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Facebook Admits It Has a Bad Side

And also gives you a new way to mute annoying friends

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Facebook introduced “Snooze” on Friday, a major change to the service that comes amid growing criticism that the largest social platform in human history has serious negative psychological effects for users.

Snooze will let you “temporarily unfollow a person, Page or group for 30 days,” and will be available in the top-right dropdown menu of a post. The setting can be reversed, and users will be notified when the snooze period is ending. It will be rolled out this week.

Snooze is the latest change to the News Feed that attempts to address some of Facebook’s more pressing issues. In the post announcing Snooze, Facebook also pointed to “Take a Break,” a feature introduced last month to reduce the number of posts users see from their exes, as well as its suicide prevention tools. The launch of Snooze coincides with the growing chorus of former Facebook employees who argue that the platform and social media writ large use manipulative tools to create addiction-like behavior in users.

Justin Rosenstein, a former Facebook employee who helped invent the Like button, made headlines in October when he told The Guardian that social media’s dopamine-driven feedback loops were like “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure.” He added that he doesn’t have Facebook or any other non-factory-setting apps on his phone. Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s earliest investors, railed against the company in an interview with Axios last month, saying, “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” And just this week, Chamath Palihapitiya, formerly Facebook’s vice president for user growth, told a Stanford Graduate School of Business audience, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

Somewhat uncharacteristically, Facebook is addressing these criticisms directly. In a blog post Friday morning, Facebook director of research David Ginsberg and Facebook research scientist Moira Burke discussed wide-ranging research on mental health and social media. In the post, Ginsberg and Burke say the possibility that liking posts and clicking links may put users in worse moods compared with one-on-one interaction on the platform.

“In sum, our research and other academic literature suggests that it’s about how you use social media that matters when it comes to your well-being,” Ginsberg and Burke wrote. Of course, proffering that passive consumption of social media is bad and that actively using it is good works in Facebook’s interest: The platform has long pushed tools that motivate users to post as much content as possible using its site, and to do so publicly. Still, the post is one of the more candid statements Facebook has made about the downside to using it, even if the conclusion isn’t to use Facebook less. Just use it … in a different way.