Over the weekend, Facebook admitted to altering hundreds of thousands of Facebook users’ news feed in order to conduct a psychological experiment all the way since 2012. This has caused some people to be enraged as they felt it was some form of intrusion to their privacy in addition to having their feelings toyed with. However, the company explained the reason behind this experiment.
The experiment was done to determine if social media affects people’s emotions based on what they see on their news feed. Reports state that “when a person loaded their News Feed, posts that contained emotional content of the relevant emotional valence, each emotional post had between a 10% and 90% chance (based on their User ID) of being omitted from their News Feed for that specific viewing.”
Basically, Facebook altered 689,003 different users in which they only showed emotionally-positive posts of their contacts on one group and negative ones on the other.
“The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product,” says Adam Kramer, Facebook data scientist and co-author of the study. “We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.”
That was mainly their worry and the findings showed otherwise – what people post affects the kind of entries we make. For example, if we see lots of negative entries in our feed, it’s more likely that we subconsciously sympathize and post negative content as well. If it is positive, we tend to feel happy inside therefore making us post positive entries.
“Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone,” says Kramer. “I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused.
After seeing the side of Facebook, what ‘s your personal take about this research?