Facebook’s psychological experiment confirms social network can affect a user’s emotions

Facebook's psychological experiment confirms social network can affect a user's emotionsFacebook has been accused of invading user’s privacy in the past, and people have been increasing upset with the way the company has handled this matter. The recent news about the psychological experiment on its user’s doesn’t help the social networking giant and many people are even worried as to what the company might try out in the future.

In a paper that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), it was written that Facebook had conducted a psychological experiment on over half a million users back in January 2012. The aim of the experiment was to analyze the effects of positive as well as negative news feed on a user’s behavior.

The paper said Facebook messed with the news feeds of over 689,000 users for a week to check its effect on their moods. They conducted this experiment by segregating the positive and negative news feeds based on specific keywords. Then they bombarded the users with a positive only or negative only news feed.

At the end of the experiment, the researchers concluded that the type of news feed determined the reaction/ mood of the user in the next few days. The study showed that emotions were contagious and those who were shown positive posts became happy while those who were shown negative posts later on posted negative ones on the website. Neutral posts had little or no effect on the emotions of the user.

While such studies are carried out by researchers all the time, the participants in the research are always consented beforehand. However, that was not the case with Facebook’s experiment which further made people angry.

But, if you are wondering, the experiment is perfectly legal. In fact, Facebook claims that users gave consent for such an experiment when they agreed to the terms and conditions of the company’s services. Further, Facebook adds that such experiments allow them to improve their services, which in turn will be beneficial to its own customers.

Adam Kramer, the data scientist who led this research later on issued a public apology on his Facebook page after seeing the negative reaction to the study.

The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product, Mr. Kramer said. We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.

But we don’t think a formal apology would be enough to calm down the users. Facebook needs to seriously change their privacy policy and the next time, they plan something like this, they need to take the consent of the users or at least inform them to avoid a negative reaction.

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About the author

Joel is an experienced blogger who covers all kinds of news relating to tech. He is a huge fan of Android and can be seen playing around with his phone in his spare time.