Army-funded psych test manipulated Facebook feeds

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Facebook head
Suddenly “Facebook” takes on a whole new meaning, when scientists can just edit our emotions by filtering positive or negative posts.

Browsing through your Facebook news feed is a great way to see what your buddies have been up to, but what if every post was negative? It just might dampen your mood, and then you’d almost feel like joining in with some crabby words of your own. Well, it’s recently come to light that Facebook performed a massive and controversial psychology experiment on 689,0003 users, by altering their news feeds to display either negative or positive content!

In the somewhat creepy study, which was partially funded by the USA’s Army and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this year, Facebook tested the influence of social media on people back in 2012. Of course, nobody knew about it, and the secret mind-altering news feed manipulation apparently caused a ripple effect of positivity and negativity. It’s no surprise we’re influenced by those closest to us, and the study’s data showed that our own posts mirror the emotions we experience in the news feed.

While it’s relatively well-known that Facebook user data is given to advertising companies to create targeted commercials, and that law enforcement agencies have snooped around before in social media, this involuntary psychology experiment has people concerned. Even the study’s lead scientist, Adam Kramer, believes it may have been a mistake. On Sunday, he wrote on his Facebook page, admitting, “In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”

Featured image courtesy of Dimitris Kalogeropoylos on Flickr. Image of book face courtesy of Massimo Barbieri on Flickr.