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Is Facebook Good for You in the Long Run?

20 June 2011 BY

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When you hear statistics like ‘1 in 4 divorces are caused by things seen on Facebook’ and on that on average the ‘casual’ Facebook user spends over 200 hours per year on the social networking site, it does make you wonder, is having an account actually good for you in the long run?

This blog post isn’t going to be another list of the pro’s and con’s of having a Facebook account – that’s been done before and would only highlight the features that everybody reading this is probably already aware of. Instead, this post is going to be about some of the less-documented deeper psychological side effects and long-term impacts of heavily using social networks like Facebook.

You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, and while this is only an idea and not scientifically proven, it has been proven that we adopt the mannerisms, energy and ideas from those who we associate with the most often.

This process used to occur solely offline through updates we would have when holding conversations and meeting one another, it still does to a large extent. However, the nature of socialising has changed to the point where rather than exchanging relatively few large updates with close friends, we now take in a much larger quantity of ‘micro updates’ with friends in our Facebook news or Twitter feeds.

This means, that we are potentially becoming more like ‘the average of the several hundred people we follow the updates of on Facebook’.

This is significant because whereby it used to mean, if you hang around with criminals you’re more likely to become a criminal, if you hang around with rich people you’re more likely to become rich, and if you hang around with negative people you’re more likely to become negative, it’s now a case of ‘if you follow the news feeds of negative people you’re more likely to become negative’.

Is Facebook actually good for keeping up with friends?
The most common argument in defense of having a Facebook account is that it is good for keeping up with old / long distance friends. This is true, but the irony is that Facebook is an antisocial way of socialising with your friends, and it’s all too easy for it to start unconciously replacing real life social interactions with online interactions.

Facebook can only be a social enhancer if it’s used as a tool to create real-life social interactions – such as using it as a way to create events, and arrange meetups.

Facebook helped lower the average degrees of separation of people below the probable offline number of 5 to 7. Our world is a smaller world. As in Isaac Asimov’s Solaria, friendships are established independently from those that already exist: we are virtually accessible.

Facebook has also created a continuum in our history of personal relations. s. As cavemen and communities in villages, your life flows (partially) exposed to old friends, classmates, former colleagues and short lived relationships. Suddenly there are less gaps and dots to connect in everybody’s lives. – Ruben Martinez, Gartoo.co.uk

The average person spends 5 weeks of full-time employment working time on Facebook per year

Although I haven’t seen any statistics released for how much time is spent on Facebook in 2011, the 2010 statistics suggested that on average it was around 34 minutes per day and was increasing rapidly. To put that figure into perspective, that’s over 200 hours a year, or five weeks of full time employment working hours spent on the social network.
Imagine what you could do in five weeks of full time employment? If you’re a blogger averaging 2 hours to write a blog post, then that’s 100 blog posts you could have written rather than spending the time on Facebook.

Even if you spent the hours working for minimum wage, that’s an extra £1,186 you could have earned.

My conclusion
As a tool for creating social opportunities I am a big fan of Facebook’s efficiency. However, I think anyone spending more than ten minutes on the site per day (excluding time spent doing social marketing) should aim to break the habit using tools like StayFocusd. Hide the Facebook-moaners from your newsfeed and don’t let them bring your day down, let the ones who brighten up your day have your newsfeed real estate. Make a conscious effort to make sure the time you spend on Facebook is being used to create more real life social interactions.

AUTHORED BY:
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Marcus Taylor is the founder of Venture Harbour, a company that specialises in digital marketing for the music, film, and game industries.
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