BY JENNIE MCNULTY
As a comedian, I have spent many nights on stage making jokes at Facebook’s expense. It’s actually a union rule, to remain in good standing one must tell one joke about being poked per year or discuss two cat videos. And, I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of Facebook anyway. I don’t hate it. It can be fun and informative and yes, of course, I appreciate the networking and marketing benefits. I do use it to promote my work and shows, but I would not be unhappy if we woke up tomorrow and it were gone from the World Wide Web. I would click that like button.
The reasons I don’t like Facebook are many and varied. I know I’m in the minority on that, but when I heard about Facebook’s “emotional manipulation study” I thought for sure I was vindicated. Even the title sounds creepy. I was ready to joyfully jump up and down in righteous indignation. See? I’m right! Facebook is the work of the devil and its minions here on earth. Give me a minute and I’ll figure out how to tie all of this to Dick Cheney and/or the Koch brothers.
No doubt you heard of the study controlling what was seen in the news feeds of 689,003 people or, as Facebook’s, Adam Kramer, put it, “minimally deprioritizing a small percentage of content in the News Feed (based on whether there was an emotional word in the post).”
And, according to Kramer, “The reason we did this research is because we care about the people that use our product. 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. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid using Facebook.”
For the record, their results seemed to indicate the opposite. “We found that seeing a certain kind of emotion (positive) encourages it rather than suppresses it.” So feel free to post those vacation photos of the world’s largest ball of twine. You won’t make anyone jealous and that twine is quite photogenic.
Wow, how could I have been so wrong? Look at that. Facebook loves us!
They only did the study because they care about our emotional responses and well-being. They only want to make sure we’re OK and, more importantly, we are not going to leave their virtual playground with all our friends. Because, like Bette Midler says, “Ya got to have friends.”
So, by gosh, it sure looks like the biggest friend I have on Facebook is Facebook itself. Making sure my news feed is a healthy, not too happy, not too sad, organic, gluten free list of things that keeps me scrolling in the deep. What a relief. And, in these difficult times, it’s nice to know someone has our back. Who cares if they are holding a knife.
I know some are complaining that this sort of manipulation and result tracking might be a violation of laws regarding psychological testing. I know some are concerned because, due to the theoretically anonymous nature of the study, it is possible minors were included. And, some are mad because the Facebook Terms of Service (and you know we all read that before we signed up for Facebook), which states that what we post can be collected for “research,” didn’t actually include the word “research” until AFTER this study was conducted. But those people are being too critical. I mean, come on, Facebook’s just looking out for us. Mr. Kramer told us that, “the goal of all our research at Facebook is to learn how to provide a better service. I can tell you our goal was never to upset anyone.”
Facebook loves me, yes I know, because my news feed tells me so.
So, that’s the good news. Now, here’s the even better news.
Surely, now that the altruistic nature of Facebook has been uncovered, it stands to reason that they will be doing all kinds of things to promote our well-being. For example, if anyone out there had issues with mental health during January of 2012, when the study was conducted, you must have been one of the nearly 700,000 study subjects and I’m sure Facebook will pay for your therapy.
Counseling is expensive and if there’s one thing “researchers” understand, it’s numbers. Did you overeat when you saw all the lovely pictures of your friend’s food? Are you now overweight now? Your liposuction is on Facebook.
Did you get married because your wall started to look like a bridal magazine? I’m sure a meeting can be arranged for you with Pope Francis about that annulment. I mean, really, without that manipulation you would never have married that buffoon.
And, if you didn’t marry and instead, uh, acted out, it’s OK, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just let them know and Facebook will most assuredly sponsor that vaginal rejuvenation.
It’s a big thing when you realize you’ve misjudged someone or something. When you find out that cold, manipulating, schemer is really just a concerned big brother. What a relief.
I suggest we all go to Facebook’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/facebook) and tell them just how swell we now know it to be. Or, better yet, don’t go on it at all and tell some real, live person in your life how swell it is. There still are some folks not on Facebook to recruit, you know. You can recognize them. They’re the ones eating their meal, not photographing it.