Lab Rats, One And All: That Unsettling Facebook Experiment

Lab Rats, One And All: That Unsettling Facebook Experiment

“I’ve always been the shrugging type when it comes to lots of things that Facebook does that make people crazy. They change the layout, they mess with the feed — even making you noodle with your privacy settings has always seemed to me like the craven doing of business, and something where I could say yes or I could say no, the same as any business that offered good service sometimes and lousy service other times.

But I found I did not shrug at the news late last week that Facebook had allowed researchers both inside and outside the company to manipulate users’ news feeds to hide good news or bad news to see whether it affected the emotions of those users themselves. In other words, if they hid the parts of Facebook where people share joy with you, where they tell you about happy things, where the griping and grousing is balanced with baby pictures and bright sides, could they make you feel worse? If they led you to believe that something had altered the balance of things so that even if you couldn’t put your finger on it, it seemed like things were going worse in the world, would it affect you? Could they make you artificially positive about things by hiding bad news from you?”

This makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I recognize that Facebook is manipulating my newsfeed in a lot of ways, but I didn’t expect being an unwitting participant in a psychology experiment was one of them.

I’m not going to delete my facebook page for now, but I’m not going to forget about this, either.


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