Update: Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer has posted an explanation of the methodology behind the experiment.
Social media can certainly toy with our emotions, but did we know it could, in fact, manipulate them for science?
As first noted by Animal New York, Facebook’s data scientists used information from the News Feeds of nearly 700,000 users to gauge their moods. The team removed either positive or negative posts from users' feeds, and studied how it altered their social media behavior.
What they found was that feelings were contagious. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred,” according to the paper published by the Facebook research team in the PNAS. When the team took all of the emotional posts out of a person’s News Feed, that person became less expressive with the content they shared.
This social media test ran from January 11–18, 2012. So, if during that week in January you saw posts exclusively about either puppies or natural disasters, you may have been part of the study.
Facebook already has a frighteningly strong hold on human sociability. It archives our past, fuels our FOMO, and demands that we create some sort of online identity. But, the big question remains: Is it okay for Facebook to use us as lab rats?