Wipe that stupid grin off your Facebook. (via Getty Images)
It's bad enough Facebook has been tracking your web history to send you personalized ads (please stop trying to hook me up with "other singles with herpes," Facebook, it was just an ingrown hair), but now a new study has come out saying that our beloved social network has gone beyond spying and shot straight to manipulating.
Don't bother reading all of “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks.” I didn't, but I did read the report's abstract, along with a couple outside summaries which say that, basically, Facebook selected almost 700,000 users to toy with by manipulating what went into their feeds. Some were given feeds full of posts with negative terms, others with positive. They were then surprised to find out that it affected the moods of those users. Apparently, people with negative terms in their feeds wrote more negative posts, and those with positive terms became or remained more positive.
Or, as the paper puts it, “emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”
Seems obvious, but for a long time researchers believed that "emotional contagion" were spread only through in-person and non-verbal ccommunication.
Hard to believe their surprise when anyone who has ever laughed or cried while reading a book will tell you that emotions can spread through words. Did they think Lord Byron and J.K Rowling were just wasting everyone's time?
The downside to all of this is that someone up in Skynet has been playing with us like we each were individual Truman Shows, and we okayed it by agreeing to Facebook's Data Use Policy.
The upshot is now we have someone else to blame for our terrible moods. It's not your fault you feel like a piece of shit, it's Facebook's fault.
Repeat after me: "It's Facebook's fault."
Which means that we can now use Facebook for a number of defenses:
- I can't go to work today. Facebook gave me sads. :(
- I had to resort to an extramarital affair because Facebook made me feel like less of a sexually viable being.
- I would have never gunned down twelve people in a movie theater if Facebook hadn't filled my feed with negative terms, your honor.
(by Myka Fox)