How ironic that we now need to “disconnect” to “connect.” By disconnect, I mean disengaging ourselves from the addictive hold of our devices and social media feeds. When social media started to become a “thing” about 10 years ago, I think it was largely seen as a way for people to bond and form meaningful connections across time zones and varying interests. Social media offered us ways to communicate with loved ones and link with others who shared our interests.
At brunch recently I was shocked to see a child wearing headphones and watching a tablet in a restaurant at a table of adults. The kid remained quiet mesmerized by the screen and the adults had their social time. But at the same time, something was missing. The child lost out on the chance to connect with others, to observe the subtle nuances of non-verbal communication, and to learn basic manners about interacting socially.
Recently Facebook (FB) announced that the news feeds on an individual’s account will now focus on content from friends and family. Facebook wants its users to spend time on the site to create “meaningful interactions” with loved ones, rather than being inundated with advertisements and auto-playing videos. (Read more about it here.) My first thought was if FB really wanted to create more meaningful experiences for its users, why doesn’t it encourage users to have face-to-face interactions with friends and family?
Instead, FB decided to modify its algorithms to prioritize content from friends and family. And here is where more problems started to develop for me. If you’ve read any of my past posts on Facebook, you’ll know I’m neither a big fan, nor a big consumer. I was curious about the changes and read about them on the FB site directly. Although the news feed will emphasize posts from friends and family, it also focuses on those that receive the most attention or generate activity. So essentially the friends/family that know how to get the most results will rise to the top of the news feed, or maybe appear there more than once.
How does popularity equate to meaningful? Many of my most significant experiences are from being intimate and vulnerable in a private “disconnected” setting, not with something displayed for anyone’s comments.
And what is a Facebook friend? I know who my friends are in real life, but on social media it’s a different thing.