With its recent announcement, Facebook must really want you to stop using your brain

With its recent announcement, Facebook must really want you to stop using your brain

CultureJuly 29, 2016 By Brian Frederick

According to Facebook’s Q2 financial reports, there are more than 1.03 billion profiles engaged on the site every single day using a mobile device. And if you’ve yet to notice, the company is actively trying to make video its main focus for all of them, allowing companies and personal profiles to use a Live functionality while giving a broader reach to video posts than link-backs to outside websites or photos.

At face value, it would seem like Facebook is simply chasing a trend, willingly allowing its users’ demand to steer the ship. But as we know from past experiments, Facebook has never really had the interests of anyone in mind more so than figuring out what makes us tick to exploit it — or to control the populace entirely.

Speaking to investors, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg explained that moving forward there are specific partnerships in the bag, like upcoming trials with the NBA and the Olympics, to further move into video feed domination.

“… our primary focus is on short form content, not long form content, and we’re pretty excited to see the different forms of content people will create, both to share messages, to create new content and to engage audiences around the world,” she said.

Mark Zuckerberg added that most of what we saw a decade ago was simply text on our feeds, followed by more photo interactions, and now video. Moving forward, the latter is going to be Facebook’s primary focus because he sees it as the future of social media.

“The big theme and strategy that we’re executing is we’re going to become video first. We really believe that in call it five years, most of what people consume online is going to be video,” he said.

Does this bother anyone else?

We’re already zombies feeding off of blue thumbs and pointless notifications, but at least there are still an infinite amount of direct links to articles with real words available to either educate or entertain us. Reading is important, watching, not as much.

The difference between watching and reading is in the brain’s engagement. We already know that watching television is a more sedentary activity than sleeping. That is, your brain works harder face down in a pillow floating through LaLa Land than when you’re drooling on the couch during an SVU marathon. It stifles creativity and shoos off imagination.

Reading isn’t that, even if it’s on a screen. While you’re mowing down line after line of text, your brain is filling in the blanks, creating a narrative through complex receptor highways and grey matter brain junk. You have the ability to pause, think about what you’ve just read, relate it to your own life, deduce whether or not it pertains to you, believe it (or don’t) and build concrete ideas from what the author gave you.

Videos just give you shit to regurgitate without critically thinking about them — especially if it’s a short clip of a much larger issue, like what Facebook is betting on. Can you really explain the complexities of landing on Mars in 10 seconds? Or the Libya crisis in 60? Short clips will do their best to strike a nerve with users so that they share it without so much as thinking about its implications.

Never forget, Facebook’s entire evaluation is wholly reliant on how many times you click on things throughout the day. That's it.

But let’s get this out in the open, there’s nothing inherently wrong about video media. However, there is something wrong if that’s the only media someone is consuming. It structures thought horizons to be perceived only one way, the way content creators intend it to be. There’s no internal dialogue your brain can come up with, and there’s very little time to react to what’s being served on an edited platter. It’s go-go-go, when sometimes we need a few minutes to digest.

It’s not the end of the world if Facebook — or the Internet in general — goes to a complete (or high percentage of) video format moving forward. But it will force people to read less, to think less. It will also open up an entirely new realm of mob manipulation. Think poorly executed memes that aren’t at all true yet still super popular. It’s dangerous.

Reading between the lines, what Facebook is basically saying is that it wants to shove itself inside of everyone using rough techniques with a rusty funnel. Our brains have incredible capacities to do amazing things, but what happens when they’re being forced information to vomit out whatever's necessary at the time instead of understanding the concept?

That’s called programming; it has nothing to do with learning.