacy in the name of that advertising, it could provoke a brutal backlash. So as much as Facebook’s executives might like a free hand in setting policy, they also need to make a public show of responding to user concerns.
As such, Facebook is letting users vote on changes to its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (Facebook users can vote via this link). The company will also host a live Webcast to answer questions at 9:30 AM PST. While Facebook provides access to the proposed Data Use Policy and other documents, it’s not wholly clear how the company will react if the vote doesn’t go its “way,” so to speak.
In recent months, some Facebook page owners have noticed that their accounts are driving much less traffic to their websites than they used to. In some cases, Facebook clickthroughs are down by as much as half, despite a huge growth in likes. Even worse, some brands noticed that this drop in traffic coincided with a new Facebook feature called “promoted posts” through which brands can pay cold hard cash to push their content out to more news feeds than they would normally reach—and the brands are not happy about it.
This juxtaposition of events makes it look like Facebook is artificially driving down traffic, then holding the old level of traffic hostage in order to generate some new revenue. But Facebook insists its doing nothing of the sort; instead, the company says that its just trying to keep its users Facebook feeds from getting too crufty with promotional posts they dont want to see. In other words, Facebook claims to be on the side of users against the advertisers, even if its making money on the deal.
The social network finds itself in a delicate position: for the first time, its trying to strike a balance between helping brands to reach users, keeping users returning to their news feeds, and making money of its own as pressure produce revenue rises.