Facebook Under Fire For Emotional Study – Who Cares?
July 3, 2014

Facebook Under Fire For Emotional Study – Who Cares?

Apparently social media service Facebook is taking some heat for running a psychological experiment back in 2012.

PC Advisor reported that the social network reportedly partnered with two American universities and altered the newsfeed for some 689,000 users — basically subjecting the users to either largely positive or largely negative experiences. The study then looked for a link between the mood of the status of the users and their friends.

redOrbit added, “Facebook and the team of social scientists, via an algorithm, manipulated the news feeds of participant users so that some received an increase in so-called negative posts and news stories to their page feed while others were presented with more positive stories to their feed. The team wanted to know the effect, if any, on a user who sees either more positivity or negativity in their social media experience.”

For its part, Facebook defended its action and said it is part of the terms of service.

Of course that isn’t good enough for many. Robert Klitzman, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Masters of Bioethics Program at Columbia University, questioned whether Facebook’s experiment violated ethics in an op-ed for CNN.

Personally, I’m going to make a bold statement and say — I don’t care. I don’t care one way or another whether this violated ethics or whether Facebook even conducted the experiment in the first place. What I can’t understand is why people are 1) so surprised that this occurred and 2) that they don’t see the solution to this problem.

First, why is anyone surprised? Facebook is a company — a very profitable company — that clearly doesn’t care about the privacy of its users. Every aspect of how it operates is clearly in the best interest of its bottom line, not the well-being of its users. I don’t have a problem with any of this — but don’t message me through Facebook to tell me I’m wrong. I’m not one of Facebook’s regular users.

I have a Facebook account, I’ll admit, but I don’t post updates, I don’t have feeds (at least I don’t think I do), I don’t have “friends” on Facebook and I don’t follow anything/anyone through Facebook. I’m not a Luddite by any means, but I never felt the need to connect to people I know through social media. There is already a way to do that through the phone and email.

The second point I need to stress is that there is a solution to those who are upset that Facebook conducts these experiments or takes actions that seem to violate one’s privacy. That solution is to STOP USING FACEBOOK. This is the part that really is a head scratcher to me.

Facebook has reached the point where it is an institution of sorts, almost a utility. Very few people have neither a landline nor a mobile phone. Very few people have opted to truly cut the cord and have no electricity. At least this is true in the United States. Sadly, in the developing world, people don’t have running water, electricity or a phone.

In America, we take these things for granted and somewhere along the line the Internet joined that equation — it has become a “basic right,” so as not to leave someone behind. Facebook could become part of this trend as well.

The truth is that water, electricity, heat and yes, even the Internet are all part of a reasonable quality of life in America. Facebook doesn’t need to be part of this equation. The company doesn’t put its users interests ahead of profits, but that’s really OK. The company is hugely profitable, so it is clearly doing something right.

Yet, if you don’t like the way the company operates unfriend Facebook. It is as simple as that.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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