In a study published this month, Facebook revealed that it altered the News Feeds of almost 690,000 of its users so that some would receive more positive posts and others would receive more negative posts. This change occurred for one week in early 2012, according to CNN.
The study asserts, “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.” In other words, seeing a more positive News Feed when you first log on can cause you to post more positive things yourself, while seeing a more negative News Feed could cause you to write more negative posts. Read the full scientific article here.
While the experiment is “almost certainly legal” and approved by both internal and institutional review boards, anger erupted from Internet users when they got wind of the nature of the experiment, according to the Atlantic. We're not thrilled that the social network made some of its users (maybe even you) feel bad on purpose. But then, where does manipulation end and science begin?