We live in a time when mobile devices have become the de-facto of everyday life. Most of us check our phone several times a day, be it to check messages, send emails,
surf the net, or call someone. Some of us watch movies on our tablets or read e-books on our e-reader while on the go. For others, we may be texting for as long as hours a day!
If you’re a mobile phone, tablet, or e-reader user, time to look up (literally). A new study published in the journal Surgical Technology International suggests that the typical texting and mobile surfing posture is the equivalent of placing a 60-lbs / 27-kg weight on one’s neck. Check out this computer model developed by
Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a New York spinal and orthopedic surgeon:
According to Hansraj’s results, the force exerted on our spine dramatically increases when our head flexes forced. It goes from 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position (that’s the weight of an average adult human head), to 27 lbs
/ 12 kg at 15 degrees, to 40 lbs / 18 kg at 30 degrees, to 49 lbs / 22 kg at 45 degrees and 60 lbs / 27 kg at 60 degrees! 60 lbs — that’s five to six times the usual force on our neck at a neutral position — that
isn’t light by any means, and is the equivalent weight of a boxer dog, a punching bag, or an arm chair!!
Now this data probably wouldn’t be as
alarming if not combined with the fact that many of us spend long periods of time, easily at least two hours a day on phones, tablets, and e-readers. (Americans clocks nearly three hours a day on mobile phones alone, and I’m sure it’s longer for some of us.) Assuming two hours a day, that adds up to at least 700
hours a year, meaning at least 700 hours of additional stress to our spine a year each year!
But over the past years, I feel that Facebook has degenerated from being a potentially great seeding ground for good content and discussions, to now a venting ground, a place for unsavory exchanges,
a channel to get back at those who don’t meet a certain level of conduct (citizen journalism), a place for short-form “scratch-an-itch” content, and even fake news, which recently became a hot topic due to the 2016 US presidential elections.
Why has this happened? As a page owner and publisher, my biggest gripe with Facebook is that its algorithm
has changed over time to focus purely on engagement, be it good engagement or bad engagement. Engagement meaning likes, comments, or shares — anything that triggers activity. When a content generates many likes/comments/shares
in a short time frame, Facebook regards it as newsworthy, after which it will “push” the content to more people (be it followers or non-followers), which further drives engagement.
In the meantime, the reach of other content
gets depressed, which is why if you have been a Facebook page owner since 2010, you would have seen the organic reach of your posts plummet from 100% to 1-2% over the past 6 years.
To me, using engagement as a measure
of a post’s value is great when everyone takes time to thoroughly read/think before deciding whether to engage with it. But we don’t, not today. Our world today is very fast-paced. Stimulus
is constantly blasted in our faces. People are constantly frustrated due to living pressures and other issues. Anger, fear, and envy dominate society. The income divide is greater than
As a result, many people use Facebook for a quick escape, not to think. They are not even aware of it too. It’s like, Bored? Not sure what to do? Okay, let’s grab our mobile phone and
see what’s on our Facebook feed. Oh, this looks interesting! Haha, this gave me a laugh! Let’s press “like”! Okay what’s next?
Because of that, the most highly-engaged content on Facebook is usually…
Content that provides some distraction and escape,
Content that triggers anger, uproar, or indignation,
Content that scratches an itch, that gives a quick tickle,
NOT content that triggers
you to think about your life, your life direction, your personal goals independent of society.
when a highly edited selfie and a lengthy blog post are put side-by-side, the selfie will generally win based on Facebook’s algorithm, because it doesn’t take thought to process a selfie and its content is visual. Sight is a lower-level
When a fake news with an absurd headline and a genuine, important, yet “boring” news story are put side-by-side, the fake news will win. Because fake news is able to elicit quick reactions due to the nature of its headline. Case in point: NY Times shared how a recent fake news went into internet orbit with 350,000
shares on Facebook in just one day, subsequently getting reposted on popular social networking site Reddit and getting the attention of journalists. The corrected followup received barely any attention.
And when a quick-tips post (that you’ve seen a million times) and a long-form article are put side-by-side, the quick tips will win (even if it’s the same repetitive content
posted), because short form content is easier to process for the average Facebook user.
It’s worth noting that most people who post reactions on Facebook, especially to a linked post outside Facebook, do not even
read the post. People
are just liking and commenting based on the few words in the headline, based on their conjecture of what it means. This also includes uproars, criticisms, recommendations, and praises.
I have experienced this for my posts, where people criticized my
content when they didn’t even read the post, not even the first paragraph. Meaning the most popular posts you see on your Facebook newsfeed are generally voted up based on few-second reactions and probably by
people using Facebook to get distracted, and not based on their actual value.
And here lies the problem: I feel that my site content and direction are not compatible with Facebook’s anymore,
at least not with the way their algorithm works today.
I have no interest to write posts just to elicit reaction. Many reactions are noise, not an indicator of a content’s ability to create change.
I have no interest
to deal with 2-3 second reactions to my writings, based on the headline.
I don’t care if people “like”/ comment on my posts on Facebook. I just want people to think about how my tips apply to their life, which may take days, sometimes weeks or months, not minutes to an hour, and perhaps pass it on to friends/family
after they have read and found it useful.
But when Facebook heavily depresses a page’s reach unless it can gain engagement within an hour or so, it becomes a problem. When your posts aren’t “engaging” a big pool of
people quickly (based on likes/comments/shares), your next post will reach even fewer followers (think 1-1.5%).
To reach more people, including the very people who “liked” your page to get your updates, you need to
pay to use Facebook’s “Boost” feature, a type of Facebook ad. (Why? That makes no sense at all. That’s just a circular way to get you to keep paying Facebook and trapped in your dependency on them.)
And as Facebook’s algorithm
keeps changing based on what generates the most money for them (because Facebook’s goal as a publicly listed company is to maximize the time you spend on their site and their revenue, which runs counter to people’s happiness/productivity),
organic reach continues to get depressed. People now don’t see anything anymore except noise. Facebook just generated their highest earnings yet in the last quarter (Q3 of 2016), and this is in the face of growing user fatigue and frustration.
This is the same when it comes to the content on your Facebook newsfeed. Most of your newsfeed posts are there because they get people’s reactions the fastest (selfies, quick
tips), trigger the most emotions within minutes (social injustices, outrageous news), and/or tickle people’s fancies (like cat videos). It’s not based on the real value of the content.
Which is a question you need to ask: Are
you okay with constantly receiving content that’s voted up and placed in your newsfeed based on few-second or knee-jerk reactions, or are you looking for something deeper when you use social media?Because in the former
scenario — which is what is happening today — what you keep seeing is noise, a feeling of user fatigue, and an unhealthy draw/addiction to the platform, because the updates you keep seeing do little to change your life, which is
why you constantly return to Facebook more often than you should, in a quest to get something more, to fill some sort of gap.
As a Facebook page owner, I can’t
help but feel like I’m in a merry-go-round, where I’m pushed to write content in a way that gets the most reactions, where I’m pushed to “compete” against millions of pages and page owners in a “who
shouts the loudest” contest, just to reach the very people who subscribed to my page to get updates to begin with.
This is not what I want. Rather than engage in noise matches, I rather focus on creating
deeply thought out content and serve my readers who read and implement my material. My goal of managing a platform isn’t to create stickiness, which is about lengthening a user’s stay beyond its necessary length, but about giving
them the value they need to think and act. IMO every Facebook page owner should work on creating content that matters, not engage in like/comment matches to get more engagement to get more exposure, which usually means nothing
as the average Facebook user flits through updates. Even if you do get the most engagement after much effort, it’s questionable whether your views are quality views and from the right crowd.
So I deleted my
Facebook page. As the issue has been brewing for years, I guess this move is a long time coming. The problem became so ridiculous that continuing to run my page was becoming more costly and painful with little for me to gain as
a business owner. There were other signs that contributed to this decision, such as ongoing spam; pointless analytics and a cluttered admin layout designed to push you (the admin) to buy Facebook ads; and pointless, endless notifications
that again prompt you to buy their ads, that you can’t opt out of.
But the fundamental issue is that I created my Facebook page to connect with you guys, but now I can’t even do something as basic as this without going through hoops and
being blasted with noise. I much rather build my relationship with you through my website and mailing list, where I know my emails will always be sent to you, where I know those of you who are really interested to follow my updates will be reading
my mail, as opposed to being subjected by an algorithm that filters what I want to share with you.
Now the issues I just mentioned are specific to a Facebook page for businesses/personalities. As a private Facebook user who
deliberately chooses to have zero connected friends, I find Facebook quite useful for connecting with friends. Their chat messenger is handy, especially after they finally released an option to disable push notifications
permanently. Unsolicited messages go into a different tab, so I never see them. I don’t have any friends connected so I’m free from filtered content based on Facebook’s noise-driven algorithm. I only join groups I want to be a part
of and leave when they’re not a fit. I check people’s profiles directly to read updates if they are public. I message friends directly if I want to see how they are doing, not rely on the newsfeed to get a faux connection.
to be clear, Facebook’s algorithm works well for certain pages/content. Basically,
Content that elicits reactions or drives discussion
Short tips, simple advice (even when it’s the same thing repeated over and over)
Posts that create uproar, criticisms, and things that drive shock/emotion
But beyond inspiring quotes and simple advice, I think what the world needs now
is deeply-thought-out material that tackles big questions, big issues; not content that repeats itself and caters to the monkey mind. I have
no wish to take part in these noise matches but to create my own path to serve and connect with you.
On a side note, I’m finding Quora is a great place to learn new perspectives.
Something to take note when reading any online discussion — there is almost always bias based on the audience profile, and as such risks being an echo chamber. For one, any internet platform can only be used by people with internet, so
tech illiterates and people in rural communities without internet can never get their voices heard. Some sub-Reddits are a big echo chamber that reinforces members’ biases. Our goal should never be about seeking only views that support
ours, but about exposing ourselves to different lines of thinking and understanding people’s suffering, so that we can build a more inclusive world.
As for why I
deactivated my Facebook page instead of deleting it, it’s because Facebook can always change. If one day it becomes a positive ground for sharing conscious discussions and deep content, then I’d be happy to rejoin as a page owner.
you used to be on my Facebook page, do subscribe to my newsletter to get my updates, including messages and special announcements that I don’t post on the blog.
Some other posts
where I wrote about today’s noise-filled world:
Child health groups are urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to discontinue a new messenger app aimed at children as young as six.
In a letter published online Tuesday, The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
(CCFC) argues that Messenger Kids, Facebook’s new video calling and messaging app for children under the age of 13, is detrimental to the development of young minds.
“Given Facebook’s enormous reach and marketing prowess,
Messenger Kids will likely be the first social media platform widely used by elementary school children,” the letter, addressed to Zuckerberg, states. “But a growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social
media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development.”
Signed by nearly 20 organizations and dozens of medical professionals, the letter also cites the inability of most
young children to grasp potential privacy issues related to social media.
“Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts. They are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings
and conflicts even among more mature users,” the letter states. “They also do not have a fully developed understanding of privacy, including what’s appropriate to share with others and who has access to their conversations, pictures, and
The CCFC goes on to call Zuckerberg’s decision to release the app “irresponsible, citing numerous studies linking social media use by children to depression and other mental health issues.
“At a time when there
is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents’ wellbeing, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as preschoolers to start using a Facebook product,” the letter says. “Social media use by teens
is linked to significantly higher rates of depression, and adolescents who spend an hour a day chatting on social networks report less satisfaction with nearly every aspect of their lives.”
Studies mentioned by the CCFC found that 50 percent of adolescents
feel they are addicted to their phones while nearly half of parents say regulating their children’s screen time “is a constant battle.”
“Encouraging kids to move their friendships online will interfere with and displace the face-to-face
interactions and play that are crucial for building healthy developmental skills, including the ability to read human emotion, delay gratification, and engage with the physical world,” the letter continues.
The CCFC concludes by asking the Facebook
founder to allow younger children to “develop without the pressures” of social media by simply leaving them alone.
“Raising children in our new digital age is difficult enough. We ask that you do not use Facebook’s enormous
reach and influence to make it even harder,” the letter says. “Please make a strong statement that Facebook is committed to the wellbeing of children and society by pulling the plug on Messenger Kids.”
First announced in December,
Messenger Kids is currently available for the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone as well as Amazon’s Fire tablet. Facebook plans to launch an Android app in the Google Play Store.
Whether Facebook will respond to the CCFC’s statement remains to
While the debate over children’s use of social media and electronic devices continues among the public, some argue that the biggest names in tech have clearly chosen a side.
According to the New York Times Nick Bilton, powerful figures including now-deceased Apple co-founder Steve Jobs strictly limited their children’s use
of certain technologies.
Following the launch of the first iPad in 2010, Jobs revealed his stance after being asked whether his children liked his new invention.
“They haven’t used it,” Jobs said. “We limit how much technology
our kids use at home.”
Chris Anderson, co-founder of drone manufacturer 3D Robotics, has also taken a similar stance.
“That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand,” Anderson, a former editor of Wired magazine,
said. “I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook, who currently has no children, has likewise stated his desire to shield any future kids from social media.
“I don’t have a kid, but I have a nephew that I put some boundaries on,” Cook recently told college students in the UK. “There
are some things that I won’t allow; I don’t want them on a social network.”
Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, argued in November that the company’s products were designed to prey on a psychological “vulnerability” in humans.