4 notifications. 2 messages. 1 friend request.
12 Likes on my photo. Reply to comments. Jenny broke up with Micheal. Steve went to a concert. Mcdonalds advert. A message from Paula. Susan had a baby. Mary ate ice-cream. David is travelling in Thailand. Nickleback are playing in my city. Donald Trump insulted women. Sophie likes Candy Crush. Chris was at the gym. $5.99 deal at Subway. Stacy was at the park with her kids.
Facebook is one of the most influential forces in the world.
It effects your friendships, your romantic relationships (And breaking up from them), your purchasing habits, the way you socialise, politics, universities, the workplace, mental health the structure of your brain and even your experience of death.
When Marshal Mcluhan said "The medium is the message" in 1967, he was talking to a population of people who were increasingly beginning to spend their evenings in front of the television. He spoke of an invisible "environment" that surrounds the television that has a hidden but important effect on everybody watching and that the actual contentbeing shown was far less important.
In 1967, many people found this idea incredibly hard to get their head around. Surely the television is just an electric box in the corner of the room that transmits things. Surely it's the content of the program that's the most important factor to consider.
Well Marshal Mcluhan far, far ahead of his time.
51 years later, his legacy to the world is more true than ever.
And Facebook is the perfect example.
What has the greater impact on the world and yourself? Is it the status updates? The likes? The photos?
Or is the "environment" that Facebook creates?
FACEBOOK CREATED SOCIAL CURRENCY AND THE SOCIAL MARKETPLACE
Just like the dollar, a currency is something we use to attribute value to something.
In Facebook, likes, comments and shares have become their own kind of currency.
When you give something a like, you are giving it a piece of your attention. You are spending your social currency.
In Facebook, we are the product. We market ourselves with the ideal photos. We remove anything from our Facebook page that will hurt the reputation of our brand. We make sales pitchs in the form of a status update or photos and then collect the social currency of likes, comments and shares. And most importantly, we allow others decide what value we hold.
Just like the business world, people advertise their personal brand far beyond what is realistic. And that's why everybody's life looks far better on Facebook than the reality of their existence. Advertising, by definition, is completely full of shit. And the same is true for people advertising their personal brand on Facebook.
You know that you wait until for the perfect time to post that photo to Facebook when as many people will see it as possible. Somewhere around 6PM after everybody finishes work?
Or, in other words; advertising your product during a high traffic period to maximise exposure.
With Facebook, you are the product. And the goal is to collect social currency.
FACEBOOK CHANGES BEHAVIOUR
Facebook makes people pull their most appealing face for the camera. Facebook makes people take mirror selfies. Facebook makes people take photos of their children. Facebook makes people take photos of their new born baby. Facebook makes people pose with their pets. Facebook makes people pose with the most famous tiger in Thailand.
FACEBOOK IS ADDICTIVE
Facebook is addictive because of dopamine. The same brain chemical that is stimulated by cocaine. Dopamine feels good.
Receiving a like, positive comment or a message results in a spike of dopamine. And this is why you see the same people relentlessly posting selfies of themselves again and again. Because they want their next dopamine hit.
They may not realise it, but majority of people are Facebook addicts to a varying degree, from mild to severe.
FACEBOOK AFFECTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Your brain regulates your social status at all times. It's a mechanism your brain evolved to make sure you kept a certain social standing within your tribe. Before modern civilization, having your social status drop too low would result in abandonment into the wild and probably death. This is why modern humans have a very precise check on their social status. Because the genes of the humans that didn't have this mechanism died out.
So what does this have to do with Facebook?
Numerous studies have been released showing the link between Facebook and depression.
But you don't need a scientific study. Spend 1 hour scrolling your news feed. How do you usually feel afterwards? You might find you feel kind of inadequate. You're not alone.
You still have the same brain as our ancestors 200,000 years ago. Your subconscious brain doesn't know even understand what a photograph is, let alone what Facebook is.
And so your brain is tricked into thinking your social status is lower than it really is because you compare your actual self to the hyped up unrealistic self of everybody on your news feed.
In 2012 researchers found that people who’d spent more time on FB felt that other people were happier, and that life was less fair. Similarly, a study of hundreds of undergrads found that more time on FB went hand in hand with more feelings of jealousy. Another paper concluded that “people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others."
Is Facebook having an effect on the worlds mental health? Probably.
FACEBOOK CHANGES POLITICS
A recent study shows that 44% of Americans get their news from Facebook at least some of the time, while 18% use Facebook as their primary news source.
This is huge.
The Facebook algorithms creates a political filter bubble for each individual.
These algorithms mean that your news feed shows only content from pages you've liked, or pages similar to those you've liked. (There is far more going on with these algorithms which I will discuss shortly)
On the surface it seems like a sensible algorithm to show users content they might be interested in.
However, this liking system makes it far less likely that you'll see content from any sources that tend to disagree with your political point of view.
What you get is an endless cycle of political points of view that agree with your own.
With no exposure to opposing political points of view, it can cause users to become more and more certain that their political worldview is right.
Many social scientists think that this could be causing massive political polarisation, with people sorting themselves into two very distinct teams, rather than individuals having their own nuanced points of views.
This could be a major reason for the increasing tensions between the left and right sides of the political spectrum.
People on both sides have been bombarded over time with content that confirms their beliefs.
And the more entrenched their political beliefs, the less room there is for negotiation between each side of the political spectrum.
FACEBOOK CHANGED HOW WE SEE PRIVACY
Your private Facebook messages are not private.
Let's start with that.
Anything you send on to your friends on Facebook messenger is sold to advertisers.
Start talking with your friend about your new passion for knitting and you will start to see adverts for knitting products all over your news feed.
Let's take a step back for a second.
Facebook is free. And yet Facebook is a multi-billion doller company.
So their money comes purely from adverts that are put in front of users.
Not only does Facebook have a captive audience of billions of people. But it also knows which products or services each person is likely to buy.
Previously, Facebook just looked at which pages you had liked and followed to let advertises know which products you might be interesting in purchasing.
More recently, Facebook have taken it much, much further.
Facebook now tracks everything. The length of time you read a post for, where your mouse is hovering and yes, your private messages.
Now this isn't a conspiracy. This is public information.
NOBODY REALLY CARES.
These are privacy breaches that would have been seen as completely unacceptable only 10 years ago.
Facebook even collects so called "shadow profiles" of people that don't even use Facebook. They use all the data collected from users about non-users and compile all the information into a profile.
So even if you're one of the rare few who have never used Facebook, they still have a file on you.
The general population, who were previously worried about CCTV cameras being placed everywhere, now willingly give out all of their personal data for free without question.
FACEBOOK CHANGES DEATH
By now, you probably have a Facebook friend that has died.
Their wall is flooded with comments from friends and loved ones sharing their condolences. Often on a yearly basis on the anniversary of their death.
Facebook has created a digital tombstone.
A place where the person can be remembered forever complete with digital information that never degrades. Unlike a real tombstone. And a place that, in the future, will have documented their entire lives. From the baby photos their parents took to their work party.
AT SOME STAGE IN THE FUTURE, FACEBOOK WILL CONTAIN MORE PROFILES OF DEAD PEOPLE THAN OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ALIVE.
Marshal Mcluhan gave us advice for the technologies of the future: "There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening".
Facebook changes people in deeply fundamental ways. It's important that people have an understanding of how.
The Medium is the Message.