Then Facebook published the findings in a recent sciencey journal, and people got super mad all over the interwebs. Facebook was messing with their heads! Facebook was messing with their newsfeeds! Facebook is terribly bad and should be terribly ashamed!
Um, OK? Has everyone forgotten that marketing and advertising are things? They are things that bombard us all the time, everywhere we go, and they are designed to make us feel all kinds of feels and want all kinds of wants. They are absolutely messing with our heads at every moment of every day in an attempt to get us to part with our dollars in exchange for whatever it is they’re selling. It’s called capitalism. It’s pretty popular, as a rule, here in ‘Merica.
The only difference between that relentless everyday marketing and Facebook’s little experiment is that we can avoid Facebook. It’s easy. Don’t use it. The rest of that stuff is harder to avoid. Billboards, in particular, are an absolute plague of in-your-face, like-it-or-not, bikini-bodies-blown-up-to-the-size-of-a three-story-building marketing and advertising.
WAX YOUR WHOLE BODY OR YOU’RE NOT PRETTY ENOUGH, suggests the bikinied vixen on the billboard. (Which makes me wonder fleetingly if my grooming rituals are adequate.) My poor, battered psyche! But I don’t see anyone freaking out about that.
I use Facebook. I’m weirdly particular about who I’m friends with (as I am in real life), but I’m out there for some good reasons. For starters, they don’t charge me one thin dime for a service that allows me to communicate instantly with dear friends and family near and far, share my blog with those folks and offers me a fast, convenient platform for creating and distributing the annual invitation to our epic Halloween party.
But of course there’s a price for all that great stuff. And of course that price is privacy and information about me and my life and my friends and family. I get that. In fact, you know what? I like it.
Yes, marketing people, please make me the victim of your nefarious psychological experiments and send me coupons for things I like to buy. Please give me discounts on airfare for places I like to go. Yes, thank you for knowing that I do NOT want to see ads for golf clubs and I DO want to see ads for discount Calvin Klein bras. My fave!
Yes, I know Facebook is looking at my data, and at my friends’ data, and at the ways those data interact. Of course they are studying us and maybe even messing with us and responding accordingly. I mean, duh. Yes, I did notice that AS SOON as I started shopping for my son’s new soccer shoes online, all the ads I started seeing were for kids’ soccer shoes.
I know why that happened. I know they’re watching me. And I got a killer deal on soccer shoes because of it. GOOOAL!
If Facebook wants to mess around with my newsfeed and see if they can make me feel particular kinds of feels, that’s their right, I suppose. Their platform; their rules.
But if you’re that easily manipulated, you’ve probably got bigger problems than Facebook’s interest in your mood, anyway. I mean, I bet you bought a Snuggie, or stuck that weird sticker family or a monogram (why??) to the back of your minivan or clicked on the belly fat cure in those disturbing animated ads that make me feel queasy every time I see them.
Heck, you may have even given in to that billboard and gone for the wax. And no matter what Facebook is doing to your newsfeed, that experience has got to be a serious mood wrecker.