Facebook’s Social Experiment Stirs Emotions Amongst UK Consumers

In recent news, it came to light that Facebook had been manipulating nearly 700,000 of their users. This social experiment altered which emotional expressions the users would be subjected to; half of the users would see more positive updates, whereas the other half would see more negative. Facebook then found that those subjected to less negative Facebook posts were less likely to post their own negative updates; similar results were also shown with those shown less positive updates.

The news that Facebook can manipulate our newsfeed came as a reality check for a number of our panel, as many questioned how much data they actually share with Facebook. It appears a large proportion of the panel were unaware prior to the news that Facebook were able to alter what we see in our news feed.

The experiment appeared to provoke a number of mixed opinions from the general public, with over 67% of the panel commenting that they thought Facebook were in the wrong for conducting a social experiment to unknowing users. These members of the panel wanted Facebook to become more transparent, potentially with more obvious disclaimers that you may be part of certain studies if you have a Facebook account.

Others did not like the idea that Facebook could control what they can and cannot see, almost like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, seeing their every move and altering what they view. Some felt that they may have potentially missed out on different statuses or stories if they were part of the experiment.

Although, some of the panel mentioned that we are controlled and manipulated in a number of different ways on a daily basis – we’re controlled by what we see in media and advertising. This proportion of the panel felt that Facebook had been honest in what they were trying to achieve through the experiment.

The proportion of the panel that agreed with Facebook’s social experiment found the results to be interesting, if not a little predictable. There was a general theme that if the information collated from the experiment was useful and for a good purpose, there is not a problem with harnessing the social data available on Facebook.

However, there were a lot of ‘what-if’s as many felt that if Facebook could easily sway our emotions, what else could they do – from food choices to political parties – a number of the panel did not like the idea of a large company controlling subconsciously their thoughts.