… at least, not for the next six weeks. Here’s why:
First: I’m rarely on Facebook. I don’t have the app on my phone because of its privacy issues (more here and here); and whenever I visit the site I try to minimize my time there as much as possible — it can be a real timesuck. This means my previous interactions on it consisted primarily of hitting “Like” on posts and “thumbs up” on comments. Instead of posting rich comments or in-depth posts, I simply liked things. Once in a while, I’d push Instagram pictures or Twitter tweets to Facebook. That quick-and-easy (some rightly say “lazy”) activity gradually turned my feed into an echo chamber where, on a regular basis, I would only see posts from the same six people, a bunch of “recommended” Buzzfeed and Upworthy videos, and a plethora of promoted posts that I didn’t want in my “friend” feed. This seemed weird — I have over 4000 friends, so why am I seeing updates from only six of them? — and it made me want to visit Facebook even less. Unfortunately, most of my family and friends prefer Facebook over Twitter for now, so I have to go there to stay abreast of group plans, events and private messages.
Secondly, I read what happened when Wired writer Mat Honan decided to Like everything in his feed: His friends’ updates started to disappear, only to be replaced by more and more updates from brands and publishers. Facebook’s algorithm worked to determine his political inclinations and presented him with increasingly extreme right-wing and left-wing content…strangely enough, at the same time. What’s even more disconcerting is that “Liking” everything made Honan’s posts pop up far more frequently in his friends’ feeds, distorting their timelines, too.
Then I read Elan Morgan’s post on Medium: “I Quit Liking Things On Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity.” She did the opposite experiment: She did not Like anything on Facebook for two weeks, opting instead to write a thoughtful comment whenever she felt the need to express agreement or affection. It effected the exact opposite result from Honan’s experience. She reports:
Now that I am commenting more on Facebook and not clicking Like on anything at all, my feed has relaxed and become more conversational. It’s like all the shouty attention-getters were ushered out of the room as soon as I stopped incidentally asking for those kinds of updates by using the Like function. … I feel as though reason has been restored.
I want to restore reason to my timeline. I want to make what little time I spend on Facebook more meaningful and relevant. I want to restore its effectiveness for its supposed purpose: To help me improve relationships and engage in social activities with my family, friends and communities.
After several insightful paragraphs on Facebook’s algorithms and their unintended, and often detrimental, side effects, Morgan concludes:
Once I removed the Like function from my own behavior, I almost started to like using Facebook. …
Quit the Like. See if it amplifies the humanity in your Facebook. Give the Like a rest and see what happens. Choose to comment with words. Watch how your feed changes.
Challenge accepted. I will not like anything on Facebook for the next six weeks. Maybe even longer. Who knows: I may just quit Facebook altogether.
What about you? Will you stop Liking things on Facebook? If you do, please share what you experienced and Comment below, or share it with me on Facebook! I promise to respond with more than a “Like.” 🙂