WRITING: IS FACEBOOK REALLY FREE?

That seems a dumb question. You don’t pay a penny to get an account and see what your friends are up to. Before long, you check in daily, hourly, at an increasing frequency. You are addicted. Indeed, as a social network company, Facebook is constantly inventing new tricks to get users hooked. We cannot blame Facebook. After all, it is free.

What many fail to realize, however, is the implicit cost of time, the time we devoted to Facebook could have been used elsewhere.  Economists call that implicit cost the opportunity cost. It is a useful concept to rationalize our preferences. In the case of Facebook, since we prefer surfacing Facebook over other activities, we must have derived higher happiness (utility) from Facebook than from elsewhere.

Maybe. The problem with this argument is that it assumes we are fully rational, capable of weighing different options objectively. But we are human; we response to stimuli. When we get excited, our raw emotions overwrite our rationalities, propelling us to take actions we later regret. Worse, when such actions are repeated, we get easily addicted. Technology induces plenty such additions: email, text message, cell phone, internet, etc. They are ubiquitous, and when everybody around you is addicted, you can hardly escape.

Back in good old days, when cell phone is purely a phone, most people chat when waiting in line. Now few do; they instead burry in their smart phones. To be fair, some may justify this addiction as more efficient use of time. But I just don’t see why people have to text each other: wouldn’t a phone call communicate more efficiently? I suspect that  if smart phone (hence text messaging) were invented before regular phone, we may well call each other directly, rather than hiding behind the tiny keyboard.

So is Facebook really free? Think twice what could have been done with the excessive time  on Facebook.

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