Speed Reads

Facebook fallout

Facebook negatively impacts sleep, work, relationships for about 1 in 8 users, documents show

Internal Facebook researchers have found that issues of addiction-like problematic use affect about 12.5 percent — or every 1 in 8 — of the app's 2.9 billion users, amounting to more than 360 million people, The Wall Street Journal reports. Such compulsive social media abuse is then said to harm users' sleep, work, parenting, or relationships.

What's more, these usage patterns — which "mirror what is popularly known as internet addiction" — were "perceived by users to be worse on Facebook than any other major social media platform," writes the Journal. Researchers estimated approximately 10 percent of U.S. users (one of Facebook's "most lucrative markets") engage in this behavior, while about 25 percent of users are doing the same in the Philippines and India, the "company's largest market." 

The news arrives as part of the Journal's Facebook Files series, a trove of reporting proving Facebook understands the harm it causes and fails to act on it.

A Facebook user well-being team that had suggested certain fixes (some of which were implemented) to help deescalate the situation was shut down in late 2019; a company spokesperson told the Journal Facebook is still "dedicated" to solving the problem.

Notably, researchers said they didn't think the results of their analysis could determine causality — for instance, is Facebook causing sleep problems, or do those who have trouble sleeping for whatever reason just end up turning to Facebook? Brian Primack, a public health professor at the University of Arkansas, however, does believe all the evidence to be "pointing in a certain direction." 

"There's only going to be a certain amount of time Facebook can say there is nothing causal out there," Primack said. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.