5 Things I Learned In 5 Hours On Facebook

So normally when I wake up in the morning I do all the things that a mindfulness expert/coach is supposed to do. I do my morning meditation, visualizations, vows and so on but the other morning I woke up and didn’t feel great.

I’m not sure if I have just been working too hard, or if I’m coming down with a cold, but in either case I just couldn’t bring myself to do any work. And so instead, I did a little unintentional experiment. I spent the entire morning on Facebook. (Oh! the shame)

Now while this wasn’t the best use of my time I did get the chance to reflect on what it’s like to devote an entire morning of my life to the Social Network. And I’m glad I get to share it with you.

Here is what I learned:

1. Facebook Encourages You to Court Controversy –

I rarely post controversial things on my Facebook wall, but I recently reposted an article about gluten intolerance, which had gotten a few comments.

Normally I’m too busy/focused on other things to follow these threads, but with my whole morning free I discovered I had an opinion. I began responding to many posts within minutes, eventually getting into several mini discussions about the scientific basis for gluten sensitivity.

However, when I looked back over what I’d written I realized two things:

  1. I’m not a food scientist and really don’t have much basis for authority.
  2. My comments were generally not well thought out.

Sure, it was fun playing Facebook pundit, but I came to see that embroiling yourself in Facebook controversy isn’t the best use of your time. This experiment taught me that getting wrapped up in controversy is entertaining, but rarely rises the to level of useful discourse.

2. Facebook Wants You Watch A LOT of Videos –

Here is a short list of what I watched:

  • A Halloween vine
  • A clip of Luther Vandross singing on Arsino Hall
  • Clips of cats doing things cats don’t normally do.
  • Clips of cats doing things my own cat does regularly.
  • A ranking of the top 20 ways people are killed in the Saw movies.
  • And so many more I can’t remember.

The truth is that none of these videos improved my life or my knowledge in any significant way. One exception was a video about death by the British Humanist Society, but that was a rare exception to the rule.

Yes, videos on Facebook are entertaining, but I learned that that they rarely satisfies more that your shallow click curiosity. Clicking of Facebook videos is sort of the electronic equivalent of popping bubble wrap. And while bubble wrap is fun, it’s certainly not that compelling.

3. Facebook Doesn’t Help You Keep Track of Your Friends –

One thing that really surprised me was how little I actually learned about the people in my life. Even when I read the pages of people I knew, I didn’t learn that much.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. People don’t share much about their lives on Facebook. And when they do, it’s a single comment or picture that often gets lost in the thread of other stuff.
  2. People mostly share stuff by other people.

I myself am guilty of this. My most popular posts are usually reposts of other articles.

This made me realize that Facebook largely functions as a resharing loop and doesn’t really encourage us to connect to with each other. Which is odd, because it’s one of the most common justifications I’ve heard for spending time on Facebook?

4. Facebook isn’t really fun or relaxing –

Sure, I didn’t feel great when I started this binge, but I didn’t feel better at the end either. Instead, my mind felt foggy and scattered.

But while my morning wasn’t challenging it also wasn’t fun or relaxing. Instead, it felt more like I had spent the morning in a semi aware trance.

When I compared it to other things, I consider fun or relaxing like spending time with friends or getting a massage, Facebook couldn’t even hold a candle to these things. Which made me wonder, why do we convince ourselves Facebook is fun when it’s really just easy and numbing.

5. Facebook is Too Easy –

Facebook is like soggy milk toast for the brain. It demands very little, subtly feeds your ego, and is amusing without challenging you in any real way.

I think this is the real genius or evil of Facebook, is that it rides the line between true impact and true drivel so effectively that it’s easy to while away hours of time, without realizing your anything at all. It’s a device designed to feed your monkey mind with a level of proficiency I don’t think I’ve ever experienced.

And while this might be the part of the post where you’d expect me to demonize Facebook, I won’t. Because while I do think you could spend less time on it. I also don’t think Facebook is going anywhere.

I’ll probably keep using Facebook, but when I do, I’ll do my best to remember this little experiment and what it taught me. Because while Facebook is hardly evil, it’s also rarely great. And life is too short to be amused by a trance.

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4 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned In 5 Hours On Facebook

  1. Just shared on Facebook, too. Thanks, Toku. I agree with everything you’ve shared here. I use Facebook regularly right now, and notice the same things… especially the share loop phenomenon. In some ways it’s helpful and affirming, but in others it’s like “preaching to the choir” and sort of just reinforces the status quo. If we’re seeking connection it’d probably help us to realize that, connect meaningfully on Facebook and then move on to other activities that are connecting as well (like being with friends in person, massage, or meditation). Appreciate your honesty and insights, as usual.

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