YOU MIGHT not recall that when you signed up for Facebook ten years ago that you elected to be emotionally manipulated at Mark Zuckerberg’s discretion. Of course you don’t Zuckers; no one reads those annoying disclaimers.
Well apparently that’s somewhere in the fine print under “market research,” because in 2012 Facebook did just that. The experiment was to see if people’s emotional states could be altered based on what they were seeing in their news feed. The targeted 700,000 people got a skewed version of their usual Facebook experience. Some people were fed more negative posts, and others were privy to more positive status updates. The researchers then watched to see if those people who were exposed to more negative started posting more negative status updates and shares. Turns out they did.
If you were a part of the study Sheryl Sandberg is very sorry for tricking you and bumming you out, but there is an important take away from the findings: It’s entirely appropriate to silence anyone who’s annoying in your news feed! No guilt necessary, it’s for your own mental health.
There is the issue that no one willingly signed up for this, because no one reads
the fine print.
The lead researcher Adam Kramer did however express second thoughts about the project, saying: “In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”
Supposedly the experiment was not simply to see if people’s emotions could be swayed by what they were seeing, but to confirm or deny the notion that people get bummed out when they see other people doing more fun stuff than them.
Facebook just wanted to learn about FOMO guys. And while FOMO might be real (I’ve felt it) it didn’t appear that people post negatively because of it. (Which sort of makes sense, if you feel left out you probably don’t want people to know that you do. Right?)
It seems like the Facebook community might have been more chill upon hearing of this experiment if it actually answered some big life questions, or at least was something fun like “how many times the average person stalks their exes page” or something.
But confirming that our moods can be swayed by other people’s moods seems pretty obvious.