Facebook is Much Less Addictive When You Remove the Numbers

Facebook is addicting -- this idea is nothing new. But take away the numbers and suddenly the site becomes much less appealing.

We all know Facebook is addicting. We whittle away time clicking and liking (and stalking). But how does the social network keep this hold on us?


Shirley Li from The Atlantic sat down with Ben Grosser, a programmer and artist, who believes you can find the answers by looking at the numbers:

"There were times when I was more focused on the numbers than the content itself. I was more interested in how many likes I had instead of who liked it. I realized every time I logged in I looked at those numbers. Why was I caring? Why do I care so much?"

He created a browser extension two years ago to test his hypothesis: The Facebook Demetricator. It hides the numbers. The eye-catching little red number pop-up showing your notifications is replaced by a lighter blue icon. It even hides how many people Like your post—instead you see the general phrase "people like this.” The add-on disarms the site of metrics for you to pour over.

The extension has been downloaded over 5,000 times, and with it has come feedback and reactions relating to how the tool has changed Facebook for them. Grosser received personal observations of how the site has changed (both positive and negative), and he converted this information into a paper that was published recently in the journal Computational Culture.

There's a numbers game integrated into Facebook that plays on users emotions, cultivating a culture that values self-worth in quantitative terms. You want to have more numbers on your posts, more notifications, more friends—think of the way the “+1 Add Friend” button feels versus the Facebook Demetricator's “Add Friend” button. The language and attention given to metrics makes it become almost like a currency for a game—the more you have, the higher your level. But when Grosser gave users the ability to take away the numbers they'd been pining after, something interesting happened:

"People realized when the numbers were gone, they had been using them to decide whether to like something. I certainly didn't expect these tendencies of people saying, 'I literally don't know what to do [without knowing the metrics].'"

"I think it's a problem when we don't know what those likes mean, when we start focusing on wanting more likes. If we aren't aware of how these numbers are telling us to interact, then it's a problem."

Read more at The Atlantic

Photo Credit: 2nix Studi/ Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less

Physicists puzzled by strange numbers that could explain reality

Eight-dimensional octonions may hold the clues to solve fundamental mysteries.

Surprising Science
  • Physicists discover complex numbers called octonions that work in 8 dimensions.
  • The numbers have been found linked to fundamental forces of reality.
  • Understanding octonions can lead to a new model of physics.
Keep reading Show less

Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth

Upload your mind? Here's a reality check on the Singularity.

Videos
  • Though computer engineers claim to know what human consciousness is, many neuroscientists say that we're nowhere close to understanding what it is, or its source.
  • Scientists are currently trying to upload human minds to silicon chips, or re-create consciousness with algorithms, but this may be hubristic because we still know so little about what it means to be human.
  • Is transhumanism a journey forward or an escape from reality?
Keep reading Show less