Facebook Announces New Changes To Prioritize Users' 'Well Being'

By Victoria Kim 01/17/18

Some are skeptical of Zuckerberg's intentions considering the recent controversy the company has faced—criticism about fake news, “filter bubbles” and social media addiction.

Mark Zuckerberg

The social media giant known as Facebook is in the midst of a company-wide shift—as CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a recent post, Facebook is re-dedicating itself to prioritizing “personal connections” that bring people together, while putting public content on the back burner.

In his January 11th statement, Zuckerberg explained that the company is shifting its focus from “helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” Starting with the News Feed, content posted by businesses, brands and media will become secondary to content that promotes interaction with Facebook friends. 

Zuckerberg framed the move as a benevolent attempt at ensuring that “the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent”—by putting friends and family back in the “core of the experience.”  

“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.”

Some are skeptical of the pure intentions outlined in Zuckerberg’s statement. CNN points out recent controversy the company has faced—criticism about fake news, Russian propaganda, “filter bubbles” and social media addiction. Considering these issues, one equity and trade analyst pointed out that “controlling the narrative at this juncture is critical.” 

The Guardian contributor Eleni Stefanou was not impressed with the move. It will take a lot more than re-arranging the content on people’s News Feeds to address Facebook’s effect on people’s well-being, she wrote in a recent op-ed. (Let’s not forget that Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012; this photo-sharing social media platform has also had its share of bad press about its impact on mental health.)

Stefanou points to the conflict of interest presented by the company’s new alleged goal of prioritizing people’s “well-being,” as Zuckerberg stated. After all, the $500 billion business relies on keeping users logged in and browsing content, generating billions in advertising revenue. 

Sean Parker, the company’s first president, explained the thought process behind Facebook’s creation, in a 2017 interview with Axios.

“The thought process was all about, ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever, and that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you more likes and comments,” said Parker. 

“It’s a social validation feedback loop… You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Nonetheless, Zuckerberg maintains that his intentions are genuine. He said in a recent interview, according to CNN, “It’s important to me that when [my children] Max and August grow up that they feel like what their father built was good for the world.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr