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Facebook Toys with Users’ Emotions in Online Social Experiment

by Shane McGlaun

Facebook is the largest social network out there and has hundreds of millions of users around the world. Something you might not know is that by using the social network, you are allowing them to mess with your head at times. Apparently, Facebook ran an experiment in 2012 for a week that used over 689,000 Facebook users without the users knowing they were part of an experiment. And this wasn’t just some marketing test.

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In the experiment, Facebook wanted to see if moods could travel virally across the network. Facebook tweaked the algorithms in the news feeds of the users it selected to show either more negative posts or more positive posts in their News Feed. What the study authors found was that those who saw more negative posts were more likely to make more negative posts. On the other hand, those who were showing posts that are more positive made more positive posts themselves. You can view the full study here, but here’s a quick summary of their findings:

We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues.

So in effect, Facebook was literally toying with these people’s emotions. Do you think this is right, or is did Facebook step over the line?

[via Business Insider]

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