Facebook doing unauthorized “Emotional Experiments” on us. My thoughts on the Outrage

Facebook has been doing “Emotional Experiments” on users, and Forbes reports that many people are very upset. (The experiments and their results are pretty fascinating in their own right, but that’s not the topic of this post.)

Facebook, unsurprisingly, says there’s nothing wrong with what it’s doing

I agree with Facebook. Two sayings come to mind:

“You get what you pay for” (facebook is FREE.)
“Beggars can’t be choosers” (if you don’t like it, feel free not to use it!)

If Facebook lied, that would be a different issue. Even if something is free, it’s wrong to misrepresent it. But they didn’t. When we signed up, we agreed to let facebook decide what to show us. It’s their website, not ours, and they can change its design for any reason they feel like.

Two observations I find interesting from this are:

1: The level of personal investment we can feel in something that, really, is not ours. I have “my” facebook page. It’s not REALLY mine, it’s facebook’s. But the fact that I started it, update it, experience emotion from it, and control it to some degree, makes me feel ownership, and in some peoples’ case, makes them feel entitled to be indignant when Facebook decides to make a change.

2: How easy it is to become accustomed to luxuries, to the point that we feel entitled to them, and even to the point that we get irritated when they’re changed in a tiny way. Could you imagine having facebook when we were kids? We didn’t even have cellphones. We had to walk miles, barefoot, to school, uphill both ways! (ok, maybe not that.) The level of life convenience/ease has gone up enormously, yet we become used to new things so quickly, and demand that they be made better.

The good news from a psychological perspective, is that both of these observations are actually tools we can use for personal growth:

on the first point – taking “ownership” of something can be healthy, such as when someone wants to improve in a specific area, and takes an active step towards make the improvement into a reality. The more “ownership” that person takes of the process of change, the more he/she feels personal pride and drive to move forward, and the level of improvement and satisfaction will be greater.

And on the second point – when someone wants to change or improve an aspect of their life, it is because that area has been causing distress and misery. Once a person succeeds in making positive changes to “fix” the issue, life often seems like a renewed experience, fresh and wonderful, as the person is released from the unhealthy pattern. It is then easy to become accustomed to this “luxury” of not being in constant emotional pain. This positive change can then become a permanent part of a person’s life to the point that it is unthinkable to go back to the “old way of doing things” and the unhappiness that caused.




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