Facebook Manipulated You. Now What?

14 Jul Facebook Manipulated You. Now What?

So, I think we all know by now that Facebook has made many of its users feel violated by conducting a secret study of more than 700,000 users. On the off chance you didn’t see it or just need a refresh, here is the scoop from The Washington Post:

“In the study, researchers at Facebook tweaked what hundreds of thousands of users saw in their news feeds, skewing content to be more positive or negative than normal in an attempt to manipulate their moods. Then they checked users’ status updates to see if the content affected what they wrote. They found that, yes, Facebook users’ moods are affected by what they see in their news feeds. Users who saw more negative posts would write more negative things on their own walls, and likewise for positive posts.”

Government, lawmakers, companies, media and pretty much everyone in the news seemed pretty heated about this violation.  So, I found it odd that as an avid Facebook (and social media) user, I didn’t really seem to care or feel completely violated.  Maybe it’s because I’m already used to Facebook trying to control my content, specifically when it comes to ads and company posts.  Or, maybe it’s because I was one of the users not targeted, or targeted in the direction of more cheerful posts.

Contrary to my opinion, one company based in the Netherlands was outraged and is staging a protest. According to ReadWrite:

“Called “99 Days Of Freedom,” the project from Netherlands-based advertising agency Just asks people to drop Facebook for 99 days and document how this abstinence affects their daily lives. Participants will complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66, and 99-day marks, and the project will post results to its website after review.”

The creator of the project seems to think everyone would be much happier without Facebook and hopes that “people will think twice about staring at their screens when they can do things in real life instead.”

Despite the fact that I find this protest ridiculous – couldn’t you say the same thing for video games and book reading, or even talking to your friends in person (if your friends are miserable)? – I think there is one important thing to keep in mind regarding the Facebook study, the protests, and the feelings of deception: social media is POWERFUL.  More so, word of mouth is powerful.  And that’s just another reason for brands to have thoughtful, strategic social media plans in place, whether they are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

So, what’s your next move with Facebook? To carry on as normal, log in less frequently, or drop it all together?

For fun, I polled some of my Facebook friends in a very un-scientific study. My question was this:

“Quick poll: How do you feel about the Facebook study that may or may not have manipulated your mood? Will it have an effect on how/if you use Facebook? Is it ironic that I’m asking this question on Facebook?

Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I actually don’t think I really care if they are changing what I see in my feed. It’s annoying (particularly if I was forced to see tons of annoyingly negative posts) but I know it wouldn’t effect what I posted. It might stop me from signing on though if I saw too much negativity.”

“I am not surprised that Facebook ran such a study, nor am I surprised at the result. I’m not one to complain about things publicly to get attention, as I feel a lot people do on here. All of the “Oh poor me’s” of the world would see a negative post and have to step up their pity party in order to get others to notice them and like/comment. As far as affecting the way that I use Facebook, it will not change anything. I feel like I would be the anomaly of their studies.”

“I think it is strange that something that is supposed to be a fun way to stay connected with friends & family is being used in such a way. My main questions are why are they wasting their time doing this? I’m sure there are way better things to research that actually matter. And how are they choosing who to monitor? …Lighten up, people…and go live your life!”

“I don’t think seeing more negative posts would change what I personally post on Facebook. In fact it might do the opposite! If I see a stream of negative posts I tend to think, “Well that’s annoying, I don’t want to be like that” and post more positive updates or nothing at all. If my feed was filled with negative posts I would be way less interested in signing on.”

“…That kind of makes me upset that they would personally try to ruin my mood! … there have been times I’ve looked at some posts, thought some/too many people were ridiculous, and decided to discontinue looking at Facebook for a while (a few hours or the rest to the day) so I don’t have to be impacted by it. I have even un-followed some people because I thought they were too negative when in reality Facebook was apparently ramming their particular neg posts down my throat (so oops sorry to those people?)…”

Kate Nesbitt
knesbitt@speakerboxpr.com
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