The Financial Express

Do Facebook reactions desensitize us?

| Updated: November 25, 2021 19:40:54

Photo: Freepik Photo: Freepik

You are spending time scrolling through the news feed and you come across a piece of news on gender-based violence. Your instant reflex is reacting ‘sad’ on that post.

But ask yourself, how often do you feel curious or legitimately feel the sadness and click on the link?

A study conducted by Columbia University shows that 59 per cent of the shared links on social media aren’t even clicked on.

So does this indicate an unawareness of the user or being robotic in terms of feeling the ‘reactions’ they showed (by Facebook react buttons)?

The human mind perceives topics in an unprecedented manner. In our social media life, we notice countless news and posts and, within approximately 1 or 2 seconds after seeing a post, we give a Facebook reaction to it.

To understand things better, the writer conducted a survey with more than 100 participants. On a scale of 1-10, average respondents voted 6 which showed how much they truly feel the reaction they gave.

“Reacting to posts instantly after seeing them, without allowing yourself to feel it properly, can contribute to feeling emotionless in day to day life,” thinks Maliat Rahman, an HSC candidate from Holy Cross College.

We will feel sad to know that a stranger died or something traumatic happened, but it won’t last long unless we close our eyes and take time to properly process it.

Maliat believes that we can feel the true depth of an incident only when it directly relates to us, as she continues, “But sometimes, we don’t want to feel that pain. We need to put ourselves or our loved ones in that position to actually grasp the pain, which will only happen when we will give ourselves that time.”

When people come across a post and react to it almost instantly, they don’t allow themselves to think and process the emotion they reacted to as they keep on scrolling for new content.

All the emotions that are not felt or suppressed make the user more susceptible to decreasing true feelings.

In the survey, 43 per cent of people reported that these reactions are making them somewhat less emotional in real life. Hence, their ability to process sad or happy news is likely to decrease which might lead to emotional numbness.

The above argument becomes clearer with Mohammad Saiful Islam’s story. He is a graduate of Dhaka University and working as a journalist for a national daily.

“Before the Eid Ul Fitr this year, a garments worker was shot dead by police during a movement. The next day, Daily star came with a grim picture of the deceased’s mother touching her son's cold face in tears. The picture stunned me, moved me so strongly that I couldn’t think of anything else for a while.”

He even shed some tears for a moment imagining his mother in that poor woman’s place. Maliat’s statement was reflected in Saiful’s reaction as he compared the situation with his own.

However, after an hour or two, when he took the phone again, he kept on reacting with love/haha/angry on posts while also being sad for the incident he came to know about a while back.

He labelled his feelings as being ‘desensitised,’ as he forgot to mourn and feel. The picture that moved him hard became just another picture to give a ‘sad’ reaction and then move on with a ‘haha’ reaction on the next meme.

When Kazi Mahir Bin Mehedi, a Digital Marketing Associate at Purplebot Digital Ltd., was asked if he is impacted by this, he responded by saying, “I have seen people liking all posts, people being very choosy, and also people like me who 99 per cent of the time don't put reacts on any posts except if it's extremely exciting or impactful to me.”

However, Facebook reactions are quite limited to expressing most of the emotions, yet it somewhat impacts the real-life, thinks Mr Mahir.

“When I engage with a post, I think I am expressing my thoughts and emotions through that. If it's an achievement of my friend, I am proud of who worked hard for it, I'd be extremely happy.”

Mahir’s statement can lead to another important topic-- faking emotion. Sometimes, we tend to show happiness or appreciation whereas deep down we might be envious.

Hence, these reactions or comments work as a shield from exposing our jealousy or something like that. However, on a different note, this is not entirely bad as others’ achievements can work as a driving factor to be more productive.

We are always in a rush, trying to move from one place to another. And this affects our ability to handle relationships or people and their emotions to a certain extent.

Since people go through hundreds of social media posts every day, most people don’t have the time to feel each one of them.

Maliat believes, the viewers are just trying to distract themselves or refresh their minds or find a momentary escape route from their own complications.

Those who do not realise this determines how disconnected they are from themselves.


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