1 in 8 of Facebook users report engaging in ‘problematic use’ – WSJ

Facebook’s internal research has found that 1 in 8 of its users report engaging in compulsive use of social media that impacts their sleep, work, parenting or relationships – what Facebook calls “problematic use”, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reported that in late 2019, Facebook shut down the team focused on user well-being and suggested ways to curb problematic use, some of which the company implemented. 

Facebook researchers said that some users cannot control the time they spend on Facebook and as a result they have problems in their lives, the WSJ reported. The researchers said that they do not consider the behavior as a clinical addiction, as it does not affect the brain like gambling or substance abuse. In a document, they noted that “activities like shopping, sex and Facebook use, when repetitive and excessive, may cause problems for some people.”

The researchers estimated these issues affect about 12.5% of the flagship app’s more than 2.9 billion users, or more than 360 million people. About 10% of users in the U.S., one of Facebook’s most lucrative markets, exhibit this behavior. In the Philippines and in India, which is the company’s largest market, the employees put the figure higher, at around 25%.

Pratiti Raychoudhury, a vice president of research for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said in a blog post that the WSJ misrepresented the research. 

“The Wall Street Journal has once again chosen to selectively pick and choose from internal company documents to present a narrative that is simply wrong about how we use research to address an important issue – this time about problematic use.” she said. 

The report is the latest in an ongoing series called Facebook Files by the WSJ, which suggests Facebook is aware of the harms and problems its platforms are causing. In mid-September, as part of the Facebook Files, the WSJ reported that  Facebook has repeatedly found that Instagram causes anxiety and depression in young people, and negatively affects body image, especially in young girls.

In a later report, the WSJ said Facebook’s interest in understanding and ultimately acquiring preteens extends far beyond Messenger Kids or the now-paused Instagram Kids plans, including working with children as young as four in hopes of better designing future products.

Raychoudhury added that Facebook “has been engaged and supportive throughout our multiyear effort to better understand and empower people who use our services to manage problematic use. That’s why this work has taken place over multiple years, including now.” 

Raychoudhury argues that “problematic use does not equal addiction,” and that Facebook “ships features to help people manage their experiences on our apps and services.”

Written by Sophie Blake


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


NFT game platform Mythical Games raises $150 million at $1.25B valuation

Apple won’t close the App Store to developer submissions over holidays