Facebook: For-Profit Engagement
Updated: May 9, 2020
All engagement is good engagement, for Facebook at least.
Engagement is when our attention is seized upon, not by our Facebook "friends" alone, but by the Facebook platform itself. Make no mistake, scrolling is Facebook's content revealing mechanism for good reason: scrolls are low-effort and infinite! Infinite scrolls mean "new content just around the corner"––a curiosity provoking prospect.
Q: What exactly is around the corner?
A: Facebook-curated content that lights up on-scroll.
Auto-play is default, ads are targeted, click-bait pops, and your "friends" are groomed to occasion the peak-engagement that scroll cannot. Before you finish your morning or nightly scroll, ask yourself: "Was that for the ads, the scroll itself, or for the friends?" The scroll is habit, so the ads can be avoided. And when they are avoided, Facebook brings the leverage that is your friends to bear. Friendly posts are thinly veiled ads, for example, when your Friends "Like" Starbucks, an affiliated Facebook Group, or even headline news. Your friends are groomed––by the Facebook platform––to Like and to Follow that which you and others will be targeted to consume.
Even better for Facebook is the Likert-esque scale to measure your Like to Dislike. Did you love it, just plain like it, hate it, or did it make you sad? The more Facebook can categorize and quantize, the more Facebook can hone and home in on your interests.
Your interest, their currency; your engagement, their profit.
In the spirit of pragmatism, we might ask ourselves: "To what end do we scroll?"
If the scroll is a means to yielding valuable goods, for all and not just Facebook, then the scroll may be a means well-worth practicing. Consider, for example, the potential benefits of cooperative exchange across diverse groups.
If Facebook is the only beneficiary of the scroll, though, and if the scroll transmogrifies genuine friends into bots, then the scroll may come at too high a cost: for risk of losing our friends and for risk of misplacing our valuable engagement.