Emotionally Speaking………….

I usually start my day with a cup of coffee or tea and a Calvin & Hobbs cartoon from Hindustan Times to go with it. I will share with you one cartoon which I found particularly insightful. Calvin & Hobbs go out on a picnic, sight a beautiful spot under a tree and decide to relax. Hobbs exclaims: “What a perfect day for an outing!” And they settle down and start relaxing under a tree. After a while Calvin gets bored and says: “If nothing happens around here soon, I’m going to get out of this place”.

How true! we have lost our capacity to enjoy perfect or peaceful days. Who wants an uneventful day? We would like our days to be filled with events which cause emotional changes from time to time. The only time one would love to hear the word Uneventful is from a surgeon after an operation!

Yes, this is what Face Book tried to do with their clients. They simply wanted to make the days we spend with them more interesting! Hello FB users, are you aware that FB has tried to manipulate your emotions in an experiment conducted secretly on 700,000 users? This experiment was done to study the effect of deliberate change in emotional content of News feed on one’s mood and behaviour. FB published their findings recently in PNAS(proceedings of national academy of sciences).

Predictably, this caused anger among several users who felt FB had deliberately tried to make people sad or happy.

It was argued in favour of FB by some that this happens all the time in the internet. Google, twitter etc keep doing it for enhancing the users’ experience. Why single out FB alone? I believe these companies employ data mining scientists with hefty salaries just to do research of this kind. Obviously data mining at the personal level is big business today.

Don’t you think it is unfair? I think it is. Without our knowledge, we are being treated as laboratory rats. FB, Google , Twitter etc are quietly collecting personal information being given away free by the users across the world and using it for carrying out research to manipulate us. In the particular paper published by FB, they had deliberately tweaked News Feed by selectively filtering out positive words in a story and tried to see what effect it had on the people’s behaviour as seen through their posts. In another case they did just the opposite , that is, removed the negative words and monitored its effect on the users. The emotional behaviour did get manipulated as anticipated by the research group.

It’s further contended by some defenders of FB that ad agencies are also constantly exploiting our emotions by bombarding us with false claims. That still doesn’t make it right. Surely internet, gadgets and apps are getting smarter and we, on the contrary are getting dumber and emotionally vulnerable. Add to that such deliberate experiments and you have a perfect recipe to transform humans into Robots and take us closer to a world predicted by George Orwell in his famous novel NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR.

Anyway this post is not a lament on manipulations that go on in the internet. Internet and social media sites are here to stay and have become part of our lives. This is just to create awareness so that we look at our daily interactions with internet as no more than a virtual reality.


Published in: on July 6, 2014 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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