When you have a bad day at work and are looking to get your mind off things, you may turn to Facebook to help cheer you up. But, could your newsfeed actually be exacerbating your negative perspective on life? A study was recently unearthed that focused on how emotions could be “contagious” via social networks. Professor Jeffrey T. Hancock from Cornell University and Professor Jamie E. Guillory from UC San Francisco teamed up with Facebook’s data scientist Adam Kramer in order to study the sharing of emotions through Facebook. Users got wind of how their newsfeed’s had been altered and reacted angrily towards the research claiming it to be unethical. However, Cornell’s Institutional Review Board had previously approved this research, so no biggie right? Wrong!
The researchers were altering users’ newsfeeds who had signed up for the study to portray either more negative or more positive posts. Following the collection of wall posts, personal messages, and status updates, the data was analyzed based on the valence of the message. Despite all the negative buzz around the research, the study did in fact prove that if people are seeing more negativity on their newsfeed, it will be reflected in their own posts.
Users were mostly upset about the fact that Facebook was manipulating their personal newsfeeds, even though this sort of alteration is seen on a daily basis. Using a secret algorithm, Facebook controls what we see and when we see it. Ads are filtered to our newsfeeds based on our age, gender, likes, and interests. If Facebook wasn’t manipulating what we saw, we would quickly lose interest in the site all-together.
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