When the news first broke that Facebook had been using our timelines to run social experiments on us it probably shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was. However, what has surprised me even more is that they seem to have gotten away with it without recourse. The general public have just carried on posting near pointless updates and business still spending huge budgets on the same platform.
For those that are familiar with my writing, articles like “When Facebook disappears in 5 years will you be ready?” shows that I don’t think Facebook will be the super power that it is now and it’s reasons like this that make me think I am right but that we have a long way to go before this happens because for some apparent reason Facebook (and most likely social networking in general) has now been sewn into the very fabric of our lives. We are willing to accept that Facebook will actively control our moods in return for seeing what is happening in the lives of the people we don’t consider friends enough to make the effort to see or speak to them regularly.
The Guardian made a thoroughly detailed article on the initial reporting here but in it’s purest form the experiments took place in early 2012 and covered just under 700,000 people. Facebook deliberately manipulated what you saw on your timeline either in a negative or positive way. Facebook is always controlling and interpreting what you see on your timeline as if we were to track every interaction from every person then the information would be too much. This is why from a business perspective we know that only around 16% of fans will see your content. On your personal timeline it’s a similar percentage that you see of what your friends have actually been doing.
During the study they draw some not very ground breaking conclusions that if you show someone lots of positive things on their Facebook they become more positive and if you show someone lots of negative things they will become negative too. They measured the results by the amount of times people posted and the tone of each of these messages. Ultimately Facebook ruined the weeks of around 350,000 people to complete a science test.
Why has the general public not come out with some sort of angry, torch yielding mob? Facebook have directly invaded our privacy rights, which apparently is a large concern for the average consumer in this internet based world we live in. I thought this would be a game changer in terms of public opinion and public action against Facebook. Is it that the average person now relies solely on Facebook for their information and news and if so has Facebook blocked those articles from trending to try and ‘keep the population happy’?
I firmly believe that Facebook and other networks have a huge responsibility to deal with our data in a proper way. I understand that cookies can lead to better advertising opportunities etc etc but as a digital marketeer I spend all of my time working with clients on how they can be the best representation of their authentic self and make sure they are advertising to the right people. It seems that Facebook is trying to sell your emotional state now as well to that advertisers. Is there nothing they won’t do to get more money through the doors?
Now you may well be thinking – “Mark, I don’t want Facebook to experiment on me. I am but a simple person who enjoys social networks and wishes to continue to enjoy the platform for what it is. How do I stop myself from being included in these experiments?”
Well I have some good news for you, I have researched long and hard and even tried contacting Facebook directly and I have found a way that you can avoid the experiments. You see, when you join Facebook they ask you to sign their Terms and Conditions and it’s the policy on research that contains the legal mumbo jumbo to allow them to do whatever. On a quick side note, when are they going to teach what Terms and Conditions really mean in schools, as everything is based around these policies these days but unless you are a legal professional often it’s just click ok and move on.
Back to the solution…the secret to getting Facebook out of your mind is quite simple…DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT!
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