Facebook Users – Grow The Hell Up

Lots of bodice ripping and whining today as FB users felt betrayed that Facebook (the company) and some researchers manipulated Facebook feeds by putting in “fake” messages to examine a phenomenon called ‘emotional contagion’. The news shows, blogs, and internet flotsam and jetsam suggest that people feel somehow violated that their beloved ‘private’ space was sullied by the very people who own that space.

Newsflash FB users – you are mired in an Orwellian universe the likes of which even George couldn’t even imagine. Your every keystroke, thought, photo, and rant are used in the name of “big data” – that seems a hell of a lot more manipulative than a pedantic study on emotional manipulation by a few charming geeks at Princeton working in cahoots with Facbook. This is done to you 1000 times a day, so why is this so galling? Something about being a research guinea pig without consent I guess. Advertisers may just be sociopaths in good suits – manipulating you to do something you don’t want or to purchase something you don’t need. (we college professors on the other hand aren’t nearly as sociopathic (neurotic perhaps), and definitely don’t own good suits).

And honestly – don’t your so called “Facebook friends” manipulate your moods on an hourly basis with their tales of woe (“sitting home with Ben and Jerry on a Friday night”), their Schaedenfraude (“look at me and my supermodel girlfriend in my new Tesla in Ibiza”), their emptiness (look at my breakfast, hairstyle, underwear, new breasts)? Your moods and behavior change based on their posts – these researchers were just trying to examine this in a standardized way.

Fact is, we have less privacy than people residing in military states. Perhaps the first step to fixing it is – gasp – getting off of social media. But the validation, the oversharing, the illusion of connection – those are tough addictions to break. Every addiction carries opportunity costs – the opportunity cost for cigarettes is lung cancer, for injection drugs – Hep C, for social media – a daily download of your brain and subsequent loss of privacy (among other things).

For we behavioral scientists, social media is an empirical wet dream – a public/private record, a running timeline of behavior, a phase shift in mental health, ego development, personality, and human relationships. Privacy is a luxury – and means some sacrifices – even a child knows that. Before you cry about having your “public privacy” violated and moods manipulated, think about whether you are willing to give up on your selfies, tales of woe, political diatribes and photos of yet another sunset. Tradeoffs…..


This entry was posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014 at 12:39 pm and is filed under Media and Mental Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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