Report: Facebook Tweaked Users News Feeds Based On Emotions
By Edward Cardenas
SOUTHFIELD (CBS Detroit) – Social media network Facebook reportedly conducted a study on more than half a million of its users to gauge the spread of emotions among its users.
Facebook reportedly conducted the research for one week in January 2012 on 689,003 randomly selected users to view the emotional impact of positive and negative posts on users. The study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America was published in “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks,”
“We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out,” wrote Adam D.I. Kramer, data scientist at Facebo0k, in a post. “At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook. We didn’t clearly state our motivations in the paper.”
Those conducting the study never viewed the Facebook feed of users, but instead monitored keywords in posts which indicated a positive or negative emotion. The study tested whether exposure to positive and negative emotions changed users posting behaviors.
More than 3 million posts were analyzed, containing over 122 million words, 4 million of which were positive (3.6%) and 1.8 million negative (1.6%), according to the report.
The report stated that “people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods.”
While some may object to the study, Facebook users consented to being involved in studies by agreeing to terms and conditions when creating an account.
While the study did find there was some evidence to the affects of manipulating the feed, “the actual impact on people in the experiment was the minimal amount to statistically detect it — the result was that people produced an average of one fewer emotional word, per thousand words, over the following week,” Kramer wrote.
He was also apologetic for the controversy the report has caused.
“Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone,” Kramer wrote. “I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. ”
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