Despite the fact that people have been reducing their presence on social media over the last couple of years (this accounts for those posting less and being less active on Facebook rather than completely deactivating accounts), we know it’s still a huge part of our lives. For example, 63% of Facebook and Twitter users get their main source of news and current affairs awareness via these channels. We tend to customise our own news through the friends, groups and brands we choose to engage with.
Naturally, this impacts on our friendships, lifestyles and how we manage our personal relationships. Since its birth, social media presence has changed the way we run our lives and with that our behaviour too. We’ve all had to mute the ‘oversharer’ (you know, the person who updates us on everything they’ve eaten, done, thought and experienced that week)! Or as Danny Wallace recently said, “those who use Facebook to let them know they’ve just had a boiled egg instead of texting all the contacts in their phone one by one”). We’ve also all experienced the endless ‘noise’ which perpetuates our newsfeeds and shared updates about the latest security concerns as the Facebook machine gets deeper and deeper into our psyche.
This is particularly interesting if we consider two of the most recent developments to Facebook. Firstly they are piloting the ‘event read receipt’, similar to a messenger style app on your phone. This function has already been labelled as the ‘friendship destruction device’ as it won’t allow the recipient to turn off notifications – so gone are the days of making an excuse about not seeing an event or receiving your invite! Zuckerberg has also finally agreed with other leaders at the social network to launch a ‘dislike’ button. We’ve all come across posts – including bereavements, sad news or updates on global issues which deserve recognition where a ‘like’ isn’t adequate or even appropriate. The dislike button will enable users to express empathy or sympathy with the poster ‘s update rather than downvoting it.
These updates highlight the impact and control social networks, such as Facebook, have over our daily lives. As well as redefining the term ‘friends’ (we all know the person with 500+ Facebook ‘friends’ who is suspiciously free every night of the week), it has also changed the way we interact with our friends. As journalist Shubhra Gupta says, “the main difference is the sheer speed with which we are able to share thoughts, sentiments or opinions with scores of people”. We log-off with our minds immersed in other people’s emotions in a way that would previously be shared over a long phone call, a glass of wine or a heart to heart with those we’re closest to. With this in mind you can’t help but wonder if Zuckerberg is secretly laughing at the potential for causing mischief that these advancements to the Facebook machine are likely to cause!