Thursday, January 17, 2013

In which I scientifically prove Facebook makes us all jerks

Hear ye!  Hear ye!  I've invented a new scientific law.

So it's not the best graphic you've ever seen?  Get over it.
I'm a science genius, not a graphics genius.

Ernst's Law of Facebook:  for every positive comment to any Facebook post, there are at least five times as many negative comments (excluding posts about babies, engagements, and other cutesy things).  

Even if you think that's a slight exaggeration, it does seem like people are significantly more negative on Facebook than they would be in real life.

Negative Nelly in all her glory.

I think part of the problem is that if someone posts something you agree with and you want to show it, what do you do?  You click "like."  But if someone posts something you don't agree with, there'e no corresponding button.  Instead, people feel the need to tell you in long form why everything you said was wrong.

Let's take an example from my Facebook post about a blog I had written a few weeks ago.  Out of 9 comments to the post (not written by me), 6 could be considered critical, 1 was positive, and 2 were neutral.

When you look at the number of words in the critical versus positive comments, however, the data are even more startling.  [Note: scientists treat the word data as a plural.] There were 11 words in the positive post, 26 words in the neutral posts, and and whopping 492 words in the critical posts.  To be fair, some of the words I just counted were responses back to my replies to their initial critical post, but even if I restrict the number to only the initial critical comments it still comes out to 353 words.  That's a full 32x more critical words than positive words.

It's scientific.  I've made a graph.

Now first of all, let me say that I'm not suggesting people should stop criticizing me on Facebook.  In fact, please do, because the blog got twice as many hits that day, and I think it was mostly due to the debate about it in the comments.  Thinking about this phenomenon, however, is what prompted my New Year's resolution to be less argumentative on Facebook.  (It goes along with the 'Be less of a jerk' resolution).  As much as I'm absolutely obsessed with Facebook and love how it's drawn me closer to so many people, sometimes after reading my newsfeed, the negativity actually gets me down which then makes me feel even worse for getting upset by something as stupid as Facebook, which then only sends me into a massive shame spiral.

This cat fights a constant battle to stay out of his own shame spiral.
To combat this, I've decided to (1) argue with people significantly less and always only in a friendly, productive manner, (2) not post anything on Facebook when my only motivation would be to persuade (it doesn't work anyway), and (3) say more positive things to people. I've been a "like" whore for a long time, but I'm actually trying to comment with positive responses.

So what do you think about this?  Did you like me better on Facebook when I used to post more politically-minded or otherwise argumentative posts?  Or do you like me better now?  Personally, I can say that I've been enjoying my time on Facebook significantly more since I've stopped being argumentative, although sometimes it's hard to keep myself from posting status updates responding to the nonsense I've seen recently in the gun-control debate.

Let's just say that if your arguments include tenuous comparisons between the President
and the Nazis, then you clearly have some more thinking to do.


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