• Niamh Weir

Face It: We’re Obsessed with Facebook



As most members of the modern world will have been aware, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp recently went down for 7 hours. For many of us this simply meant a much-needed digital switch-off and an opportunity for reflection. Some, naturally, took to lamenting over the loss of likes, clicks and other forms of digital validation. Others, however, withstood serious impacts on the day-to-day functioning of their lives. What is clear across the board, though, is that all of us were not so enjoyably exposed to the reality of such a dependence. We were pushed to question not only how we let these networks have such control but also what the devastating impacts of such a hold can be.

It’s no secret that the effects of social media are not exactly positive. It’s a strange form of connection that can often leave us feeling more alone. We fixatedly compare ourselves to each other’s specially curated highlight reels and can end up feeling totally detached from reality. Children as young as eight can post their filtered and edited selfies to an international platform with ease. And they along with all users fall victim to its superficial culture where we become reliant on external validation and aspire to glorified standards. A failure to meet these mostly impossible standards of perfection can take a serious toll on your mental health. It’s a matter of deception and keeping up appearances and it’s not hard to see how this can result in insecurity and dangerously obsessive attitudes.

Nevertheless, Facebook and other social media outlets are an undeniable component of 21st-century life. The pandemic alone has shown that we can’t ignore its often positive effects. Human connection is a privilege that many can’t obtain without social media, and we are accustomed to our lives taking place at least somewhat online. In a world where the work of charities, small businesses, and campaigners hinge on posting online, the networks can’t simply be dismissed as wholly damaging. Social media has allowed families to connect, activities and socialising to continue and overall people to feel less alone in one of the most inherently isolating periods of all time. The shutdown, however, showed the extreme impacts of allowing such a monopoly to take place. Several developing countries rely on its free and reliable communication and millions felt the effects on their businesses and communications. Whilst the outage was mitigated to 7 hours, we still were able to deeply sense our dangerous overdependence on Facebook. And furthermore, how much of our lives depend on its functionality.

This crash has come at a time where Facebook is facing a host of other scandals. It is a platform used by a quarter of the world’s population and unsurprisingly this brings with it a range of complications. It, along with its companies WhatsApp and Instagram, has an overwhelming amount of control over each of us, whether we want to admit it or not. A consistent problem with Facebook is data breaches of its user’s information. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to a supposed breach of the data of 1.5 billion in September of this year, it seems to now be an unavoidable problem. We are living in an information economy, and we so easily forget that our personal data has become a marketable asset. We take the supposedly legitimate name of Facebook for granted and hand over information without thinking twice. Nothing is free, and the price of Facebook’s ‘free’ services can be the loss of our personal privacy.

Facebook has also continued to dismiss their contribution to mental health issues. Facebook’s own research was recently leaked showing that 13 percent of British teenage users with suicidal thoughts traced it to Instagram. Action on this topic is severely lacking with the head of research stating, “it is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls.” It is evident that they care more about expansion and profit than the impacts of their services, with plans for the rollout of Instagram Kids in the near future.

Ultimately, Facebook and its CEO Zuckerberg have become a superpower in their own right. They face up to little regulation and accountability and their wide-reaching powers command them a place in almost all international business. By its very nature it undermines democracy and can sway millions with the click of a button. But this isn’t an excuse for us to turn a blind eye to their actions. If the outage has taught us anything it’s that, given Facebook’s dominance in our lives, it’s time for increased regulation and a demand for transparency, safety, and privacy. We can also aim to encourage competition and dilute their power. Facebook is now an inevitable part of our lives, and we can’t discount that. What we can do though, is commit to making it a safer and more regulated platform for all of us. As most members of the modern world will have been aware, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp recently went down for 7 hours. For many of us this simply meant a much-needed digital switch-off and an opportunity for reflection. Some, naturally, took to lamenting over the loss of likes, clicks and other forms of digital validation. Others, however, withstood serious impacts on the day-to-day functioning of their lives. What is clear across the board, though, is that all of us were not so enjoyably exposed to the reality of such a dependence. We were pushed to question not only how we let these networks have such control but also what the devastating impacts of such a hold can be.

It’s no secret that the effects of social media are not exactly positive. It’s a strange form of connection that can often leave us feeling more alone. We fixatedly compare ourselves to each other’s specially curated highlight reels and can end up feeling totally detached from reality. Children as young as eight can post their filtered and edited selfies to an international platform with ease. And they along with all users fall victim to its superficial culture where we become reliant on external validation and aspire to glorified standards. A failure to meet these mostly impossible standards of perfection can take a serious toll on your mental health. It’s a matter of deception and keeping up appearances and it’s not hard to see how this can result in insecurity and dangerously obsessive attitudes.

Nevertheless, Facebook and other social media outlets are an undeniable component of 21st-century life. The pandemic alone has shown that we can’t ignore its often positive effects. Human connection is a privilege that many can’t obtain without social media, and we are accustomed to our lives taking place at least somewhat online. In a world where the work of charities, small businesses, and campaigners hinge on posting online, the networks can’t simply be dismissed as wholly damaging. Social media has allowed families to connect, activities and socialising to continue and overall people to feel less alone in one of the most inherently isolating periods of all time. The shutdown, however, showed the extreme impacts of allowing such a monopoly to take place. Several developing countries rely on its free and reliable communication and millions felt the effects on their businesses and communications. Whilst the outage was mitigated to 7 hours, we still were able to deeply sense our dangerous overdependence on Facebook. And furthermore, how much of our lives depend on its functionality.

This crash has come at a time where Facebook is facing a host of other scandals. It is a platform used by a quarter of the world’s population and unsurprisingly this brings with it a range of complications. It, along with its companies WhatsApp and Instagram, has an overwhelming amount of control over each of us, whether we want to admit it or not. A consistent problem with Facebook is data breaches of its user’s information. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to a supposed breach of the data of 1.5 billion in September of this year, it seems to now be an unavoidable problem. We are living in an information economy, and we so easily forget that our personal data has become a marketable asset. We take the supposedly legitimate name of Facebook for granted and hand over information without thinking twice. Nothing is free, and the price of Facebook’s ‘free’ services can be the loss of our personal privacy.

Facebook has also continued to dismiss their contribution to mental health issues. Facebook’s own research was recently leaked showing that 13 percent of British teenage users with suicidal thoughts traced it to Instagram. Action on this topic is severely lacking with Pratti Raychoudhury, Facebook's head of research, stating, “it is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls.” It is evident that they care more about expansion and profit than the impacts of their services, with plans for the rollout of Instagram Kids in the near future.

Ultimately, Facebook and its CEO Zuckerberg have become a superpower in their own right. They face up to little regulation and accountability and their wide-reaching powers command them a place in almost all international business. By its very nature, it undermines democracy and can sway millions with the click of a button. Its ability to proliferate inaccurate and polarising messages impacts our capacity to perceive politics clearly and make informed and balanced decisions. Furthermore, social media can be weaponized by political parties to fuel uprisings and spread misinformation on opponents with little consequence. In an attention economy, Facebook manages to appeal to our political inclinations with echo-chamber algorithms, snappy and extreme headlines and pricey political advertising. We take this information as truth and henceforth this ‘fake news’ interferes with not only our perception of politics but also of the world.


Facebook’s lack of action and acknowledgement is discouraging but we mustn't turn a blind eye to these problems. Even if they are ignoring them themselves. If the outage has taught us anything it’s that, given Facebook’s dominance in our lives, it’s time for increased regulation and a demand for transparency, safety, and privacy. We can also aim to encourage competition and dilute their power. Facebook is now an inevitable part of our lives, and we can’t discount that. What we can do though, is commit to making it a safer and more regulated platform for all of us.


Illustration: Olivia Little



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