Interesting points and thank you for sharing them! While I agree with some points, I wanted to add to some facets you brought up:
Really! Really, though? I was surprised so I did a double-check on that.
I just entered “detrimental effects facebook” into the academic publication database of my university, picked “journal articles” and “peer-reviewed” and found 5’971 hits. Granted, I did not thoroughly look through the list, but the titles appear pretty damning at first sight. I’d be surprised if those were 5’971 all duds.
Just pointing to “peer reviewed research” (or lack thereof) is a fig leaf, nowadays. Way too many doctoral students and assistant professors need to publish something, anything, to advance. Also: way to many companies spending way to much money to conduct studies that might get skewed in one or the other direction. Due to the acceptance of the Anglo Saxon model (publish or perish) almost everywhere, there has been an influx in publications for at least thirty years. Any popular trend will have ample amounts of research for and some against. Much of this is driven by careers of the researchers and not necessarily valid let alone valuable outcomes. (Another driver: scraping data from Facebook or asking people about Facebook is rather easily accessible data…) Also: “peer reviewed” does not really mean much, today. Too much interference and to many tightly knit circles.
So the call for “more research” … always sounded like a delay tactic to me. In my opinion, it’s a question of quality - of who gets tasked (ideally recognised national or international research agencies who have a repuation to lose and whose businessmodel is indepedent of the outcome) with doing what kind of research (ideally “the expensive kind” - long term, longitudinal, broad-scope, and mixed-method approach with several indepedently managed but interconnectedly cross-examinating projects) on what question (and I wonder if we are far enough here, yet - cause the question cannot be “is facebook bad” // this is a policy question and I am sad to say that I doubt that the US is politically in a position to determine this). Why not set up a branch within something like the FDA which exclusively focuses on the psychological and societal effects of “informational nutrition”. FDA appears rather independent and pretty tough. The topical stretch might be the least of the worries.
The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the control and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), cosmetics, animal foods & feed and veterinary products. (Wikipedia)
Just add social media to the list. Protecting and promoting public health is already there and psychology is a part of health.
Nah, you are right. No one at Facebook or Facebook altogether could or should be tried for that. They just don’t really care that much. The mission is profitability and success for the network and the individual career. It is really not their mission to improve society.
I do also agree that this “children and teens” melody always seems to me like a media trope in and by itself. The smallest common denominator is to get people around “protecting” “children and teens”. That said, a match stick can be dangerous (say, one bully at school), a lighter (widespread school yard bullying) even more so, but Facebook (world wide social media bullying that never goes away) might be the flame thrower here - and Facebook’s the one making money if everything’s lit on fire.
This is like asking if car manufacturers harm passengers. But only if car manufacturers also ran the much more profitable hospital. Car manufacturers learned to care. First about safety, now, rudimentarily, about the environment (or at least the look of it). There were big class-action lawsuits. This is what might be useful with Facebook. Wonder if that could come to be.
If anyone is interested and wants to look beyond what journalists write, you can actually use research databases. Several are, sadly, paywalled, but some are not - at least not up to reading the abstract. If you want to look into the actual journals, there may be libraries that have access and you can use for free.