Our focus in 2018 is making sure Facebook isn't just fun, but also good for people's well-being and for society. We're doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content. Already last quarter, we made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people's time is well spent. In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.
– Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook
The quote above, taken from Mark Zuckerberg’s post on Facebook, highlights the importance of corporate responsibility in the new age economy and the power of institutional forces in improving individual well-being. It was such an important change to how Facebook operates its newsfeed that Mark dedicated more than 2,000 words to the update. The change will result in a reduction in time spent on Facebook of 2.14 minutes per day per user (based on the 1.4 billion Facebook users). This is a 5% reduction of total time spent on Facebook.
Since numerous studies link Facebook use with negative impacts on wellness, Facebook’s decision sacrifices short term profits for the betterment of society. Wellable is an unabashed advocate for how mobile technologies can be used to improve health and well-being. However, it is naïve to believe that, if not utilized appropriately, mobile technologies cannot have the opposite effect. Facebook understands this, and their newsfeed update will have a positive impact on the well-being of its users. Fortunately, many health and wellness apps and devices do not require lots of screen time to be effective so the gains from using them far exceed the costs.
In addition to corporate responsibility, the newsfeed update also highlights the importance of institutional changes in well-being. It is reasonable to believe that most Facebook users want healthier and happier lives, and perhaps their decision to use Facebook excessively is made because of being uninformed of the adverse impacts or how easy it is to use the technology. Regardless, their top-down decision (institutional change) will impact billions of users worldwide. Employers have the same ability to impact health and wellness, just on a much smaller scale. Decisions about office layouts, such having the printer and workspaces at opposite ends of the space, can make employees more active in their daily routines. Stocking healthier snacks and smaller plates facilitates better nutrition and portion control.
Many Facebook users will never hear about or notice the change to the newsfeed but will benefit from it. Similarly, employees may not notice these small changes but will benefit nonetheless. Employees want to live healthier and happier lives, although they don’t always make decisions that help them to achieve this goal, which is why employers can make institutional decisions that can help them get to where they want to be.