Facebook is Playing With Your Emotions on Purpose

Project Casting

Facebook is playing with your emotions.

Facebook has been experimenting on us. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook intentionally manipulated the news feed of almost 700,000 users in order to study the emotional contagion through social networks.

The researchers, who are associated with Facebook, Cornell, and the University of California-San Francisco tested whether less positive messages people saw made those people less likely to post positive content themselves. Would posts with sad or angry words from someone’s Facebook feed make that person write more gloomy updates?

They tweaked the algorithm by which Facebook sweeps posts into members’ news feeds, using a program to analyze whether any given textual snippet contained positive or negative words. Some people were fed primarily neutral to happy information from their friends; others, primarily neutral to sad. Then everyone’s subsequent posts were evaluated for affective meanings. [VIA]

The results found that social networks affected positive and negative emotions people had. But, at the same time Facebook intentionally made thousands of people depressed.

This raises some ethical questions. The team may have skipped the ethical research standards and went straight for results and according to The Slate, they may have overstepped their federal law and human rights regulations. “If you are exposing people to something that causes changes in psychological status, that’s experimentation,” says James Grimmelmann, a professor of technology and the law at the University of Maryland. “This is the kind of thing that would require informed consent.”

But, as long as you sign up with Facebook and agree to their terms and conditions you are able to have your emotions, and feelings manipulated.

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