• sbf501 364 days ago
    I'd like to see similar study about the original gateway drug: "24-hour News Channels", which was followed by "24-hour Outrage-News Channels". Seems like we've been building toward this, the interactivity of the internet was the paradigm shift (to use a 90's term). EDIT: I realize it isn't news messing with youths' self-esteem (well, in some cases it is), but it is related in that the media is custom-made to drive engagement at all costs.
    • gergov 364 days ago
      Right, engagement at all cost it is, but there is a fundamental difference. Television required professionals where even wrestling and reality TV is scripted: it requires some sort of willful ignorance from the viewer to engage with it.

      Social media pushes the illusion that you are not engaging with professionals but peers, and the dominant signals (how many views, likes, comments, etc.) of this day and age were not present with TV. This seriously messes with the innate reasoning of most humans, because for all our individualism we are norm conforming herd animals.

      Show a kid a celebrity pushing something and they can tell it's fake. If the same thing is pushed by all of their friends, now we're in the territory of peer pressure which is a different ball game!

      • PuppyTailWags 364 days ago
        I don't really agree with this. Rush Limbaugh successfully ran a platform on mostly entirely television that deeply poisoned the cultural landscape of the USA at the time (he was defending Reagan's neglect of HIV/AIDS and playing "another one bites the dust" when Freddie Mercury died), and laid the foundation on current polarized rhetoric strategies. He spread lies that Obama wasn't a natural born citizen. He blamed volcano eruptions on the Affordable Care Act. So on and so forth. It's spurious to claim that outrage bait on television hasn't messed up people's brains just because the internet is doing a better job at it. They're just modeling what television was already successfully doing.
        • deltarholamda 363 days ago
          This is a really weird comment, because Limbaugh was almost entirely radio. His TV show was short-lived and not really popular, as he wasn't comfortable in the medium and it showed. He got his start in radio as a DJ, and went on to basically remake the AM band from farm reports and local sports talk to talk radio as we now know it.

          This is really basic bio stuff about Limbaugh, and it doesn't speak well of your other assertions if you got this part so wrong.

          What's really funny is that during the 90s the "Greatest Threat To Democracy Ever" WAS talk radio, more or less solely because the Limbaugh program was so popular. The targets may change, but the talking points never seem to.

          • PuppyTailWags 363 days ago
            Hey, thanks for correcting me. You're right that the issue was Limbaugh's radio program, not his TV. I apologize for getting my example wrong, but I think my overall point is still a valid one (that just because social media is more effective at spewing bad rhetoric doesn't mean bad rhetoric is ineffective in other media).
            • dr_dshiv 363 days ago
              Your point was valid but your example was creepily wrong.
              • oyashirochama 363 days ago
                People remember him for his TV program but get the effects from his radio program, not exactly a creepy mistake just association mistake which happens to anyone.
        • advantager 364 days ago
          I believe Rush did become famous on television, but after the mid-90s it was really all about his radio program. So it might be to your point, fundamentally it isn't the internet, or TV, maybe it was radio.

          I do believe that the Rush style radio talk show lays the foundation for Tucker Carlson and all of the conservative pundit TV programming. Which is the basis for the problems we see with Facebook / Fake News etc.

          • derac 364 days ago
            One can trace that lineage in conservative thought back to the John Birch Society.


            • pyuser583 363 days ago
              Why stop there? Why not Fr. Coughlin or William Jennings Bryan?
              • ch4s3 363 days ago
                Why stop there Girolamo Savonarola was doing it in the 15th century, or Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus.
                • dr_dshiv 363 days ago
                  > Savonarola

                  Love that the Catholic Church burned him at the stake for being too conservative. Really! Go Renaissance Popery!!

                  • ch4s3 363 days ago
                    Well, heresy and schism officially. But he was more of a populist than conservative and also weirdly sided with the invading French king which kind of pissed off the pope.
                • Tainnor 363 days ago
                  How do the Gracchi fit in here? They were certainly populist, but decidedly not socially conservative.
                  • ch4s3 362 days ago
                    The comparison is that they're all fire breathing populists that stoked resentment, dabbled in conspiracy theories, and encouraged violence. My point is that these figures have always existed and aren't confined to the contemporary left/right binary. There's just something about people that makes these figures inevitable.
                    • Tainnor 359 days ago
                      I mean the Gracchi were undoubtedly populist, and were interested in their own benefit most of all but it's not like the resentment against a corrupt oligarchy that deprived most citizens of land came from nothing.
        • bakal 364 days ago
          • derac 364 days ago
            It's pretty lame to make fun of a guy dying of AIDS because you hate that he is gay. Not chad at all. Very weak.
      • mawise 364 days ago
        Facebook brought us in with the promise of keeping in touch with friends, but the incentives are to "engagement at all costs". I'm hoping that if we can offer an alternative that lets people keep up with their friends without the engagememt incentive then we could greatly improve societal mental health. Thats why I build Haven[1] as open source and self hosted, along with several 3rd party hosting providers. No central entity means no "engagement at all costs".

        [1] https://havenweb.org

        • nkingsy 364 days ago
          This is a tragedy of the commons situation because people cannot help themselves.

          What we are actually seeing is users going to TikTok because it is even more engaging.

          People may say they want to keep up with their friends, but they will choose the more engaging activity.

          There is no regulating or out-competing it.

          Governments should provide identification, communication, community, payments, etc platforms for their citizens, but entertainment is always going to look like this unless stoicism is somehow engrained into our culture.

          Entertainment itself is measured by engagement, so it will end with unlimited personalized ai generated content that will be almost impossible to put down.

          • dylan604 364 days ago
            >This is a tragedy of the commons situation because people cannot help themselves.

            SOME people cannot help themselves. I spend 0 minutes on social platforms. I can help myself just fine. Some people have much more addictive personality traits than others. Please, don't paint everyone with the same broad brush. It doesn't help the conversation in a meaningful manner

            • nkingsy 364 days ago
              First off you’re on hn, which is social media and absolutely optimized for your specific engagement.

              I also figured the “some” was implied because the world is a complicated place. I do believe we all have our weaknesses, though mindless consumption is more attractive to some than others.

              • dylan604 364 days ago
                If you equate HN to actual social platforms then okay.

                The HN "algo" is user driven by fellow readers up-voting/down-voting which is much more common interests. There are no "friend" relations on HN. The other platforms are all advertising based algo driven with intentional doping to make people addicted to the platform. This isn't even apples-to-oranges comparison.

                After the dust from Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers settles and everything gets evaluated, I sincerly hope that Meta/Zuck,et.al gets investigated in the same line as Purdue.

                • cma 363 days ago
                  Reddit is vote based so would you include that too? HN also has advertising (it has hiring ads for ycombinator companies put in as mostly organic-looking posts with no [ad] tag).
                  • dylan604 363 days ago
                    I don't want to get into an argument about what an ad is, but I think we all understand what the difference of ad driven algos on the social platforms vs hiring blogs, Who's Hiring, etc on this platform.

                    Also, I just never have liked Reddit.

            • classified 364 days ago
              > I spend 0 minutes on social platforms.

              You're spending time on HN.

              • eimrine 364 days ago
                But he is not spending time on social platform.
                • smsm42 363 days ago
                  And he can't wait to tell the Internet how proud he is about that.
                  • dylan604 363 days ago
                    Only in relation to a thread about how much time people are spending on the socials. It's part of the conversation. That's kind of how the work.
        • dylan604 364 days ago
          I never used Friendster, and thought that everyone spending so much time on MySpace was just wasting time. However, I'd love for socials to be back to just MySpace levels of people engaging with each other, sharing music, etc vs the ad engagement driven by ads instead of common interests.
      • otikik 364 days ago
        > some sort of willful ignorance

        Not "some sort of willful ignorance". It just requires "ignorance". I think most of us know someone who thinks that reality TV is ... well, reality. "It says it in the name".

        > Show a kid a celebrity pushing something and they can tell it's fake

        Perhaps you have very bright kids. My kid will ask me to buy two of whatever that person is pushing. He's simply not equipped to handle marketing at any level, yet.

        • MandieD 363 days ago
          Up to now, I have vigorously shielded my toddler from marketing - as far as he knows, the TV occasionally shows holiday church services and election results, and "his" laptop shows fairly non-violent excerpts from BBC animal documentaries and bird-watching videos (he's taken to asking to watch by making the slurping sounds the desert rain frog in his favorite video makes as it's eating termites, then exclaiming "froggy!").

          I know he needs to be exposed to some marketing while I'm watching along to talk about it so he isn't completely defenseless against it later, but I don't think that time is quite yet. So far, I'm going with his being able to separate "real" from "pretend" as a minimum.

          • jdougan 363 days ago
            Start with advertising from the past and work your way forward? It looks lame now, but that stuff used to consistently work.
            • personalidea 363 days ago
              Talk about how media is produced. Every second is because someone made it so. None of it just happened.

              Show them how it is done. How one can cut, edit and change the sound.

              Ask who did it, for what reason, for which audience, to what end?

              Equip them with the tools to question the things they see. Then they have the means to engage with marketing.

              It’s a long road. There will be glitter and cheap plastic toys along the way.

        • mattnewton 364 days ago
          I’m not sure we’re equipped as a society, otherwise why would marketing budgets be so high?

          I know adults who voted for Trump because they believed the apprentice gave them an unvarnished view of his character and decision making prowess in the real world. My own grandmother would cite episodes of the show.

      • kennend3 364 days ago
        > Show a kid a celebrity pushing something and they can tell it's fake.

        No, they cant.

        How many kids believe the photoshop pics they see?

        Not to single her out, but Kim K is now selling headphones and her pic in her ad makes her look like a character from the sims. This is NOT how a normal human being looks without hours of photoshop work.

        There is a reason we use to have laws around advertising to children.. they are too young to understand things.. this is also why you cant legally enter into a contract with a minor.

      • pjc50 364 days ago
        > it requires some sort of willful ignorance from the viewer to engage with it.

        > Show a kid a celebrity pushing something and they can tell it's fake

        This does not explain the Alex Jones show.

      • giantg2 364 days ago
        "Right, engagement at all cost it is"

        Ha I actually read this as enragement, which I don't think is even a real word.

    • duxup 364 days ago
      My father in law, who suffers from parkinson's calls me several times a day to leave me voice mails about how terrible the world is and how scared he is about what is coming.

      If there's a hell I hope there is a special place for 24-hour news channels and folks who feed fear and skewed garbage to people and hurt them.

      I sometimes wish I could run a 24 hour news channel that tried to do more of a mix of content / etc. It might not be popular, or profitable, but it wouldn't be doom and gloom and conflict and bait all day. Maybe some stories about rando people's lives and other things?

      • lo_zamoyski 364 days ago
        You'd go out of business.

        I'm not dismissing malice or opportunism in the media, but it is also important to appreciate the situation mass news media is in. Mass media are extremely dependent on things like advertising and that's always been the case for as long mass media have existed. The price of subscription or buying a paper is simply too meager to cover the costs of running a paper, for example. Advertising introduces its own perverse incentives and limitations (you can't bite the hand that feeds you, for example).

        24 hour news are, for the most part, useless, so they've got to fill the air time with sensationalized garbage, and because there's an arms race, the sensantionalism escalates.

        • wizofaus 363 days ago
          The only FTA 24 hour news channel we have in Australia is government funded, no advertising. Not sure if its existence helps prevent the proliferation of the sorts of channels that seem to exist in the US, though it hardly has any significant viewer numbers.
    • oblib 363 days ago
      >>I'd like to see similar study about the original gateway drug: "24-hour News Channels"

      Back in the early 80s I was living in LA and I'd grab some food on the way home from work and the "News" on an independent station. They had 3 half hour News show back to back. They started out with "Local News", then moved on to "National News", and finally "World News".

      At first it didn't seem much different than the big 3 Networks. Everyday I'd come home from work feeling fine but after a few months of doing that I realized by the end of the last broadcast I was very depressed.

      It finally occurred to me, after a few months, that the station was gathering every tragedy they could find, rapes, robberies, murders, wars, airplane and auto crashes, etc. So I decided to stop watching it and immediately went back to my normal, happy, content self.

      Since I've learned to monitor the "News" as opposed to consuming it and that's much easier to do when we can pick and choose what to consume and ignore it with just a click or tap. And since then I've had quite a few friends and relatives who're happy and content before and are now in a constant state of rage because they're pretty much addicted to watching FOX/CNN/MSNBC, etc.

      That said, I would love to see a serious study on this because it's grown into a serious and national mental heath problem here in the U.S.

      • theGnuMe 363 days ago
        It’s been well studied. We know the ad suppprted news make us sad. Don’t watch the news.

        NPR and PBS are the best if you have to.

          I think someone could make a few billion running a positive happy news channel.
        • retzkek 363 days ago
          > I think someone could make a few billion running a positive happy news channel.

          Isn't that essentially what TikTok is? A 24/7 feed of all the positive, happy, dopamine-triggering content you could ever want, tailored to you. And yeah, they have.

        • sbf501 363 days ago
          I also like Reuters, BBC and Al Jazeera, but I think the beeb is under too much scrutiny at home, but I still find them fair-ish?
    • lifeisstillgood 363 days ago
      We have been gamified. But then again spending 6 hours a day reading celebrity magazines to r watching daytime TV will equally rot our sense of balance.

      We some how think this would be six hours replaced with "improving our minds", visiting museums and working on our calculus or oil painting.

      I mean we could all do that. we more or less force our children to do that at school.

      If there was a "improve my mind" button on facebook, do you think we would all press it?

      I am torn between my pessimism and optimism

      • Xeoncross 363 days ago
        National parks in the US experienced a surge in interest after the covid lockdowns. I have hope that while more people might be falling into the unhealthy trap of news and social media - a lot of people are breaking free and exploring the world and it's people and places.
      • sbf501 363 days ago
        > We some how think this would be six hours replaced with "improving our minds", visiting museums and working on our calculus or oil painting.

        I'm in my 50's and am literally doing the latter two on weekends. Have I become a trope?!? lol.

        • lifeisstillgood 363 days ago
          Was the museum packed with hundreds of 20 somethings? if not then the "life long education" idea is not really catching on - you aren't a trope. You probably aren't a minority - barely make a cult I suspect :-)
    • oDot 364 days ago
      You've reminded me of a very good Norm bit


    • LanceH 363 days ago
      In the 80's, my grandmother was in a nursing home and we would receiver her mail. She would receive stacks of mail -- generally Democrat leaning, but not always -- with long copy outrage about Social Security or Medicare being eviscerated (There is a bill on the House floor now!!!) We suspect she donated and got on a list somehow, but the mail was pure outrage, all the time, and I'm sure it goes back much further than this.
    • swayvil 364 days ago
      Books, radio, tv, videogames, internet, vr...

      A progression of machines for interacting with dreams more deeply. A progreassion of better and better dream amplifiers.

      Dreams becoming a bigger part of our life

      Expert dreamers making the big bucks

      A whole population with one foot in dreamland.

      You ever noticed how fiction is everywhere? And advertising. And propaganda.

    • tomcam 363 days ago
      > "24-hour Outrage-News Channels"

      That’s the only kind

    • baby 363 days ago
      People always attack the latest tech. If it’s not video games it’s TV, if it’s not TV its radio, etc.

      Wait til VR is evil

    • mcrad 364 days ago
      Engagement with broadcast TV vs with hyper-personalized apps is a specious comparison.
      • viridian 364 days ago
        People aren't as unique and individualized as one might think. A half dozen channels, and thus permutations of outrage content is likely plenty enough to capture the overwhelming majority of the population's attention.
      • svachalek 364 days ago
        The psychological manipulation is based on the same principles, it's just the application is less refined.
        • samatman 364 days ago
          It is and it isn't, but mostly, it isn't.

          The relentless Skinner Boxing which Facebook and similar platforms engage in has no parallel in broadcast media, which can't be algorithmically tuned to harm the victim as much as possible.

      • jjtheblunt 364 days ago
        TiVo monetized hyper-personalized broadcast TV, by interposing ads based on all sorts of calculated data, into recorded broadcast TV streams, though.

        So it's more continuous a transition i suspect than people consider.

        • kurthr 364 days ago
          TiVo allowed you to skip ads. Was there an earlier or later version?

          You own the recording... I know there's still 5-15-30sec skip.

          Hulu, Roku, et al do of course insert their own ads because they're ad supported.

      • klodolph 364 days ago
        Do you care to elaborate? Why do you say it's specious?
        • mcrad 364 days ago
          Well engagement implies a certain amount to decision making and real-time action. TV watching is pretty much passive, and I just have a hard time believing the brain is impacted similarly but such different types of activity.
          • sbf501 364 days ago
            I don't think that qualifies as "specious" because I'm not trying to deceive anyone. You missed the part where I stated TV isn't interactive. I tried to pose a question in good faith. Did I fail? I am interested in information. Using the term "specious" incorrectly, deliberately or accidentally, is a judgement of the basis of my argument, which is actually specious.
            • mcrad 363 days ago
              Strawman argument then? I'm simply disagreeing that cable TV has a similar kind of mental health impact referred to in the article, just because there are similarities in how they operate as economic/social entities. I have no reason to believe you are trying to deceive anyone and specious is a great word :)
              • sbf501 363 days ago
                > and specious is a great word :)

                Lol, it is. :)

                > Strawman argument then?

                How about I rephrase, "Does 24-hour news have similar effects on viewers as this study shows social media has on kids, despite not being interactive?"

                Yeah, I see your point. Apples and oranges. Still interested in that study.

          • klodolph 364 days ago
            I think "engagement" in the discussion here is more of a term of art, and it's not really a question of what it implies.
  • andrewla 364 days ago
    As with all studies in the social sciences, one of two principles apply.

    First, if the conclusions are counterintuitive or unexpected, then when you look closer, you will find that the methodology is garbage and that it does not support the conclusions given.

    Second, if the conclusions reflect things that you believe are true, when you look closer, you will find that the methodology is garbage and that it does not support the conclusions given.

    • Tainnor 364 days ago
      That's a low-effort, shallow dismissal that doesn't even address anything specific to the article.

      If you have specific criticism regarding the methodology of this study - which doesn't, prima facie, appear unsound - please let the rest of us participate.

      • andrewla 364 days ago
        Unfortunately I was not able to locate a preprint for the paper itself, so we only have this article summarizing.

        First I'll say that without preregistration of the methodology, there's a lot that is immediately suspicious.

        > The researchers built an index based on 15 relevant questions in the NCHA, in which students were asked about their mental health in the past year

        Why these 15? What was the "relevance" criteria?

        To their credit, they don't just look at a summary metric of "mental health" which would be kind of absurd since the relative weighting is also arbitrary (although that appears to be the main conclusion). The article here notes several axes on which significant differences were found. Why these axes? What about other "mental health" metrics? Did they get better or stay neutral or just have no detectable effect?

        Without preregistration it's almost impossible to determine exactly how cherry-picked these differences were, as with a large enough set of potential questions to choose from, you're going to find statistically significant trends on some of them by random chance.

        The core methodology is to track the spread of Facebook to different colleges and compare mental health between schools that had Facebook and schools that did not yet have Facebook. This is surprisingly not terrible, but without insight into how the study controlled for the time axis and potential confounding variables about the non-random selection of schools for the rollout, it's difficult to say more.

        • andrewla 364 days ago
          I hate that I was baited into taking a closer look at this rather than just sticking with my trite dismissal. I did locate a preprint of the paper [1], but have not yet looked at it to determine if any of my above criticisms hold water.

          Nonetheless I remain blithely confident that this study is not going to be the one to break the mold.

          [1] https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/256787/1/1801812535....

          • rajup 364 days ago
            So it is a low-effort shallow dismissal then?
            • lcnPylGDnU4H9OF 364 days ago
              Certainly a dismissal but at this point it seems rather disingenuous to call it low-effort and shallow.

              (Also, please consider this friendly piece of advice: check yourself!)

              • Tainnor 363 days ago
                The follow-up comment is not low-effort and shallow, the original one was.

                Not sure why OP considers themselves to have been "baited" when the conversation IMHO has been greatly improved by them substantiating their criticism (which may have its merit).

                • lcnPylGDnU4H9OF 363 days ago
                  Fair points!

                  The comment I responded to was seeming to attribute those to OP's later comments, which would be unfair. The dismissal of the dismissal still comes across as low-effort and shallow.

                  • maxbond 363 days ago
                    I think their point was more that, after having obtained the preprint, they still weren't able to produce anything specific to the article, which demonstrates that their dismissal was low effort and unfair (and I think it's fair to call on them to admit that). The amount of effort required to dig into the methodology is high (and it's understandable if one doesn't want to spend their leisure time that way), but that's exactly why we can't go around spreading bullshit; it's so simple to do and takes so much effort to remediate, and often the damage is already done.

                    As always, it's better to go to another thread if a topic doesn't interest you, rather than disrespect people's time & energy by attacking the validity of the topic itself.

                    • lcnPylGDnU4H9OF 363 days ago
                      I dunno, I guess we just disagree. By the time I made my comment, we had this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32942901 I think neither that comment, nor the commenter's self-reply should be considered lacking effort. (Arguably the attitude that comes across when they complain about being "baited" isn't great, but their intended meaning seems fine.)

                      I do not take offense to the response calling out OP's first comment as low-effort and shallow because it was both of those things. I just can't see the comment I responded to as defensible with such a strong combination of irony and infelicity.

        • nequo 364 days ago
          > Without preregistration it's almost impossible to determine exactly how cherry-picked these differences were

          It is hard to credibly preregister studies that use observational data. It also seems hard to design an experiment around the roll-out of a social-media service that we know ahead of time to be successful.

          Instead, what is usually done on observational data is (1) making clear what the statistical assumptions are that are required to establish causality, (2) testing possible violations of the assumptions, and (3) testing whether the data is consistent with alternative explanations.

          So in such papers, results don't come for free. We need to think seriously about what reasonable theories we can have, and whether the data matches each theory.

          > without insight into how the study controlled for the time axis and potential confounding variables about the non-random selection of schools for the rollout, it's difficult to say more.

          The paper does also use alternative assumptions that lead to alternative statistical specifications. They also look at various intermediate outcomes to see if they are consistent with their proposed narrative. Such defensive writing is what blows the PDF up to almost 80 pages.

        • FollowingTheDao 363 days ago
          It is a working paper and you can find the whole paper here:


      • mikkergp 364 days ago
        One thing about this study as described in the article is it doesn’t really seem to be about “Facebook” persay but social media in general, it doesn’t seem to cover any of the newsfeed optimization stuff since it was done using data from the initial college rollout. Interesting nonetheless but I think it’s weird to attribute it to “Facebook” specifically, I mean, you sort of have to since they only covered Facebook in the research, but it mostly seems to be about “services that facilitate comparison to your peers.”
      • random314 364 days ago
        I will take a stab. Mind you, I have not even clicked on the article, much less read it or know what the methodology is. Here goes ----

        "The have used a correlational model, not a causal model. There are several confounding variables the paper doesn't consider, hence it is not proven from the evidence that Facebook has a negative impact "

        • Tainnor 364 days ago
          In most fields of study you can't really perform double-blind experiments. We know that smoking is linked to cancer through decades of correlational studies and careful analysis of confounding factors, for example.

          The article discusses how the study looked at different universities during the same time period, some of which had access to facebook and some of which didn't, and discovered that in the first case there was an increase in mental health issues over that period. There could still be confounders, sure, (or the sample size could be too small etc.), but at a first glance, that's not an unreasonable approach, as it tries to isolate the variable "facebook yes/no".

          That said, if you haven't read the article, I'm not sure why you even felt the need to comment? This is exactly the same kind of shallow dismissal I was calling out.

          • random314 364 days ago
            I made it a point to not read it, because virtually all social science papers are like these. It's really not worth my time and why the "shallow" dismissals should be the default response.

            Going back to your specific comments. Clearly the universities were not randomly assigned the treatment and control. And the actual number of independent sample sizes is extremely unlikely to give stat sig results at the single percentage digit impact shown. And no matter what they do, for something as complex as mental health, listing out all the confounding factors is hopeless - unlike lung cancer where you are literally sucking tar into your lungs and the sample sizes and effects are huge. Its a useful observational study, but it is ridiculous to call it a proof.

            > We know that smoking is linked to cancer through decades of correlational studies and careful analysis of confounding factors, for example.

            Yes, it took decades, when there is no proper control set. There are work arounds like backdoor and front door criteria, but yeah - it will take decades of work and looking inside the "black box".

            • Tainnor 363 days ago
              > but it is ridiculous to call it a proof.

              Proofs are for mathematics, not for science. (I share your distaste for science journalism that throws big words like "prove" around without much care, but that's probably not something you can fault the study authors for.)

              This is evidence in favour of a theory. It is to be understood within a larger body of evidence. Eventually, hopefully, there is enough evidence in one direction or another that we may draw more or less definitive conclusions.

              > I made it a point to not read it, because virtually all social science papers are like these. It's really not worth my time

              Nobody is forcing you to read this study, but somehow you seem to assume that your shallow dismissals (to which you are of course entitled privately) are worth anyone's time.

          • jedberg 363 days ago
            > but at a first glance, that's not an unreasonable approach, as it tries to isolate the variable "facebook yes/no".

            I agree it's not unreasonable, but you have to account for the fact that back then, most of the colleges that had it were top tier/high stress/highly selective colleges. Facebook started at Harvard, then went to Yale and Princeton, and then on to basically most of the US News top 50.

          • giraffe_lady 364 days ago
            The smoking comparison is very apt I think. People and institutions persistently pointing out that correlation isn't causation is a big part of why it took decades for the link between smoking and cancer to become commonly accepted after it was well established.

            Some were surely acting in their own personal financial interests but I'm also certain that a lot of it was more nuanced and personal. People need to think of themselves as, for the most part, good people who do mostly good things. Knowingly contributing to something that makes life much worse for many people doesn't align with that and they will need to deny it. I know if you polled phillip morris employees about cancer in the late 60s after the link was confirmed you'd hear a lot about correlation and uncertainty.

            HN isn't a random slice of the population. A lot of us here work in this domain or on similar products. There are certainly people in this comment section who directly worked on the core facebook product being discussed. They need to think of themselves as good still, too.

            • random314 364 days ago
              Smoking to lung cancer has a very direct delivery mechanism, inhaling tar into the lungs. The effect size and sample sizes are big. The hypothesized mechanisms here - unfavorable social comparison is far more tenuous, and the sample size here is number of universities- not number of students.

              These 2 are vastly different situations.

              To give an example. Establishing causal effect between nicotine and lung cancer is an open question, even as the causal effect of smoking on cancer is very clear.

        • sixstringtheory 364 days ago
          FWIW, the article claims the exact opposite

          > While many studies have found a correlation between the use of social media and various symptoms related to mental health, so far, it has been challenging to ascertain whether social media was actually the cause of poor mental health. By applying a novel research method, researchers have now succeeded in establishing such a causality

          But doesn't elaborate on the new method. We'll have to wait for the study to be published I guess.

          • andrewla 364 days ago
            I note in my other reply in this thread that they do describe some of the methodology (although I have not yet located a copy of the paper itself) appears to be address this.

            They looked at the mental health (as measured by self-reported surveys) among schools over time and cross-referenced that with the rollout of Facebook over time. So they could compare the change in mental health at schools the received Facebook access and compare it to the change in mental health at schools that did not receive Facebook access at the same time.

            The methodology appears to be fairly novel and does isolate them from several reverse-causation biases, as it is difficult to imagine that the rollout of Facebook was influenced by factors that led to the decline of mental health in student bodies.

            • sixstringtheory 364 days ago
              Hmm, yes I read that but it seemed so basic that I assumed it couldn't be considered "novel." Also it would appear to establish correlation but not causation.

              I assume to do that you have to establish the complete pathway and mechanism from someone using facebook to an increase in depression, like showing observations of changes in neurotransmitters or brain structure that have been proven to cause changes in mental health, and then proving that facebook caused the changes in those levels. (FWIW I assume this could be done and that we may see those kinds of results if it were done, but I haven't actually seen a study like that. I also assume the hypothesis in general.)

              For instance, using the example of smoking from another commenter, from the CDC website [0]:

              > - Poisons in cigarette smoke can weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder to kill cancer cells. When this happens, cancer cells keep growing without being stopped.

              > - Poisons in tobacco smoke can damage or change a cell’s DNA. DNA is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls a cell’s normal growth and function. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor.

              These seem more like things that can be tested in laboratory settings that are easily reproducible and rely on more objective observations than self-reporting.

              I'm neither a neuroscientist or social scientist so I'm just trying to understand, not saying they're wrong or that the research is even flawed.

              [0]: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/cancer.ht...

    • altdataseller 364 days ago
      Your methodology for analyzing the methodology of this report is unsound (FB still is bad for mental health though)
    • srcreigh 364 days ago
      The methodology in this paper is a step above simple correlation analysis. Facebook in its early rollout period was released to some universities & colleges and not others. This study compares the increases of depression & anxiety in the schools where Facebook was made available vs schools where it wasn't.

      Of course, it'd be nice to see if the difference in increased rates of depression & anxiety are themselves abnormal in the first place... Not sure if the study goes into that depth.

    • daniel-cussen 364 days ago
      There's some stuff with merit. Generally headlines on this forum are way off the money generally, in psychology sociology psychiatry.

      Like there's that one finding that came up while researching how scientists in the hard sciences achieved recognition. The soft science researcher discovered that every single one of the scientists insisted questions are more important than answers. But there was no margin of error, so they couldn't write a paper about that. It's not a statistic, it's just absolute. They should have by all means written a paper about it, no shame in being absolutely right.

      And there's sociologists like Andrés Pascal Allende, on whom the Mandalorian is based, who was considered a counter-terrorist by the rightful president, and also a terrorist by the usurper, like the Mandalorian. I should clarify he mostly carried out sociology with machine guns and grenades, killed many carabineros, hard target, came in and out of Chile as he pleased, highly persecuted, outraced the persecutors every time, was Minister of Tourism in Cuba--that's a really good job, incredibly good, dude that's like that's a huge reward for standing up to death and torture, oh man, that's recognition, on top of the other recognition, medals and all the rest. That is all second only to being the hero of the absolute most oppressed and repressed (both) worthy victims, meaning those who wish to do what he did for them if they could like watching the Mandalorian wishing they could do that and then going back into the grind and struggle day after day of exploitation and dealing with the betrayal contest set up by the dictatorship. Nothing compares to that recognition, the recognition of the worthy victim. That is heroism definitionally. Really his heroism and those he led determined were the only thing holding up the dignity and living conditions of like 80% of Chileans, fear of the hero.

      He studied sociology before becoming the Mandalorian. Must have learned something if he was determined to graduate.

    • xoxo1121 364 days ago
  • wfbarks 364 days ago
    I took a long break (maybe 5 years or so) but I have recently started using both FB and Instagram and have been surprised at how positive my time has been on these platforms. On FB I have been finding interesting local groups and events (just moved to a new city) and on Instagram, I have been enjoying seeing updates from real friends.

    On the other hand I recently deleted Twitter from my phone. I love twitter for getting interesting infromation and staying up to date with news, but the whole culture there has just turned into cheap dunking on one another, and its just guaranteed to leave you feeling angry about something. Extremely disruptive to mental state.

    I spend some time on the TikTok-like products as well (youtube shorts / fb reels) and have found them to be just a really easy way to completely waste an hour for no reason whatsoever. Less disruptive to mental state than twitter though.

    • TylerE 364 days ago
      The key to happy Facebooking for me is to keep it to people I don't routinely have any other way of keeping in touch with - so it's mostly hobby groups, people I've met while traveling, a few former co-workers...

      In particular, I do not friend or follow any family, neighbors, current co-workers, etc.

    • oneplane 363 days ago
      The issue with the meta products is that no matter how much you try to personally curate who you see stuff from, they will insert sponsored content you have no choice in and that can be real ads but also random posts.
    • maxbond 363 days ago
      As an aside, I've heard these TikTok-likes called "swipeables", which I like.
    • Sohcahtoa82 363 days ago
      > I took a long break (maybe 5 years or so) but I have recently started using both FB and Instagram and have been surprised at how positive my time has been on these platforms. On FB I have been finding interesting local groups and events (just moved to a new city) and on Instagram, I have been enjoying seeing updates from real friends.


      I enjoy my time on Facebook. I think most of the complaints about Facebook (aside from privacy issues) are self-inflicted.

      Your feed is what you make it. You have an uncle that's a rabid Trump supporter that posts racist shit? Delete him. Or at least unfollow him so his bullshit doesn't show up in your feed.

      I recently discovered the term "hate-follow" and I'm just flabbergasted that anybody would ever follow someone on social media that they despise.

      I've also heard that some people are very prone to envy and seeing someone's vacation photos fills them with depression, but eh...not sure what can be done about that.

  • DamnInteresting 364 days ago
    I do not care for this trend of omitting the publication date from news articles. Temporal context is very relevant in news articles, especially to assess whether the information has been superseded.

    (I know, one can often find the publication date in the HTML source, but that requires savvy, and should not be necessary.)

    • singlow 364 days ago
      Its a Drupal 7 site so every content item has a publication date in the db since it is part of the root data schema for posts/pages and all sub-types. In their case they have at least two content types in their news page. All of the "News" type articles do display the date but the template for "Research" articles does not display it. It is possible this was deliberate but most likely it just was in the default news template and when they created a custom template for the research articles they based it on the default page template which doesn't include a date line.
    • dchftcs 364 days ago
      Yeah, and sometimes that's the point. Some sites do this probably to improve viewership of older articles. I don't understand why a university would do this though.
  • jeff-davis 364 days ago
    I'm pleased to see the word "causation" reappear along with the word "science".

    But I'm disappointed to see the word "proven". It isn't proven, and there are a number of problems.

    One is that the hypothesis is never really tested, this is just more data analysis. I don't want to split hairs over the definition of "science" but if you don't have an experiment where you intervene in the real world and dispassionately record what happens, then it's probably not science.

    The scientific method is a causation-finding machine intended to avoid all of the errors that humans are likely to make. Perhaps that leads to too few exciting results, so now we have a bunch of "scientific studies" instead.

    • oneplane 363 days ago
      While it might not be a record of an experiment, it's a whole lot better in terms of data analysis than just someone's gut feeling. That last one was something I expected much more in the comments where people would just "well duh" this type of publication.

      At the very least this data analysis shows something with a trace, instead of just throwing an idea out there and hoping someone builds a complete thesis around it and starts experimenting while everyone else is still guessing and having feelings but not getting anywhere concrete.

  • inamberclad 364 days ago
    I wonder how people continue to work at Facebook. I know they tend to have the highest salaries from the FAANG groups, but still. We, as engineers and builders, have the responsibility to think critically about how the things we are working on will be used.
    • blep_ 364 days ago
      Earlier this year, I had a recruiter invite me to interview there, and I made an attempt at convincing myself with reasoning like:

      - they're going to do their evil thing anyway, may as well show up and intentionally do it marginally worse

      - they're going to pay someone large sums of money, may as well be me

      - I increasingly believe this whole industry is net evil overall, and large sums of money mean I can leave it sooner

      - also, it was their VR thing, and if it was a VR thing at literally any other company I would be excited about that because VR is at least conceptually cool

      These are not particularly good arguments, and that's why I don't work there now. But statistically, I can imagine a few people who we would otherwise categorize as non-evil actually convince themselves with arguments like these, and when you're casting as wide a net as Facebook does, a few is all you need.

      • lostgame 363 days ago
        Thank you for a realistic, grounded, evidence-based discussion of this. I've seen quite a few comments in this thread that have made me shake my head pretty hard.

        Here's the thing: anyone who is in IT, especially programming; is going to be well-aware of the...I don't want to say 'evil', but I will at least say questionably ethical nature of Facebook's workings.

        Anyone working there had to compromise some level of ethics for the profit they acquire from it.

        • arghnoname 363 days ago
          My guess is that the personal code of ethics that people run with who work there or work for other companies that produce goods that are bad for people (e.g., tobacco) is that their belief in individual choice is the primary factor.

          In this way, the poor choices people make is not the responsibility of the person offering the choice, it's the responsibility of the chooser. You can sell heroine this way and sleep like a baby.

          It's not totally crazy if you think what you're offering is not coercive and that people can and should look out for their best interests. This doesn't work for my ethics because I think, basically, that some people aren't so great at looking out for their own best interests and can be tricked or seduced into hurting themselves. If someone is weak in whatever way that they can be tricked into hurting themselves, this is a soft form of coercion.

          Ethically though it's not totally cut and dried. Pretty much everyone engaged in behavior where they might come out ahead relative to another (e.g., buying/selling a car, aiming for a promotion or raise, etc). I work for a company that sells shiny baubles and people buy stuff they can't really afford partly because of our slick marketing. I feel this is better than working for Meta, but is it? I don't know. Being ethical while living under an unethical system is almost impossible and requires significant sacrifice. If I'm being honest, I'm not willing to make that sacrifice, so I'm already compromising my ethics to _some_ level too. I guess we all just pick our levels.

      • JohnFen 364 days ago
        I think those arguments would only be persuasive to someone who is actively looking for a way to paper over their ethical concerns and take the money. They wouldn't be persuasive for a person trying to be true to their ethical stance.
        • blep_ 364 days ago
          This is an accurate description of my thought processes at the time.
    • stickfigure 364 days ago
      I wonder how people can continue to post questions like this to HN, when there are billions of people who happily use Facebook. I would think it's our responsibility to look outside of our narrow information bubble.
      • hhmc 364 days ago
        If the original claim is that 'facebook is damaging to (and beyond) its users', then the response 'but it has _many_ users' isn't much of a defense..
        • stickfigure 364 days ago
          I think the original claim is that "facebook is damaging to some users". You could say the same about salt. People still work in salt mines.
          • ziddoap 364 days ago
            I'm not really able to wrap my head around your argument.

            If it's damaging to some percentage of users, having more users means it damages more people.

            Is your argument that this is okay because some people also put their health at risk being salt miners?

            • stickfigure 363 days ago
              Can you name something that is not damaging to someone? Excessive salt consumption is linked over a million annual deaths worldwide. Even water kills thousands of people per year (drowning).

              If your rule is "we can't have things that may hurt some people" then you're going to live in a pretty bland world. Gonna be especially tough without water.

              • ziddoap 363 days ago
                >Excessive salt consumption is linked over a million annual deaths worldwide. Even water kills thousands of people per year (drowning)

                And we have people and organizations that try to reduce the amount of deaths from those things. Raising awareness, passing laws, etc.

                >If your rule is "we can't have things that may hurt some people" then you're going to live in a pretty bland world.

                I only asked for clarification on your argument. But, no, that's not my "rule". I just think that if we can reduce harm, it's nice to do that where possible.

                >Gonna be especially tough without water.

                Come on. Your whole last sentence is ridiculous. The poster questioned why someone would work at Facebook. That is not the equivalent of saying "we can't have things that may hurt some people" and it's so far removed from your water/drowning scenario that I can't tell if you're being serious.

                • stickfigure 363 days ago
                  > The poster questioned why someone would work at Facebook.

                  I thought my answer was pretty easy to interpret, but I will spell it out: Because the vast majority of people who use Facebook enrich their lives with it.

                  Spelling it out even further: Just like Facebook employees, the people who work in salt mines, or build swimming pools, go to work each day because they think about the vast majority of people satisfied by their product, not about the small minority of people injured by it.

                  I don't work at Facebook, but if I did, the answer to "How do you sleep?" would be "Like a baby."

              • raxxorraxor 363 days ago
                > Can you name something that is not damaging to someone?

                Kind of a bad excuse to be honest. I do think the damage is exaggerated and at some point users are responsible for themselves and their media consumption and many are probably happy with that.

                I don't use Facebook and in my county Whatsapp is sadly very widely spread and it is noticeable that people express concern about missing something if they don't install it.

          • lostgame 363 days ago
            LMFAO...yeah, you could say the same about Heroin. And Heroin is actually damaging to users.

            You can pick any random thing, compare it to any other random thing, and get similar or opposing results - or anything in between, because those things aren't correlated or comparable in any way. :P

      • lostgame 363 days ago
        That's, uh...pretty ignorant of the fact that most of the people in the IT world are infinitely more aware of how damaging FB and most social media sites are than the average person. Come on.
        • stickfigure 363 days ago
          Please tell me about the medical and sociological research you do in your IT job.
    • foobiekr 364 days ago
      In most engineer discussion contexts, the second the topic of how obviously evil, manipulative, and socially destructive the social, gig, and ad companies that pay well comes up, the people who work or worked for them or aspire to make Facebook/Google/Uber/... comp packages will go to great lengths to defend them. It is really incredible how transparent it is.

      "Hey, there are crack dealers, people selling cigarettes, etc. Why are you singling out Facebook?"

      It's almost like they know the issue, but think that somehow the existence of even worse scumbags provides them with ethics aircover.

    • randomdata 363 days ago
      No doubt they do think hard about how their product will be used and ensure that the customer is as happy as possible. Money is on the line. It is production of the product that produces undesirable externalities.

      Frankly, how does anyone continue to work in any job? They all bring undesirable externalities of some sort. As a farmer, I'm one of the most evil people on the planet, or so they say, due to the externalities created by agriculture. Working for Facebook would be a huge moral improvement. But, what are you going to do?

      • OJFord 363 days ago
        > Frankly, how does anyone continue to work in any job? They all bring undesirable externalities of some sort. As a farmer, I'm one of the most evil people on the planet

        Oh God, I write software that helps farmers do a better job!

    • nvarsj 364 days ago
      As an engineer, you should love FB. They had a large hand in breaking up the lowball salary cartel maintained by Google and Apple, and set a precedent in the industry for paying engineers well. As far as societal impact - it's debatable whether it's a net good or not.
    • fallingknife 364 days ago
      Still say FB did nothing wrong. Maybe it's bad for you, but so is TV news, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, and fast food. As an engineer I have the responsibility to give my users what they want, not be some moralizing nag.

      edit: I mean nothing wrong in terms of the product it delivers

    • baby 363 days ago
      Not sure if you’re asking seriously but I guess I was one of them so I’ll provide a serious answer: I never agreed with HN’s hate and always believed (and still believe now) that fb is a net positive for the world.
    • lavventura 363 days ago
      Playing video games or trading have similiar effects or worse. Engineers who build those platforms should question themselves too.
    • shmde 364 days ago
      They definitely know, keep silent till they are on meta's payroll. Once they resign their moral compass suddenly aligns correctly and they start speaking out about how fb is bad blah blah. Quite pathetic to be honest.
    • intelVISA 363 days ago
      Most SWEs I know at FAANG justify it by deliberately half assing the code (e.g. Fuchsia) to collect a big salary while also not being responsible for building evil things. It's a decent compromise imo.
  • holoduke 364 days ago
    Today I disabled Facebook and Instagram. I also removed all shortlinks to various newssites. I want to avoid them as well. Including Reddit . The only thing I am allowed to read is hackernews. I find that one of the few good sources. Even for general news.
    • colordrops 364 days ago
      An RSS reader with a curated list of sources is good too.

      Google News has become a trash heap, full of gossip and propaganda, and changes constantly in relation to what I last searched. It's converging with the Facebook feed

    • karaterobot 364 days ago
      That's great! Sadly, a lot of the HN front page is just a direct link to Twitter. Reddit shows up occasionally. It would be nice if there was a way to filter out sources from the front page.
      • ejb999 364 days ago
        I agree, I can't even get to any of the twitter 'posts' by clicking on them - all major social media is blocked (by me) in my hosts file - which rules out a lot of the low-effort reposts from twitter.
    • Melatonic 364 days ago
      Do not forget even without an account or the apps they are tracking the crap out of you everywhere. Shadow profiles and whatnot. Any website with a little facebook button at the bottom is a tracker.
  • jrochkind1 364 days ago
    Is the research design capable of distinguishing from the opposite causation here; what if people who are more depressed are more likely to use facebook more?

    This occurred to me because I more and more think of social media use in terms of addiction. For more typical addictive behavior with drugs, we are more likely to think people who are depressed are more likely to develop addictive relationship to alcohol (or other drugs), than we are to think using alcohol (or other drugs) too much will makes you depressed. Although I suppose it can be somewhat circular and complex.

    • pjscott 364 days ago
      Yes, the study design is able to tell which way the causality points. Not all colleges got access to Facebook at the same time (back before it was open to the general public) so this is sort of a natural experiment: you can look at the colleges that had Facebook access and compare them to the ones that didn't, assuming that they're probably pretty similar in all other confounding variables, and that people don't choose their college based on whether or not it has Facebook access. For more information on this type of design, the phrase to google is "difference in differences".


  • matai_kolila 364 days ago
    IDK... I know Facebook feeds are different for each person but for me there are basically zero posts from people I know on Facebook anymore, it's just ads and videos of random TikTok style videos.
    • bluGill 364 days ago
      I have started "hitting block all from [whoever created the meme/video]". It makes a difference, but only a small one. the other thing I do is after blocking 2 I close facebook. I hope more people do this - I want it to start showing up in statistics that shared memes and videos is harming engagement numbers, while friends and family sharing their life is helping. Thus encouraging whatever change they need to make to give me more of that.

      I still have a number of distance friends/family who share their life of facebook so there is value to remain there. Facebook is a great way to see my daughter singing "baby shark" - if you don't personally know me you don't want to see that, but if you know me you want to see it.

    • mzs 363 days ago
      I use this link, it's just what you liked in reverse chronological order woth some ads: https://www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr

      I unfriend and unsubscribe from everything/anyone annoying.

    • wahnfrieden 364 days ago
      Did you know you can look at profiles, not just the feed?
      • tmpz22 364 days ago
        So if we engage with facebook more, and invest more time, we can have slightly better content?
        • pohl 364 days ago
          Maybe think of it in terms of active vs passive engagement, rather than more or less engagement. In other words: using the tool, rather than letting the tool use you.
        • wahnfrieden 364 days ago
          No, the context of this thread is a study on mentally harmful content. I’m not here to coach people on seeking quality Facebook content
      • matai_kolila 364 days ago
        True, I do use Facebook profiles to remember the names of the children of my friends/family. But I can't remember the last "wall" I saw that had anything from this year on it.
        • xapata 364 days ago
          You're saying that your friends and family don't post to Facebook? In this light, your first comment was misleading. You implied that Facebook's post-display algorithm was suppressing your friends and family.
          • matai_kolila 364 days ago
            Not misleading, emblematic. Facebook's utilization has plummeted.
            • xapata 363 days ago
              I thought you originally meant that your friends were frequent posters.
      • maximus-decimus 363 days ago
        What is this? MySpace?
  • dougmccune 364 days ago
    This was studying Facebook circa 2004-2006. That version of Facebook was laughably basic at that point. If I remember right it was a chronological list of posts on your wall. There was no algorithmic feed. Hell, the news feed at all was only launched in late 2006. There was no video. There were no ads. Nobody made content hoping to get rich and outrage didn’t sell. If only we could go back to such an innocent time.
  • giuliomagnifico 364 days ago
    > They found a statistically significant worsening in mental health symptoms, especially depression and anxiety, after the arrival of Facebook:

    7% increase in number of students who reported having suffering, at least once during the preceding year, depression so severe that it was difficult for them to function

    20% increase in number of students who reported anxiety disorders

    2% increase in number of students expected to experience moderate to severe depression

    3% increase in number of students experienced impairment to their academic performance due to depression or anxiety

    • rconti 363 days ago
      I am suspicious of the methodology because of how quickly Facebook rolled out across most colleges/Universities. I want to say within a year. It feels unlikely that the data would be granular enough (and the survey given frequently enough at each University) to reach these sorts of conclusions.
      • nequo 363 days ago
        You are right, and Facebook's roll-out is discussed in Section 2.2 of the paper.[1] The data sources are discussed in Section 3.1. They use the National College Health Assessment which surveyed students each semester.

        [1] https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/256787/1/1801812535....

      • tomjakubowski 363 days ago
        Facebook was also an entirely different site in that time.

        > Quickly spreading to other colleges in and outside the US, the network was made available to the general public in the US and beyond in September 2006

        Facebook didn't even have a news feed feature until September 2006. The students studied here were using a site that was nothing like it is today.

  • ranger47 364 days ago
    Who needed a study? We've known this for years, and it was even speculated at the dawn of Friendster, MySpace, etc. Watching a society (the US, for example) slowly say "social media is bad" then continue to use it is like watching a stumbling drunk declare their ability to quit drinking anytime they want.
    • therealdrag0 363 days ago
      Even intuitive things should be studied. It’s valuable to know the scope and context and magnitude of impact. “X is bad” followed by confabulation, which is how many of these discussions go, is not helpful.
    • BrainVirus 364 days ago
      Who needed it? People who like to deny the obvious, even when the obvious is stated by Ph.Ds. in psychology like Jonathan Haidt.
  • taytus 364 days ago
    From all my digital addictions, FB is the one I have most under control.

    I have to do a lot of blocking but the reality is that I can now say I do enjoy Facebook.

    My timeline is filled with content I meticulously have curated:Woodworking, Baking, Canoeing, Startups, Beekeeping, Jeeps.

    But... it shouldn't take all this work to enjoy it.

    • standardUser 364 days ago
      I use FB in that same way. Nearly all of my "friends" are muted and most of the content is from pages and groups I have chosen. But it does feel like I'm fighting the platform to make it work in a way that works for me. God forbid they should empower the user instead of perpetually trying to squeeze more blood from the stone.
      • taytus 364 days ago
        >But it does feel like I'm fighting the platform

        I couldn't agree more.

        • prox 364 days ago
          Because we aren’t the user, advertisers are. We are the hypnotized consumers of the lights in the box.
  • kzz102 364 days ago
    We shouldn't encourage this type of reporting of academic results.

    A better headline: "Evidence towards causal relations between mental health issues and Facebook use for some College students in 2004". If this doesn't look newsworthy, it's because it isn't. Single academic result is almost never newsworthy.

  • swayvil 364 days ago
    Consider your attention.

    You pay attention. Concentrate your attention. Occasionally have your attention jerked around by distractions.

    Consider what you do when you think, read, watch tv, consume facebook. Consider what you are doing with your attention. That shape.

    If you do it a lot then that shape intensifies.

    And that shape sticks. It becomes your normal.

    And the shape of your attention dictates your reality.

    It's important to take that into account.

  • sna1l 364 days ago
    I don't understand why this is causation vs correlation?
  • theboywho 364 days ago
    I'm starting to suspect HN to have the same effect, the more I read HN the more unmotivated I feel.

    Unfavorable comparisons with "successful" people/projects who make it to the front page could be behind the same effects.

    • flipcoder 363 days ago
      I'm the opposite. When I see people doing things better than me I get a surge of energy and motivation. And if I'm around people that are lazier I'll start being lazier. Not sure why that is. If you learn what motivates you you can use it to your advantage.
    • seizethecheese 363 days ago
      You could test this by looking at “new” instead of “top”.
  • jon_richards 364 days ago
    Social media will be the smoking of our generation.

    In a century, they’ll wonder how we could possibly have kept engaging knowing the harm we were doing to ourselves.

    • therealdrag0 363 days ago
      Is the harm really on that level? What is the magnitude of harm?
      • jon_richards 363 days ago
        Yeah, let’s just keep smoking cigarettes, using leaded gasoline, and spewing carbon into the air until we know for sure how bad it is.
        • therealdrag0 363 days ago
          I’ll admit some things are cut n dry. Will you admit some things are not cut n dry?

          You’re forcing a direct comparison with one category, but how do I know that’s the correct comparison?

          I won’t claim to follow it closely but every one of these I’ve seen shows a small impact to a small subset of vulnerable users. That’s a far cry from other things that are universally damaging.

    • rychco 363 days ago
      Completely agree
  • sidcool 364 days ago
    Not just FB, LinkedIn has a similar effect, just on a different demographic.
  • 99_00 364 days ago
    The study uses historical data, change in mental health before and after Facebook was introduced to a campus. Which is a very cool way to make use of a natural control. Nice study.

    Seems clear facebook had negative impact on mental health on campus.

    Facebook then was also likely very different from Facebook now. So not exactly sure what recommendations for today can be drawn from it.

    It's interesting to note that the data shows facebook was damaging mental health at the same time that many readers of this comment were most enthusiastic about Facebook.

  • PragmaticPulp 364 days ago
    Anecdotally, Facebook seems relatively tame these days compared to the firehose of doom & gloom, violent videos, outrage porn, and outright misinformation that fills Reddit and Twitter. Browsing Reddit’s default feeds or popular posts is a wild experience these days.
    • viridian 364 days ago
      It's to the point where I, as someone who has used reddit for over a decade now (somewhat regrettably), will never, for any reason, ever click the snoo/homepage link in the top left corner. The thought of doing so reminds me of the nuclear waste repository warning:

      This place is not a place of honor... no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... nothing valued is here.

    • CSMastermind 364 days ago
      Completely agree, Reddit at this point seems detached from reality. It's hard to believe it's the same site I was on 10 years ago.

      I scan Facebook once every few days for updates from family members and frankly I find the experience entirely pleasant.

      Cutting out Twitter and Reddit is one of the best decisions I've ever made for my mental health.

      For me it's Hackernews and the Wall St. Journal.

      • tayo42 364 days ago
        Outrage on reddit is so ridiculous in the last year. I think its so insane that I don't even feel like I need to disconnect from it, its just that unrelatable. r/all is just all outrage topics all the time. The political stuff, the antiwork stuff, white and black ppl twitter, the woe is me crap. I cant believe these are real people. Just angry all the time?
        • aintmeit 359 days ago
          When you point a finger at someone, three fingers point back at you. In other words, you're throwing stones in a glass house.
    • racheltanks 364 days ago
      Twitter is poison
      • Bakary 364 days ago
        What I find odd about Twitter is that the toxicity level is off the charts. It's not as bad as say, the wilder 4chan boards or Kiwifarms, but it's worse than almost anything else.
      • nightski 364 days ago
        I have a love/hate relationship with it. I follow many statistics & data science professionals and it's a great way to discover new books, resources, and content. But you have to wade through a lot of crap, even with a heavily curated feed. It feels like it is getting worse to the point where it isn't worth it anymore.
    • tmpz22 364 days ago
      I'd ad Youtube to that list. I turned off personalized ads and oh boy a whole lot of sexualized Flow Ads and other weird stuff came up, including ads for Newsmaxx. Absolutely gross that those are the apparent defaults.
  • ramesh31 364 days ago
    Facebook was just the beginning. It feels crude almost in comparison to the new generation of designer drugs (TikTok et. al).
    • standardUser 364 days ago
      Sometimes when I'm scrolling Instagram I'm reminded of the sad era of "channel flipping" where we would just watch "whatever's on" while endless ads were blasted at our faces.

      At least now we have some control over our poison, though few seem to bother exercising that control.

      • Taylor_OD 364 days ago
        Um... I installed Instagram recently for the first time. Every 5th post or so is an ad. That you have no choice over... And there are a lot of suggested content posts which you have no control over.

        It's like the same as channel flipping and getting ads blasted at you but now the ads are smarter/more targeted.

        • standardUser 364 days ago
          Yeah, the ads are actually relevant sometimes and they don't demand 30 seconds of my life, so massive improvements all around. I don't see much suggested content unless I scroll too long, at which point I probably do need some more content.
          • floren 364 days ago
            Here's the thing about Instagram: aside from posts by your actual real-life friends, everything you see is an ad. It's either a literal ad, or it's a popular user trying to sell you their t-shirts/newsletter/onlyfans. My wife likes to look at Instagram videos of cute kids and dogs, and whenever she shows me one the text at the bottom says something like "Our merch shop is open again!!!"
          • JohnFen 364 days ago
            I honestly don't see targeted ads as an improvement at all. I see them as the opposite.
    • gjulianm 364 days ago
      Although TikTok is fairly addictive, I find it's far better at showing you content you actually like instead of outrage/emotional/clickbait content. It's very easy to get into niches you actually enjoy with actual decent content (woodworking, cleaning, plants, DIY, cats in my case, for example) and actual people as creators, instead of whatever reposted content factory managed to cheat FB/Instagram algorithm this time.
      • advantager 364 days ago
        TikTok has great content and I am far more entertained and educated there than any other of the engagement-driven "social media" apps (i.e. Meta products).

        The problem I find is that it is basically mindless engagement, everything is really too short to get into it, the comments are garbage, and it's extremely entertaining and therefore addictive and a waste of my free time.

      • tenebrisalietum 364 days ago
        Political content in particular seems to not rear its ugly head on my Tiktok except rarely. Not even political ads. This is something that didn't ever happen with Facebook even after unfollowing everyone.
    • stackbutterflow 364 days ago
      I fear to imagine what the next iteration will be. Probably someone, somewhere is already working on it.
      • labarilem 364 days ago
        Maybe the AI will also generate personalized content instead of only recommending it?
  • bluecalm 364 days ago
    Idk about Facebook specifically but it seems the old wisdom of not discussing religion, politics and diet is more relevant than ever. We have added more topics to the list: controversial medical procedures, celebrity drama, conspiracy theories etc.

    I stopped using social media for many years, recently came back to have access to local cycling/running groups and my experience is largely positive. All I see is cool people doing cool things, fun events, some local cycling related trade etc. I managed to make some connections and keep them going thanks to social media it's just positive experience all around.

    I think Instagram can be like that if you filter out politics/celebrities and "I have money/am attractive" influencers. It takes some work for that to stop showing in your feed and to learn to ignore whatever is left though.

  • bjt2n3904 364 days ago
    As critical as I am about Facebook and social media in general -- I doubt this has been "proven".
  • Karawebnetwork 364 days ago
    As a manager of a large page (several million reach per day), I often feel uncomfortable. On the one hand, Facebook is the best platform to reach many people. On the other hand, I think it is unethical to encourage people to stay on the platform. I also think that if I were to close the page, the void would be filled by the next person.

    My ego tells me that since I'm aware of these problems, I can do my best to keep my page from turning into a doomscrolling experience. Yet, once again, the algorithm doesn't display my posts in their natural order, only the controversial ones, so the doomscrolling happens anyway.

    I often keep up at night to think about it and I feel like there is no good answer.

  • wizofaus 363 days ago
    The interesting question is whether FB/Meta have continued to expand/promote features while knowing the potential negative effects on mental health they can have.

    I'd also be curious to know if there's a subgroup of users whose mental health is improved by use of FB - certainly I'd suggest I had that experience personally, at a particularly low point in my life, having met somebody via FB that helped me through it (which was mutual btw, in fact they had more serious mental health issues than I did).

  • boatsie 363 days ago
    Sure, and alcohol, soda, candy, processed foods negatively affect physical health. People “know” this but obviously think the satisfaction they get from it is worth the negative impacts.
  • fdewrewrewf 364 days ago
    Once it becomes more widely accepted just how bad the continual dopamine drip of (especially mobile) social media is for individuals and society, it would be very interesting to find some research into the gender differences. My wife has a theory that, for a variety of reasons, women are more drawn into the online social world than men.
  • jessenichols 364 days ago
    This just in, food is also misused and proven to cause ill health in the majority of people, stop eating food now.
  • Melatonic 364 days ago
    Breaking news: Water is wet. Facebook is fucked.

    In all seriousness though glad to see this is actually being seriously studied

  • juancn 364 days ago
    Does anyone still use facebook? I mean, I'm 45 and just my mom uses it.

    Are they sure the mental health impact is not just senility?


  • MattSayar 363 days ago
    I started checking Facebook only on the computer and only when it organically comes up in my daily browsing (like now!). As it happens, I check Facebook about 3-4 times a week now, and it's basically just to Mark as Read my notifications (which are largely useless).
  • poisonarena 363 days ago
    This is an Israeli study from Tel Aviv university. I live here and the entire country is hopelessly reliant on using Facebook for everything from community to renting apartments.. Makes me sick that I need to have an account to live here
  • steve_john 363 days ago
    I think it depend on the user's mind. If you like the right way to use it will be good thing if you are using it for the time pass then its not good thing. So, the thing is its depend on the user's mind set
  • EGreg 363 days ago
    We have been collecting such articles since 2010: https://qbix.com/investors/articles

    You can see a lot of information

  • theropost 364 days ago
    After being off Facebook for a few years, I have started to clearly see how creepy people really are - it's like everyone has turned into low level stalkers, but somehow that is okay within the cult.
  • FollowingTheDao 363 days ago
    Link to the working paper is here:


  • say_it_as_it_is 364 days ago
    Facebook has proven to be the best way for me to keep in touch with people who I grew up with, or worked with. It has proven to have a positive impact on my mental health.
  • 10g1k 363 days ago
    Common knowledge. I merely query the need some people have to see a hyperlink to some such study before they will admit to what they already know.
  • Existenceblinks 363 days ago
    Haven't you all read something like this a dozen times since 2011 or 2012? I thought the consensus was already 10 years ago.
  • mattwest 363 days ago
    This brings up a bigger question that spans all media, which is: Why are people willing to give away their attention so easily?
  • cardosof 363 days ago
    Social networks should put up warning signs and only accept 18+ users, just like cigarettes.
  • mkd1964 360 days ago
    I have to seriously ask: Is this actually a surprise to anyone?
  • 2-718-281-828 363 days ago
    Off Facebook for more than five years ... and still not mentally healthy. I feel cheated.
  • duxup 364 days ago
    For me I just felt uncomfortable not being able to just pick what I wanted to see...
  • whoooooo123 363 days ago
    Bears proven to shit in woods.
  • askafriend 364 days ago
    Now do a study for Hacker News
  • bastardoperator 364 days ago
    The ship has sailed. They could pay me to come back and that still wouldn't be a good enough excuse to waste my time there. All they had to do was keep facebook positive but between the shockingly bad products they advertise and right wing maniacs, it might as well be the cesspool of the internet. It would take an act of god to turn it around at this point.
  • Nuzzerino 364 days ago
    No date on the article?
    • pjscott 364 days ago
      19 September 2022, for the record.
  • GaveDrohl 363 days ago
    Cool, now do Twitter.
  • Lapsa 363 days ago
    ditched the Zuck long ago. failed service
  • sonicgear1 363 days ago
    Water is wet
  • rychco 363 days ago
    ... again?
  • bannedbybros 364 days ago
  • dougweltman 364 days ago
    • mayowaxcvi 364 days ago
      - brought to you by the academic fields that can reliably predict almost nothing.
      • themitigating 364 days ago
        I'm happy that at least a decent portion the comments here are treating this with the same skepticism as other studies on HN. I was actually expecting people to accept it because of the hate towards Facebook.
        • kodah 364 days ago
          Facebook has an earned reputation, not hate.
    • thenightcrawler 364 days ago
  • alesrosa 362 days ago
  • changoplatanero 364 days ago
    I don’t get why Facebook is so often singled out in these types of studies. What about other activities like dating or school or going to church? I bet those can be shown to increase anxiety and be bad for mental health
    • burlesona 364 days ago
      Most in-person social activity is good for your mental health. Studies show this includes church: https://www.npr.org/2019/11/05/776270553/hidden-brain-does-g...

      Facebook is singled out because they are the largest practitioner of surveillance capitalism. The entire idea of “optimizing for engagement,” where Facebook has been a pioneer and the largest player, is increasingly being shown to be a primary driver of political polarization, anxiety, bigotry, and hate crimes.

      Thus Facebook is the new Big Tobacco.

      • afandian 364 days ago
        It never occurred to me before, but the Roman Catholic Church, with confession[0], is surely the largest historical "surveillance capitalism" out there. I wonder if Facebook has hockey-sticked them yet.

        [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confession_(religion)#Catholic...

      • isodev 364 days ago
        • Taywee 364 days ago
          Depends on the church in question. I know gay people who are accepted by their congregation, and churches that don't have issues with gay people at all. The biggest LGBT youth group in my city is organized by and hosted in a Christian church.
        • AlexandrB 364 days ago
          The Unitarian church ordained their first gay minister in 1979 and conducted its first same sex marriage ceremony in 1984: https://www.hrc.org/resources/stances-of-faiths-on-lgbt-issu...

          Not that I'm advocating for UUA, I'm atheist myself, but from what I've heard it sounds like a hippie commune focused around the bible.

          • hotpotamus 364 days ago
            I'm not super in the know here, but I think it's possible you're mixing up Unitarianism with Unitarian Universalism.
        • retrac 364 days ago
          That's probably why some LGBT folks went and founded the MCC back in the 1970s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Community_Church

          The institution of traditional religion played a social role in Western societies that has not been adequately patched over by anything else yet. Even as a non-religious person, I do take seriously the hypothesis that the decline in regular church attendance accounts for some of the social isolation crisis. (That is of course, hardly the whole picture. A similar argument can be made about union meetings or youth clubs, both of which have also declined significantly in regular attendance over the last half century.)

        • vorpalhex 364 days ago
          Have you actually been to a church? The options are wide and vast.
        • txsoftwaredev 364 days ago
          I've broken plenty of rules in the Bible but still always welcomed in a church with open arms.
        • hestefisk 364 days ago
          Well said.
        • Minor49er 364 days ago
          It's a safe place for your spiritual health
    • mensetmanusman 364 days ago

      Heh. The religious were the only group to see improved mental health during 2020.

      Also, you are right that it should be social media. Nothing special about Facebook.

    • randomdata 364 days ago
      Probably because it is the place most likely to be where you watch your friends live their apparently perfect lives without also being able to see their failings. Facebook is not the only place that provides that type of thing, but brand recognition in the headline draws attention.

      Real life isn't without its own flaws, but the research shows an increase in mental health issues when social media is a factor. That increase is interesting, and worth studying, even if it is not the only place one can develop mental health issues.

    • svachalek 364 days ago
      In addition to other replies here, Facebook is also the only one of these that is deliberately trying to hurt your mental health. They have internal studies showing these results and they actually optimize for them, since angry and depressed users are known to increase their engagement with the platform.
    • JohnFen 364 days ago
      > I bet those can be shown to increase anxiety and be bad for mental health

      Numerous studies over a long period of time indicate the opposite.

    • sidcool 364 days ago
      One of those is not like the rest.