Concept Experience #5

Facebook tinkered with users’ feeds for a massive psychology experiment

By William Hughes

Jun 27, 2014 3:30 PM

Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.

I Struggle With The Same Question Everyday
I Struggle With The Same Question Everyday

In order to sign up for Facebook, users must click a box saying they agree to the Facebook Data Use Policy, giving the company the right to access and use the information posted on the site. The policy lists a variety of potential uses for your data, most of them related to advertising, but there’s also a bit about “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” In the study, the authors point out that they stayed within the data policy’s liberal constraints by using machine analysis to pick out positive and negative posts, meaning no user data containing personal information was actually viewed by human researchers. And there was no need to ask study “participants” for consent, as they’d already given it by agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service in the first place.

That Wasn't Too Hard Now Was It?
That Wasn’t Too Hard Now Was It?

Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer is listed as the study’s lead author. In an interview the company released a few years ago, Kramer is quoted as saying he joined Facebook because “Facebook data constitutes the largest field study in the history of the world.” It’s a charming reminder that Facebook isn’t just the place you go to see pictures of your friends’ kids or your racist uncle’s latest rant against the government—it’s also an exciting research lab, with all of us as potential test subjects



After reading over the paragraphs, I found it kind of difficult to find certain words or phrases that would make great hyperlinks, so I looked for the author and other facebook related links in order to service that part of the assignment. I found a link to the author, Adam Kramer, as well as the paper itself. I tried to stay away from wikipedia, and also found a great photo on the funniness of uncles and the government, something I experience daily whenever I go onto facebook haha.

Overall, I felt that the information on the paragraphs was enough to support an abstract. I felt that the passage could have given more information on how facebook users were manipulated and would have given an example of a negative an positive emotional outcome due to the posts. I myself would have added some issues on the privacy of facebook overall, as I felt the passage began to delve into that aspect in the second paragraph, which I also treid to expand through my multi media. When I was adding multi media, I tried to stay a little bit funny as always, while still trying to make a point. I included a youtube video from South Park, more importantly the HumanCentIPAD episode. The episode’s concept and execution is vulgar, like any south park episode, but I think the situation when Kyle quickly signs his name on the document with reading the text is a great example of how people feel about the privacy settings on a social media site; most will quickly agree to let anyone see what they say or post without caring about the other smaller details. The episode is a great satire of that sort of situation, and is quite hilarious in the execution. My other posts still tried to remain funny and entertaining while showing the truth of how we feel about Facebook and other social media.

If my users don’t click my links, I would first be very angry!!!! Lol. But in all seriousness, my links add some information on the background of the author and research while giving a few pop culture and social arguments through the photos and video that are entertaining and easy to understand when it comes to this topic.

4 thoughts on “Concept Experience #5”

  1. Jeremy, you did a great job linking the most relevant web pages to this paper. I also like the pictures that you illustrated your blog. It makes the article more lively. Keep up the excellent job!

  2. Jeremy: I just spent 20 minutes writing a comment to you and lost it. : ( So this may be a bit more abbreviated than the first comment — but I’ll try again. (soo frustrating)

    Yours is the first concept #5 I’ve read, but it will be interesting to see how students alter and supplement the same text by using hyperlinks and other media. When I did this assignment (I always practice what I assign, if it’s a new assignment), I followed a range of research about Adam Kramer (read an interesting interview), and this made me want more information in the original text about Kramer, and his ethics as a data scientist. You, on the other hand, wanted more on the facebook privacy policy. I liked your link about this — I’ve seen the posts where people call out facebook for clandestinely changing their privacy policies. So it’s interesting to me that what we choose to link to can and should influence the revisions we may make in our original text (I’m thinking to YOUR inquiry project text).

    Your Youtube link appeared with no introductory context for it. It just followed an image. I think because of this, I was least compelled to click on it. (I thought it was just reinforcing the image, maybe). So I would say as far as a rhetorical choice about placement of the video link, this one was least effective.

    Your follow up later about the video was really good. So as you think about how you’ll use videos in your Inquiry Project, think about how to introduce them and then provide some commentary and analysis of them in your text.

    This is a great post. I laughed at the meme about “liking” a sad post. It perfectly speaks to this article’s claim!

  3. Is it bad that I really like that episode of South Park. I had thought of including an image on it in my post, but decided against. I really like your choices of images and links to spice this article up. This was a good read, I was looking forward to your links throughout the whole thing.

  4. I like the meme you included! It was the first thing I noticed since I have already read this article. I like it because it is applicable to me!

    Wow we are very relatable. I also found it hard to find certain words and phrases to hyperlink. Yeah I also would agree with adding some issues on the privacy of Facebook but I don’t think Kramer’s intentions were to target Facebook.

    That South Park clip was hilarious and nasty! Reminded me of the Human Centipede.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *