Facebook is trying really hard to win the award for most evil company. It was revealed June 28 that they manipulated news feeds for hundreds of thousands of users in January of 2012 in order to provoke emotional responses.
Basically, they showed some users only negative posts from from their friends, and to others they showed only positive posts. Sure enough, the people who were shown only negative results experience negative reactions, and vice versa.
"I was concerned," she told the Atlantic, "until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it—and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people's News Feeds all the time... I understand why people have concerns. I think their beef is with Facebook, really, not the research."
So what was the result of the creepy study? Well, it turns out emotions are contagious, according to Facebook scientist Adam Kramer. If someone is in a good mood around you and smiles and laughs and dances with unicorns under a rainbow, you’re more likely to join them in that joy. But if someone is negative, frowning and crying and sacrificing bunnies you are more likely to feel down. Well, they didn’t put it exactly that way, but that’s more or less the gist of it.
Additionally, they noticed that if they stripped any emotional content, either positive or negative, from a person’s feed, that person became much less expressive in general, even posting fewer updates overall.
While many people may be disturbed that Facebook is trying some Inception-style mind games with us, they are unlikely to stop doing so. Few people even know that they have already given permission for Facebook to do just that.
Does anybody else have the desire to try it with their own friends now?