Facebook Lab Rats — You Have Always Been One

I’ll be honest, I was surprised when I saw such a strong reaction to the news that Facebook had “performed” an emotional experiment on its users.


My reactions was: “uhhhh, yeah … and … ?”

Let’s be real here folks, Facebook is one giant sociological experiment and always has been. It’s aimed at predicting human behavior and patterns of interaction, ultimately to sell ads. To ya know, make money.

Facebook is constantly refining their data and changing the “algorithms“of what is shown to who, and when. Marketers know this all too well as we are always trying to keep up with Facebook’s latest tweaks in order to get our client’s business pages’ seen.

Users don’t even see all their own friends’ updates because Facebook is using everyone’s past interactions to rank which friends are the most important. There are even key words that are more likely to put certain statues in your feed. All of these things are based on research and data — and data is obtained for research by experimenting!

In order for a giant computer program to decide how humans want to interact and then make money off of that knowledge, there WILL be experimentation.

I liked the way Jeff Bercovici summed it up in his Forbes article.

Skinner Cartoon

Here’s where I think those who’d call the study “a horror show of anti-ethics” are overreacting. The almost 700,000 users involved weren’t “ artificially (and arbitrarily) shown Facebook posts in an attempt to alter their mood.” They were shown only status updates that friends in their networks had posted. All the researchers did was tinker with the algorithm so that users saw a different mix of posts than they would have normally. Is that arbitrary or artificial? Sure — but the algorithm governing News Feed has always been artificial, and has always looked arbitrary to outsiders?

I’m not saying this wasn’t in the grey area of sketchy but we can’t honestly be shocked and outraged that Facebook is experimenting with what we see in our home feeds. They have been doing it since the beginning of the platform. We are always lab rats. Every day!

I am sure you have heard that supermarkets test to see what type of music affects the mood of shoppers enough to influence buying decisions or what color stimulates which part of the brain. Facebook’s biggest commodity is data and it’s data that you willingly provide to use the service.

Keeping up with Facebook’s antics (without getting too upset) is the first step in mastering the effectiveness of the platform but if it all looks like blah blah blah …  Contact Staffing Robot today! 866.991.1849



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