Facebook: is it ‘good for the world’?

Social media giant asks for users’ opinions on the service, but what do the experts think?

Mark Zuckerberg says he is ‘sorry’ over Cambridge Analytica data breach
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal last month and the controversy that entailed, Facebook has asked its users whether they think the service is “good for the world”.

A poll under the heading: “We’d like to do better” will be sent to an unspecified number of users over the coming days, the Associated Press reports. Responses range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”.

This is not the first time Facebook has asked users for their opinion on the social media site’s impact on the world; a similar version of the poll was launched in 2012, reports the New York Post.

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While it’s not yet known what it will do with the data gathered from the poll, a number of studies have been conducted to see if there’s any science behind the benefits – or drawbacks – of Facebook.

The benefits of using Facebook

One of the biggest pros of using Facebook is that users can experience a confidence boost after browsing through the site in just a few minutes, according to a study from Cornell University.

Using a sample of 63 students, researchers found people who read Facebook for merely three minutes “demonstrated an increase in self-confidence” compared to those who were told not to use it for the same period of time, AdWeek reports.

Facebook can also be a learning tool, the University of Arizona has found, particularly for those over the age of 65.

Its carried out a study of 42 people, aged between 68 and 91, testing their learning abilities prior to subscribing to Facebook and shortly after learning how to use the site.

Researchers discovered that the ability to absorb new information improved by 25% after learning how to use Facebook.

And the drawbacks

While Facebook can be seen as a platform for improving communication, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a benefit to the world. Some experts are concerned about the effect it has on users’ mental health.

According to a 2015 study from the University of Missouri, regular use can trigger depression. For example, posts from an acquaintance who is financially successful can make the user envious.

And while some use Facebook to keep up to date with current affairs, the site has been caught up in numerous “fake news” scandals.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg initially denied claims his site was being used to spread “misinformation”, says Cnet, but he later drew up a plan to combat the issue, including warning users about articles that may not be truthful.

Zuckerberg addressed the affect his site has on the world in a blogpost in January, saying: “The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do – whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.

“This will be a serious year of self-improvement and I'm looking forward to learning from working to fix our issues together,” he concluded.

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