Facebook's Mood Experiment and Utter Helplessness

Facebook The scariest part about Facebook’s “mood experiment” is that there’s nothing we could do about it.

I’ve posted plenty of stories on this site about Facebook about ways to protect your account from Facebook’s tweaks and updates. Facebook’s played relatively dirty in the past, but has always left some an opt-out clause or security feature to revert things to how they were. Facebook’s wanted to give more and more of your info to marketers, but has never taken away the ability to fully control your experience until now.

Facebook has well over 1 billion active users, and fewer than 700,000 had their News Feeds tweaked for this survey. That’s 0.07% of its users, or just 7 in every 10,000 accounts. Statistically speaking, it was highly unlikely we were chosen … but the fact remains that we COULD have been chosen – and had our moods and mental health toyed around with to see if we fit a scientist’s hypothesis.

Facebook’s News Feed has been a disaster for a while. You have to do a lot of heavy lifting to get the stuff you want to see to show up in your News Feed. It’s possible to cultivate the best of the best, but it’s not easy. And even if you DO have a handful of close friends whose posts you care about, Facebook probably isn’t sharing everything they post to your News Feed. You have to hunt for those posts.

Facebook isn’t Twitter, where the default setting is seeing everything everyone you follows posts. That’s why Twitter is great – if you follow a manageable number of people, you can genuinely keep up with everything they share. With Facebook, you have to work for that content – and work hard.

That’s the most annoying aspect of this experiment. Not only is Facebook NOT showing me the posts from the people I care about, but it’s actively bringing negative statuses and posts (that no one really wants to see) front and center to see how we react. Forget the ethics for a second – that’s disrespectful.

As outraged as the internet is, this isn’t something that will turn me away from Facebook; its messenger is far too valuable for me to leave the service any time soon. That’s what Facebook is banking on; Facebook is a monopoly far too valuable to far too many people for them to give up on it completely. Sure, it may be losing some younger users to Snapchat (or Yo, or whatever), but it’s still the most powerful social network on the internet. And it’s for that reason that we’re at its mercy, and will be for the foreseeable future – unethical experiments or not.