Uptimes and Downtimes (Emotional Contagion & Facebook) with @drbexl

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When I went travelling (and started writing my first blog), I took with me a New Testament & Psalms. I went on the LICC Toolbox course before travelling, and Mark Greene said Psalms could be particularly important for the the difficult times, in order to read something uplifting …

This brings me to the topic of the Facebook study into ’emotional contagion’, which we had a good discussion about (on Facebook). In 2012 Facebook undertook a week-long study of around 700k users for emotional contagion – if they identified positive/negative posts in users news feeds (by identifying specific words), and increased either positive/negative posts to seek to identify if that changed the emotional level of status updates made by that user.

Facebook uses an algorithm that determines what we see in our feed, as we wouldn’t cope with every post from everyone we’re friends with, especially users such as me who have 1500 friends. Messages are prioritised from those you have recently/frequently interacted with, images, those that others are interacting with, etc. in order to manage feed-load.

Some would say that Facebook always manipulates the feed, but the issue about this study is that it can be counted as ‘uninformed consent’ – although we will have ticked something in our Facebook terms and conditions that says they are allowed to do this kind of thing, most of us wouldn’t have (read!) realised this.

Those suffering from mental health issues are particularly upset about this – in that Facebook appears to be showing a lack of recognition that many are on an emotional knife-edge and can be triggered by small changes – and we have to ask what psychological training Facebook coders, etc. have before they undertake this kind of research.

I remember reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson when I was in a previous job, and we talked about how infectious moaning/complaining can be, and how important the role of the manager is in keeping morale up in the office … I also remember – whilst training as a life coach – talking about how important 1% changes are (particularly when large changes feel overwhelming) – especially in encouraging positive moods and enabling positive change.

Do we need to run away from Facebook, or simply be aware that this kind of thing exists (and remember that Facebook is a commercial entity)? How much do we need to seek to fill our minds with the positive, the uplifting, the challenging, or…?

Listen to the audio on BBC Radio Newcastle, from about 1:38 onwards.*

Further Reading: 

*I’ll seek to capture this audio before it disappears.

About drbexl

Life Explorer, academia/learning, Christian, cultural history, WW2 posters: Keep Calm & Carry On, digital world, coach. Twitter: @drbexl @digitalfprint, @ww2poster @bigbible