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Towards a Happier, Less Nastier Facebook

Facebook research has found social comparisons to be one of the third areas to be looked into

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FILE - The Facebook logo is seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. (VOA)

By Gaurav Datt

Passive use, loneliness and the agony of social comparisons are some of the “ills” being battled on social media and Facebook’s answer to these are: easier ways to comment back, a dating feature and a time tracker to check overuse.

During the International Press Day event at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Facebook’s Research Vice President David Ginsberg said the social media giant invests heavily on understanding the impact of Facebook on users’ well-being and works hard to make it less nastier and happier.

One of the outcomes of this research was Mark Zuckerberg announcing a slew of new measures last year to make Facebook a more pleasant experience.

David Ginsberg said the three broad focus areas of research on well-being was passive use, loneliness and social comparisons.

Research has found that those who only open Facebook page without actively engaging with content is not good for the well being as compared to others, who are active users.

Facebook has introduced several new features that bring the users out of passive mode through easier active interaction arrangements with friends and families. These are called “meaningful social interaction” or “MSI” that promotes content that is more likely to lead interactions between friends.

“When we look at behaviours, when people get into passive consumption mode, those types of activities tend not to be associated with increases in wellbeing. And what I mean by passive consumption is, and we’ve all been there, we’ve all had these moments where you’re just sort of scrolling and you’re kind of mindlessly looking at it and you’re not interacting, you’re not really paying attention to most of it, of what’s happening. And you kind of just get sucked into it, ” said David.

The other major concern is loneliness. Facebook users can be lonely despite having a big friends list.

“It’s going to be different for every person. And when you look at the academic research plus the research that we’ve done internally, it’s really about this notion of the disconnect between the quality of relationships that you want to have and the quality of relationships that you feel you have. It’s really sort of where that zone of loneliness lives,” said David.

Among others, Facebook has launched its own dating service to help users find meaningful interactions. Facebook dating also has a “secret crush” and “share live location” features.

FILE – The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York’s Times Square, March 29, 2018. VOA

“The second thing that we’ve launched is a time tracker. So you sort of an alarm so you can set a little reminder for yourself now on Facebook and Instagram and say, I don’t want to spend more than x amount of time on a daily basis.”

“And when you hit that amount of time, sort of a window pops up and says you’ve hit your amount of time and you can move on to go do something else, should you want to.”

“And then the third is something that we call Do Not Disturb, which allows you to sort of mute the notifications that come from Facebook or Instagram for an amount of time,” David added.

Facebook research has found social comparisons to be one of the third areas to be looked into.

“So one of the things people talk a lot about with social media in general and online technology and online media technologies in general is this notion of when I see my friends having this amazing vacation, this is an international audience. So in Bali and I’m sitting here, you know at home does it make me feel worse about my life?,” he said.

But the research tells us both our internal and external is that social comparison happens both offline and on social media platforms, he said.

Also Read- Here’s How You can Fight Your Digital Addiction

Facebook wants to minimize this and ensure people are not interatcing in a pressurised atmosphere.

It is offering more controls like the new feature of disallowing mocking of a death.

Or, if a person is posting something you do not want to see anymore, you can just snooze the content briefly. This tool can help people overcome break-ups. (IANS)

Next Story

Google, Facebook Secretly Tracking Your Porn-viewing Habits

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers

Google, smart compose
The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain. VOA

If you think watching pornographic material in the “incognito” mode will not let anyone know, you are mistaken. Google, Facebook and even Oracle cloud are secretly tracking the porn you watch even when you switch on the “incognito” mode on your laptop or smartphone.

A new joint study from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pennsylvania that investigated 22,484 sex websites using a tool called “webXray” revealed that 93 per cent of pages track and leak users’ data to third-party organisations.

“Tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by a handful of major companies,” said the researchers who identified 230 different companies and services tracking users in their sample.

Of non-pornography-specific services, Google tracks 74 per cent of sites, Oracle 24 per cent and Facebook 10 per cent.

Porn-specific trackers in the top 10 are exoClick (40 per cent), JuicyAds (11 per cent), and EroAdvertising (9 per cent).

“The majority of non-pornography companies in the top 10 are based in the US, while the majority of pornography-specific companies are based in Europe,” said the study.

The researchers – Elena Maris, Microsoft Research; Timothy Libert, Carnegie Mellon University; and Jennifer Henrichsen, University of Pennsylvania – said they successfully extracted privacy policies for 3,856 sites, 17 per cent of the total.

“The policies were written such that one might need a two-year college education to understand them. The content analysis indicated 44.97 per cent of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user,” said the study to be published in the journal New Media & Society.

The team created a hypothetical profile named “Jack” who decides to view porn on his laptop.

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FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Jack enables “incognito” mode in his browser, assuming his actions are now private. He pulls up a site and scrolls past a small link to a privacy policy. Assuming a site with a privacy policy will protect his personal information, Jack clicks on a video.

“What Jack does not know is that incognito mode only ensures his browsing history is not stored on his computer. The sites he visits, as well as any third-party trackers, may observe and record his online actions,” the researchers noted.

These third-parties may even infer Jack’s sexual interests from the URLs of the sites he accesses. They might also use what they have decided about these interests for marketing or building a consumer profile. They may even sell the data.

Jack has no idea these third-party data transfers are occurring as he browses videos.

“His assumption that porn websites will protect his information, along with the reassurance of the ‘incognito’ mode icon on his screen, provide Jack a fundamentally misleading sense of privacy as he consumes porn online,” wrote the researchers.

The above hypothetical scenario occurs frequently in reality and is indicative of the widespread data leakage and tracking that can occur on porn sites, they added.

Also Read: Instagram to Now Alert Violators Before Deleting Accounts

In 2017, Pornhub, one of the largest porn websites, received 28.5 billion visits, with users performing 50,000 searches per second on the site.

Statistics vary as to the amount of overall porn activity on the internet, but a 2017 report indicated porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined, and that “30 per cent of all the data transferred across the Internet is porn”, with site YouPorn using six times more bandwidth than Hulu.

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers. (IANS)