Various studies, over time, have shown that spending too much time on social media platforms can cause anxiety, depression and even lead to suicidal thoughts. A recent study by researchers form University of California, San Diego and Yale University, published in the February 2017 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows that using Facebook regularly can negatively affect a person’s well-being. It drives people to make negative self-comparison and distract them from making more meaningful real-life experiences. Another study by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, published in April 2016, suggest that adults who spend more time on social media platforms are more likely to feel depressed. The study also pointed out that spending time on useless activities on social media can create a feeling of time wasted, which in turn can have a negative effect on users’ mood.
In a recent blog post, Facebook has also admitted that social media can cause depression, but pointed out that the problem affects users who are passively consuming information and are not interacting with others. It refers to a study by University of Michigan, which randomly assigned students to browse through their Facebook posts for 10 minutes and found that those who were not allowed to comment, post or chat with anyone were more irritated than students who were allowed to do so, at the end of the day.
The social network has made several changes to its website and app to make them more user-friendly, less distracting and safe for users.
The News Feed has been tweaked to reduce passive consumption of low quality content. For this, elements such as clickbait headlines and false news items are being demoted so they would appear less in the feed.
The comments section has been redesigned to improve interaction with others. The size of link previews, like, comment and share buttons have been increased to make reading and identifying things easier.
To ensure users get to hear more from people they actually care about, Facebook now optimises ranking so posts from friends users have been interacting more are more likely to appear higher in the feed.
Facebook feels this would provide users with more opportunities for meaningful interaction with people they want to talk to.
A new feature called Snooze has been added. It allows users to hide a person, post or group for 30 days, without having to unfollow or unfriend a contact. Users can access this feature by clicking on the three dots on the top right side of a post and selecting the Snooze for 30 days button in the drop-down box.
To tackle suicidal tendencies before it gets worse, Facebook is using an AI (artificial intelligence) tool, which will look for triggers in posts or live streams and immediately warn human reviewers and trained responders on the social network so they can reach out and talk to users. If users come across as having suicidal behaviour by one of their friends, they can report it directly at Settings> Help -> Visit the Help Center -> Safety tools and Resources -> Suicide Prevention -> How do I report Suicidal content to Facebook.
In the US, Facebook has partnered with help groups such as Samaritans and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, while in India they have tied up with non-profit organisations such as Mumbai-based AASRA and Bengaluru-based Live Love Laugh Foundation.
To tackle bullies and freedom from their threats, Facebook provides users the option to block or unfriend them. The former will restrict the bully from sending a message or posting on the timeline, while the latter will prevent them from adding users as friends or seeing their posts. Users can also report bullies in the post->report link.
To help people undergoing through rough break-ups, Facebook has a new feature called Take a Break, which limits posts from an ex-partner, without removing them permanently from the friend’s list. Users won’t be prompted to message or tag them in any of their posts. It will also hide users’ post from their ex-partner. To activate this, users need to type Take a Break in Facebook search and type the person’s name they are breaking up with.