The Dark Side of Facebook (Part 3/5)

You won’t believe the truth lurking behind the #1 social network.

Facebook book offers Virtual relationships that are easier than real ones but less satisfying

Most of us are complicated people and have insecurities, fears, anxieties and worries about relationships. Having a real relationship with a real person takes time, energy and work for it to remain healthy and happy – just read any relationship book. Relationships are not generally easy – nor are they hands-off. But online relationships can appear to have the benefits of a real relationship – without the hangups and extra work that comes with a real relationship. Sadly, this idea is an illusion. While online relationships appear less time-consuming and intimidating, since we can have them in the privacy of our own home – without meeting the person – in reality – these connections are lopsided, superficial and based on projection and illusions. They provide few of the real benefits we get from long-term relationships. And if these connections eventually turn into real life connections, they rarely last.

That all said, experts agree that the golden rule of Facebooking while committed is that on FB, as in life, you shouldn’t be doing anything that you wouldn’t want your partner to see.

“Facebook isn’t usually the problem,” says Estes. “It’s the behaviors that are the problem.”

Facebook is inherently voyeuristic and promotes the worst of us

A knife can be used for killing someone or cutting a tomato. It’s how it’s used that makes the difference. But the same argument can’t really be applied to Facebook because Facebook, like the media, actively attempts to gain loyal users using whatever methods work.

The news channels know full well that they will sell more copies and get more attention if they report on violence, scandal and topics that could be classed as ‘sensational’. We may say we want to read more ‘positive news’ but the media knows that positive news doesn’t sell anywhere near as well as tragedy and trivia.

Facebook knows this too. I’m certain Facebook employs a team of expert psychologists and advertising geniuses who know exactly what kinds of addictive, human triggers can be used to generate more interaction and users.

How Facebook Abuses Our Desires and Human Weaknesses To Keep Us Addicted & Waste Our Time

Here are just a few powerful psychological principles of influence that are at work in the Facebook experience. Be radically honest about how many of these things you do (perhaps  unconsciously)


We have a built-in secret desire to spy on people. That’s what all the gossip magazines are about. So Facebook allows us to essentially stalk people all day long. All we need is to become someone’s friend and we can see everything about them.

Desire for approval

Facebook offers likes. Getting a like bolsters our fragile self-esteem. No likes can make us feel upset and unloved.

Desire for social interaction and friendship

Facebook offers “friends”. Yay!

While many of our Facebook friends might actually be strangers who we’d never trust to look after our home or go out to a meal with, still, on paper we can enjoy the false impression that we are popular.

Desire to distract ourselves and avoid negative emotions

This is perhaps Facebook’s greatest asset. We’re living in an unstable world with so much going on most people feel insecure, overwhelmed and stressed. We don’t like negative feelings and Facebook offers us an opportunity to click a button and get tailor-made distractions and voyeurism 24/7 with its endless stream of videos, distractions, trivia and an entire universe of ways to avoid yourself.

Desire to connect with others

Due to the rise of technology, where we don’t need to socialize in person, coupled with social anxiety, millions of people now feel lonely and socially deprived.  But lo and behold! Facebook offers us the chance to message, chat and engage with our ‘friends’ and feel like we’re being social – all without leaving the house or experiencing the potential pain of social interaction.

Desire to feel we’re ‘in the know’

We like to know what’s going on. Sadly, it’s not possible to know what’s really going on because there is far too much going on to really know it all. Just today, literally trillions of events took place and it’s completely impossible for us to even begin to fathom what happened. However, Facebook offers the ‘news feed’ with constantly updated feeds of events from around the world. By scrolling through our feed we can be given a superficial diet of gossip, trivia and cleverly edited news items to give us the impression we know what’s up.  But this impression is dangerously false.

Facebook notifications are physically addictive

The little red notification isn’t just a technical feature that happens to be there. These notifications are triggers that have a physical effect on us. We’re wired to notice changes in our environment and pay attention to them. For example if someone calls your name or you hear a loud noise or see a car drive up your driveway – part of you is curious and instantly wants to inquire more about it. It feels good to fulfill our curiosity. If we don’t know about something we find it hard to rest until that itch has been scratched. That’s why so many movies and TV shows have a ‘cliffhanger’. The episode ends just as the hero is hanging off the edge of the cliff – want to know what happens next? Tune in next week to find out. And millions of people do. It’s annoying to let it go. I remember watching a few episode of 24 and feeling annoyed that I didn’t know the end of the saga and didn’t really have time to watch all 24 hours – so to end the frustration I skimmed through them, saw the essence of what happened, then watched the final episodes to get it over and done with, so I could relax.

Facebook does the same thing to us with friend requests, private message notifications and notifications. When we see those little red things we are curious to click and find out what they are. Most of them are disappointing, but by piquing our curiosity it’s enough to get us to click regardless of how little interest they actually hold.

We go into Facebook to see what’s changed. What’s different? Did anyone like my photo? Did anyone comment on my post? Did anyone get back to me about a comment I left? Did so-and-so message me back yet? What did they say?

Facebook has so many cliffhangers it’s almost ridiculous. In fact, if you look at it from this angle, almost everything about Facebook is a cliffhanger. It’s a massive machine filled with cliffhanger, after cliffhanger, after cliffhanger.

If we feel happy that someone likes us or we feel sad that no-one likes us, or disappointed that someone didn’t get back to us – either way, if it creates an emotional response – we’ll come back for more.

We have a need to express our feelings and make connections, and if our physical lives are not what we want – we will take the easy road – click a button and get our fix online. It’s fast, cheap and has an effect on us – instantly.