The big internet news recently is focused on how Facebook was involved in a research study about manipulating people’s emotions in an online setting. This Time article explains it a little more in-depth, but the basic details are these: if you were exposed to more negative posts in your feed, you were likely to post more negative things in return, and the opposite goes for being exposed to positive posts.
There’s been uproar about whether this study was ethical or not, being that the nearly 700,000 people who were involved were included without their knowledge or permission. Apparently, Facebook’s Terms of Service allows these sorts of actions, but the situation does tread questionable moral ground.
Of course, there has always been proof (and general knowledge of) companies changing users’ reactions to something through advertising, but most advertising is usually easy to spot, and therefore much more acceptable. Secretly changing a Facebook user’s feed in order to manipulate their emotions has some frightening implications. By now, we have to assume that we’ve been manipulated to some point just by using Facebook. Facebook can do it, and it follows that they do.
So what now? I’m not advocating dumping your Facebook account. But knowing a little of what’s actually going on behind the scenes can help you become a more discerning user. If your whole feed seems to be horrible and sad one day, just keep in mind that you will not let it affect your actual mood. Turn off the computer for the day. Large companies do tend to want to edge consumers towards their own means and ends, and consumers know they do this. It’s a strange balance where we can either cut ourselves off from society completely, or work within society, but with a discerning, educated eye. Many would argue that being a consumer and user of products is not a bad thing. Our country is a consumerist one; while it has kinks to work out, it’s not all totally negative.
Staying educated and informed, even in the face of secretive manipulation, is priority number one. Accept positive advertising that improves your life (have you seen the awesome “like a girl” ad that Always put out recently?) and look further into sketchy advertising.
Here at Div Creative, we are all about staying open and truthful. Our website and business boosting tactics are well-known and beloved in the internet marketing world, and you can count on us staying honest. If you run a business, think about the ways in which you are learning about your customers. Are they questionable, like Facebook’s tactics, or open, such as collecting voluntary survey information, to use one example? Business ethics is a huge area to delve into, but knowing you’re on the right side can help.