Facebook’s Emotional Contagion

For a while now it has been well proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by scientific research (Cornell and California Universities) that there is a phenomenon called ‘emotional contagion’, meaning that it is possible to induce a state of either happiness or sadness in someone, by inducing that feeling and emotion without their knowledge or awareness.

Up until now the experiments have only been carried out in laboratories. But, now that Facebook has come clean and admitted that users of the social network were induced into feeling either positive or negative emotions in a study that they carried out on a handful of them, we have the proof that it is possible to do so on a massive scale.

Is this the future? Inducing happy and sad emotions? Will we be starting wars half-way around the world by subliminal-like induced emotions of aggression? Or will we be inducing euphoric happiness as we wish in the world of business to create a buzz and get the consumers buying once again? Even worse, could it be political exploited?

Facebook already had every bit of information that it wanted to have about us as do other social-networking sites. They knew where I went to school, who my brother is and whether I’m married or single and if I like the Red Sox’s or I root for the Democrats. But, it can do a whole lot more than that. It wasn’t enough to just see me happy and sad…they wanted to see if they could make me feel one emotion or another by influencing me. Plus, it didn’t actually take a whole lot of work to be able to do it.

Now, it has published the results of the test carried out on 689,003 Facebook users and how it influenced their home pages and what they wrote on their walls. Newsfeeds were secretly filtered according to the flow of comments, video and photo posting and web links. One part of the test exposed users to ‘positively-charged emotions’ while the other cohort ended up with ‘negative emotional content’. 
The results proved: “Emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks”.

Facebook had the findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in the USA this month and a Facebook spokesperson state that the reason behind carrying out such a test was the following: “to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible”. To improve their services? Surely it has greater power than that? Surely it could be used to influence you in a political decision? Surely it could influence you into thinking that this product is great or that product is bad?

689,003 people participated in the study (unknown to them, of course).
• That means about 0.04% of all users in the world. 
1 in 2,500 people.
• It took place over a period of a week in 2012
• Emotions were reinforced by what they read and saw.
• Emotional content was filtered and the reactions of the users were monitored by researchers.

What’s worrying about the study that Facebook carried out is not so much that it was done covertly and that the people were the rats in the cages at their merciless analysis, but the fact that our emotions can be influenced by what we see , hear and read around us. It’s the fact that our state of mind can be induced and manipulated by exactly what someone decides to show us. That is the scary thing since we are no longer in control of not only what we get shown and what we look at, but now it’s the loss of emotional control that has set in thanks to damn social networking. Just how intrusive is that?

Facebook has once again over-stepped the mark of ethical behavior. It has gone over the red line of what is legal and what is not. Any human being involved in a test must by legal rights know that they test is being carried out in order to participate it in freely. Where did the notion of ‘informed consent’ in the law vanish to? What happened to the forms that should have been filled in providing consent?

We’re not guinea pigs Facebook!

It’s high time that all of this were stopped! Who wants to start?

Originally posted: Facebook’s Emotional Contagion

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