Chetan Bhasin's blog

Facebook's Emotional Manipulation Experiment And What I Think About It

I just finished watching “The Social Network” movie for the third time. Only a couple of minutes after I was done I came across this post on Huffington Post regarding facebook’s experiment which manipulated emotions of several facebook’s users by changing what was being shown to them.

The experiment conducted by facebook continued for one week in 2012 when the original algorithm for what would be displayed to users in their news feed was replaced by one which made certain people see mostly good posts, and others mostly bad posts in their news feed.

What facebook found was that the responce of users was in clear corrspondance with what was being shown to them. No surpirse!

The information gone public has generated all sorts of reactions from facebook users from people wanting to quit facebook and those protecting the company.

However, I am personally against any such experiments and have not yet fully read any comments favoring the company, I believe that the information of the expeirment can effect how people see facebook (for a couple of days, at least).

Being a strong lover of science of psychologoy myself, I understand that while some emotions go a long way in building our decions there are some which last only for a couple of days (or weeks in some cases).

While facebook’s quest for knowledge regarding the users’ emotional reactions may only have triggerd some depressing feelings in some people for only a while, there is no reason for us to not to believe that it might have caused some havocs which we might not have discovered.

I don’t yet know the basis on which facebook’s algorithm decided what to show to whom, but let’s assume that someone is already going through bad times, and then facebook comes in the way and shows them more depressing stuff; in turn, making people make bad decisions which they may not recognize immidiately.

I am not saying that this theory is entirely true, but I don’t think it would be wrong to consider the possiblity.

I appriciate facebook’s efforts in research related to social psychology, but there are also many ways in which I personally dislike facebook (not saying that you should too).

Anyway, if I was to give my personal opinion I would ask people to maintain a healthy life and not let social networks and what they see on their screen determine their moods. At the same time I also strongly encourage social psychology researchers and companies who dominate internet and social networks to not to conduct such experiments without proper precautions.

There is nothigng wrong with using a social network, but it’s also important to know your boundaries.