TL;DR Facebook messed about with some peoples feeds a couple of years ago and now people are pissed.
Sorry. Am I being a wee bit judgemental?
It's easier when you simplify things right down to the very basics, but in reality, it's rarely ever that simple.
experiment that allowed researchers to see how negative/positive updates on
people's feeds affected their views. They found that people who had more
negativity posted more negative status updates.
The article came to light in a few places, the
first place I read about "emotional contagion" was in New Scientist a few days
So what do you
Personally I feel that these sorts of experiments
have to be done without people's knowledge. Yes, yes, abuse of power etc but if
you told people that you were going to put negative stuff on their news feeds to
assess how they coped with it the experiment wouldn't work. Likewise, if you
told people that you'd be making a change to their newsfeeds and monitoring
them, again, behaviour would change. This is known in Psychology and Sociology
as the Hawthorn effect - what we're try to observe is changed by the observation
Facebook took no personal data, they kept it
confidential and they interfered as little as possible with people.
Experiments like this date back for years. Think on
Milgram's famous study into obedience. Ok, so maybe the question isn't as
pertinent as "how many people would actually kill someone else if they were told
to?" but it does help us understand the effect that social media can have on our
Ok, so they made people feel sad.
In very extreme cases they would have come across someone with a mood disorder
who it could have severely affected, yes, maybe in those cases it was
irresponsible - but how many severely depressed people are using social media
sites? The tendancy is to withdraw from social communications. Again, numbers
are unclear, so not such a great move there - but we're assuming that the
content the experimenters used was fairly mild and unlikely to provoke a severe
response in their demographic.
I think that
maybe people are looking a little too far into this. Yes. It is an abuse of
power - but it was done in the interest of curious people. Yes, maybe it was
wrong, but the results are fairly interesting and the experiment would have been
carefully designed, taking into account the risk factors. All information was
kept confidential and was not passed on any further. After reading some of the
comments from this article and from below it, to be honest, I'm not sure what
there is to get your knickers in a twist about.