THIS JUST IN: Facebook has gone too far. They conducted what seems to me a highly unethical experiment on their users, to wit, they, “manipulated the news feeds of over half a million randomly selected users to change the number of positive and negative posts they saw. It was part of a psychological study to examine how emotions can be spread on social media.“ Read this NY Times article for more information. Here’s some of the bunk under which they explain the experiment:
“The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product,” Mr. Kramer wrote. “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 visiting Facebook.”
I had been taking a semi-break from Facebook, as I wrote about here. But I hadn’t fully disentangled myself. After reading that article, I deactivated my account. (If I want to reactivate an account, however, the helpful people at FB assure me that all I need to do is log in. I suppose if I were not still somewhat ambivalent, I would actually delete my account. But I’m not ready for that.) After I deactivated my account, I got this message:
|You have deactivated your Facebook account. You can reactivate your account at any time by logging into Facebook using your old login email and password. You will be able to use the site like you used to.|
“You will be able to use the site like you used to.” I suppose that’s factually true. But as I detox and regain my regular old brain (the one that used to be less distracted and harried, and less anxious…the one that reads and writes books), I doubt I will want to use it like I used to. Facebook had become, for me, a sort of shiny opiate. I don’t think I will choose to go back there on those terms.
I am encouraging whoever I talk to about this issue to read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. (About the book, Michael Agger at Slate wrote, “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”) What I like is that Carr writes about how we have choices in how we use this technology. It sounds like if we step back, slow down, unplug, and act consciously, we can reclaim what is being lost as we click and click and click without thinking.
I apologize if I sound evangelical, but this seems very, very important, and I am just waking up from an unintentionally self-imposed nightmare, and I must talk about it.