Have you ever been on social media and thought, “What’s going on with my Facebook feed?” Sometimes the world seems terrible. It’s as if all of your Facebook friends are insensitive and ill-informed. It’s depressing! Other times your feed is filled with inspirational memes, cute photos, and kitten videos. The world seems like a good place to be in after all. What’s going on? How can your feed vary so much? Is it you? Is it your Facebook friends? Maybe it’s something else.
- Facebook has 1.49 billion daily active users (September 2018).
- Facebook has 2.27 billion monthly active users (September 30, 2018).
- There are more than 328 million (NOT billion) people in the United States (4.27% of the world population).
- There are more than 7.6 billion people on the planet.
- Approximately 1 in 7 people on the planet are daily users on Facebook.
Back in 2014, Facebook was the top story of almost every news media organization for “experimenting” on its users. People were shocked and outraged.
- Researchers revealed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that “they had manipulated news feeds of unsuspecting Facebook users, influencing whether they felt positive or negative emotions.” The researchers stated that they conducted a week-long experiment in January of 2012 regarding “emotional contagions.” They manipulated the feed of 690,000 Facebook users to test the effects of positive and negative posts on Facebook users.
- On April 29, 2014, Adrien Frigerri—a software engineer at Facebook—shared a story about “Reshare Cascades.” Frigerri stated, “We gathered 250K comments, posted during July and August 2013 on 17K individual cascades, containing 62 million shares.” Facebook used this information, without their participants’ knowledge, to study how rumors are propagated and shared.
- It’s been revealed that in 2011, 29 million unsuspecting users took part in an experiment regarding Facebook friends and advertising: Social Influence in Social Advertising: Evidence from Field Experiments.
- In the 2010 US congressional elections, Facebook performed a 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization. Facebook estimates approximately 340,000 extra people turned out to vote.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Radiolab did a podcast, “The Trust Engineers,” on February 9. 2015.
It turns out that 100% of Facebook users had/have participated in at least one Facebook experiment or study. “When you look at the data, any given person is probably involved in 10 different experiments and have been exposed to 10 different experimental things.” That’s right. Congratulations. If you use Facebook, you’re one of Facebook’s lab rats.
While this may seem like old news, it doesn’t mean that the experiments have stopped. Facebook is a free social media site and those of us who use Facebook are subject to Facebook’s terms and conditions.
If you feel like your emotions are being manipulated by Facebook, what can you do?
- Limit your time on social media.
- Know that your media feed can be skewed by algorithms.
- Switch your Facebook News Feed from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent.”
- Check your facts before you share a post.
- And above all, treat everyone with kindness.
Thank you so much to the team at Radiolab for inspiring this post!