Day 550: Facebook Mood Manipulation

A new research paper has revealed two startling pieces of information. First, it disclosed that Facebook manipulated the News Feeds of nearly 700,000 English-speaking users in a research study on emotional states. Second, the study (found in PNAS) suggests that emotional contagion can happen without “direct interaction between people.”
The study is based on the idea that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness,” according to the abstract. (The abstract also states that the results of studies on this phenomena are controversial.)
In the experiment, researchers wanted to test whether emotional contagion was possible outside of in-person interaction. They did so by manipulating the emotional content of users’ News Feeds on Facebook. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred,” reads the abstract. Basically the study found that the transference of emotions documented in other real-world experiments, was also true of not face-to-face interaction. - Salon

Why do people get angry when they are shown just how easy it is to manipulate us all? As if adverts, music, TV shows, movies, magazines and more weren't proof enough, now that we are given some proof we go completely bonkers. A violation of privacy? A violation of your person? Why are you so angry at this experiment?

Why do you get defensive when someone challenges your beliefs or personality? Maybe you know somewhere inside yourself that it is possible to change, but if you were to admit it to yourself then you'd have to actually change. Everyone has a textbook case of denial when it comes to what they think is true or right, it is rare to find a person who is truly open to investigating different possibilities in every aspect of their lives.

What does it say about you that you don't know when your emotions are being manipulated, especially by those things that form such a big part of your life (like Facebook and TV)? Everyone seems to consider themselves as self aware, but in the moments when things like this experiment happen and you see exactly how unaware you are, the reality is just too much and the defense mechanisms go into overdrive.

Why is this information so hard to come by? Why don't experiments like these form part of every school curriculum to teach each person how to think and act objectively and with consideration? Well, if that were to happen then all the big companies making millions or billions off of emotion, thought and behaviour manipulation techniques would make quite a bit less. The funny thing is that the people who make up these big businesses are susceptible to exactly the same techniques as their customers (or should I say prey).

All of this also shows how people who surround themselves with "positivity" and happy thoughts seem to be in a happier mood. They block out all the terrible things in the world and focus on the good, creating a safe and happy cocoon for themselves where they don't have to feel the pain of seeing another being suffer.

You could say that "positivity begets positivity" and "negativity begets negativity". It may even give a better understanding into mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorders. It's actually no wonder that everyone isn't diagnosed with a mood disorder seeing as how much our moods are manipulated every single day without our awareness.

Don't be angry with Facebook for allowing an investigation into the reality of this world. Be angry that you were not aware of all of the people and techniques that try and influence how you feel every day of your life. Start asking the hard questions: Why is this allowed? How can we stop it and educate ourselves and each other? How can we teach our children to respect other people enough to not try to manipulate them?


  1. Obviously, the anger expressed over this news is due to the fact that most people are unaware of the mind games being played (It's called, "gaslighting," where one person attempts to make another doubt their own perceptions. And it is a form of mental abuse people everywhere employ with each other. It's just now becoming apparent that on social networks, many of the same mind games and manipulations are now being perpetrated. We all have to become more aware of how these deceptive practices (and others)are being used to manipulate and control the feelings, emotions and behavior of the populace.


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