Facebook: Exploring Usability, Influence and its Dark Side

Gloria Ha
3 min readOct 31, 2020
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I have used Facebook since 2004 — the year of its inception. Throughout the years, I have seen it evolve into what we know it as today. Initially, it was used as a networking tool, exclusive to college students in the Boston area. Now Facebook is where I watch the news and entertaining content, cure my boredom, and occasionally interact with friends and acquaintances.

Facebook has now become a pervasive influence in society. It has adapted and evolved to remain relevant throughout the years. Since 2004, Facebook has expanded its reach, acquired products with potential (i.e. Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR), and developed its own tools so that it doesn’t lose its competitive edge with new popular products (I.e. Vine, Snapchat, TikTok). Along with its growing influence on society, privacy, conspiracy theories, fake news, and controversial/questionable content have also become big issues today (especially with the pandemic and the political climate surrounding the election).

When I opened my account in 2004, I didn’t feel the need to use this product. No one really used it other than to link up with people they’ve met. From there, you can find out their AIM or MSN messenger ID, myspace account, or Xanga blog. It functioned more like a digital business card book. Most people loved to blog and write down their thoughts with their photos. But as the years went by, it became the platform to share and make others jealous with your activity with tagged photos. As companies began to dominate Facebook, it became a place to look at everything. Throughout this time, there were many different things going on in Facebook and it was apparent that it was in an identity crisis. Every time a new function was added, it seemed the Facebook was trying to figure out its use while offering it to its users.

Though the function and use of Facebook has changed. Through all its different iterations, it has become more focused and usable. Now it highlights content instead of convincing the user to use its different function as much as it used to. Each process is focused with a breadcrumb to look for its other functions. So if you want to do something other than observe content, you can click one of the icons below. There is a learning process of navigating through but it’s much clearer than what it used to be. Because of this focused approach, users can endlessly scroll through content. But there in lies the issue at heart.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Earlier this year, the year of the pandemic 2020, it has been a particularly turbulent year. With the election coming up in less than a week, tensions rising, people dying, and the increasing awareness of racism, Facebook has become the source for news and content during this time of heightened tensions and isolation. And it was through a Facebook group, that a militia group organized to gather in Kenosha after the shooting of Jacob Blake. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year old armed with a rifle, shot 3 protesters with one man killed. Facebook had failed to shut down this Facebook group that was inciting violence. And the list goes on.

Its machine learning algorithms have created an echo chamber where people are digital isolated with like-minded people. The endless scroll of desirable content can go dark quickly and it has. Adding to the flames is the blatant misinformation of people in position in power and its followers dismissing and disregarding scientific and proven content as a conspiracy or “fake news”. This is the dark pattern of Facebook and the web. Different from antipatterns that don’t work, dark patterns work really well by exploiting human weakness. As Facebook’s influence and usability has grown, so has this dark pattern and its influence on society.

Happy Halloween… and if you haven’t already, please make sure to vote!

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Gloria Ha

Prospective UX/UI Product Designer currently studying UX!