How Facebook manipulates our social interactions

Facebook. It’s one of the world’s largest names online. It consumes millions of people on a daily basis, and keeps them tightly held in a lockjaw grip. (Almost) all of our friends are on it. They know so much more about you than you think. Yet is it possibly one of the worst places you could actually entrust with your data, and your mind?

So, You post a picture from that party you went to on the weekend… that embarrassing drunk one, share it amongst your friends allowing them to comment on it and share further. Facebook have recently been doing some changes on the share function which I believe have been rolled back – at one point sharing a post from a friend’s wall would only be visible to mutual friends, unless the post itself was public. It was a bizarre change which I verified by running several tests between my wife’s account and my own, and essentially made the share link redundant – at least for non-public posts.

But what about when Facebook “manipulate” what you do and how you interact not only with the site, but with your own friends?

Yesterday – 7th August – was my 29th birthday. I sat there the night before and thought about what happens on the day of anyone’s birthday – you wake up that morning to a barrage of “Happy birthday” posts left on your wall from your various Facebook friends, with the trend continuing through the day and tailing off early evening. And why? Facebook actively asks you to wish your “friend” a happy birthday and keeps the prompt up all day, just for your convenience.

I hid my date of birth from everyone.

For the first time since I joined Facebook in 2008, I had not received a single happy birthday comment on my wall. With the exception of my sister. But my sister already knew my birthday of course. Everyone who wished me a happy birthday did so via text message or in person (including my sister, who sent me a message before doing so on Facebook), just like it used to be. My children were genuinely excited that it was my birthday.

It turns out that if Facebook doesn’t tell you to wish your Facebook friend happy birthday, then none of your circle of “friends” actually knows. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Facebook has become a site where you can have a circle of friends but know absolutely nothing about them. If Facebook were to close tomorrow, the people I care about and the people I would want to remember my birthday would do exactly what they did yesterday. They would get in touch with me because they genuinely wanted to say those two words. They weren’t told to by a piece of code telling the site’s software to prompt them.

It truly is amazing what happens when you hide one thing from a website. People who would have otherwise made a comment, didn’t.

It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like now without social media, but it does make you wonder if the world would be a better place without it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *