Isn’t anyone else disturbed by the news that Facebook experimented on its users and manipulated their emotions without their knowledge or consent?

Even more perplexing:  why wasn’t the headline the day after the news broke “MASS EXODUS FROM FACEBOOK.  Half a billion users delete their accounts over news of manipulation”?

Don’t people care about being manipulated?  Are people immune to it?  Or do they assume manipulation is part of the Facebook experience?

Is Tyler Cowen right when he wrote in the article Should we care that Facebook is manipulating us? that

clearly plenty of ads try to manipulative us with positive emotions, and without telling us.  There are also plenty of sad songs, or for that matter sad movies and sad advertisements, again running an agenda for their own manipulative purposes.  Is the problem with Facebook its market power?  Or is the sheer and unavoidable transparency of the notion that Facebook is inducing us to pass along similar emotions to our network of contacts, thus making us manipulators too, and in a way which is hard to us to avoid thinking about?

Is there a lack of outrage because users are manipulators too?

Is there some sort of trade-off being made — users are provided a platform that allows them to connect and influence others and the price is providing data and allowing Facebook to sell it and manipulate it in order to make money?

Is what Facebook did just “product testing” as Henry Blodget suggests in Business Insider? Is it harmless and no different from the product testing done by any other company?

Maybe it is just product testing.  Maybe manipulation is a part of life.  But isn’t it creepy?

Facebook can manipulate your mood. It can affect whether you vote. When do we start to worry? asked Laurie Penny in a New Statesman article.

Shouldn’t now be the time everyone is worried?  Even non-Facebook users?  Laurie Penny is right: “Nobody has ever had this sort of power before. No dictator in their wildest dreams has been able to subtly manipulate the daily emotions of more than a billion humans so effectively. There are no precedents for what Facebook is doing here. Facebook itself is the precedent.”  One company is able to manipulate a billion people.  Isn’t that scary?

What’s even scarier is that quitting seems to not even be an option anymore.  Is Laurie Penny correct when she wrote “There is a cost to not participating in these new networks”?  You have to be on Facebook because everybody is on Facebook and everyone is on Facebook so that means you have to be on Facebook?


Isn’t the scariest fact of all that Facebook has become so huge and pervasive and is used and relied upon by so many people that being experimented on and having your personal information being sold is less of a concern than having a platform that allows those people to connect and be connected?

Have people completely forgotten that human beings have been connecting without Facebook’s help, like, forever?

Am I overreacting?

Or is my gut reaction — that we are heading down a path that is very troubling and problematic — right?

Isn’t everyone basically crossing their fingers, hoping that Facebook uses its power wisely?

Is that a good idea?

Aren’t we all the “proverbial frog that, placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the danger it’s in and is boiled alive. Real frogs will, in fact, jump out of the pot — but never mind. The hypothetical boiled frog is a useful metaphor for a very real problem: the difficulty of responding to disasters that creep up on you a bit at a time” as Paul Krugman wrote in 2009?

If we’re that frog and the gradually heated water is companies like Facebook having access to and manipulating a billion people and those people seemingly don’t care that they give up all their freedom and privacy for easy to use, cool, and convenient technology, we’re fucked.





5 thoughts on “Questions

  1. I deleted my FB account 6 months ago – no regrets. I’ve missed it lately, but your post confirms my decision to delete my account.


  2. I deleted Facebook about 3 years ago, like bho47, no regrets. That being said, I can see why some people feel like they need it now. That’s the power of it, people don’t remember how they did things prior to Facebook. People always ask me, how do you stay in touch with people without facebook?!?! And i’m like ummm the same way i always have, phone or e-mail.

    Anyways great article. If i still had FB i would definitely be very taken back by this….


    1. Deleting your account can provide clarity as well. I read somewhere recently about a woman who suddenly deleted her account. She had 250 “friends”. Only 5 of those friends contacted her and asked her if she was OK. Just like that she found out who really cared about her.
      I think if FB suddenly disappeared, in about a week everthing would go back to normal. I think somehow people would remain connected.


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