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Facebook controversy over ‘emotional manipulation’

A current topical story relates to Facebook experimenting with how social media can affect user’s moods. Over the course of one week in January 2012 they manipulated 700,000 user’s feeds; for some they reduced the amount of negative pots that they saw when scrolling through their news feeds and for others they reduced the amount of positive posts user’s would see.

Facebook wanted to show that social media can spread a bad idea or theory rapidly hence the experiment. Results showed that people who saw more negative posts had much more negative personal posts and those who had an increased amount of positive posts were much happier in their approach to posting – the results are as they were expected.  In truth this experiment has proved interesting because it proves we have now come to a point where social media is so influential to us that it can also affect our moods.

There is however, a caveat to this experiment. Since news of the ‘manipulation’ has spread many have become angry that Facebook did this without the consent of its users and that there should be a law protecting people from this kind of experiment. But what if Facebook had told its user? It would render the experiment useless. Being aware that this monitoring was happening would affect the results because you would either consciously or subconsciously counter-manipulate the manipulation experiment – so what would be the point?

‘But if it is affecting your mood then it could cause emotional problems away from the screen.’

Well yes, perhaps it could have done – but it hasn’t. The effects had an insignificant real-world impact on people. Maybe this is because we only care about negative posts on social media when we are on our accounts and when we re-emerge from our internet lives the negativity we faced on our screens is pushed to the back of our minds. Either way it doesn’t matter, the experiment had no real affect on people outside of Facebook. It perhaps begs the question: what is all the fuss about?

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