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Facebook — the Big Tobacco of Social Media

21:55:00 - 08/07/2014

There was outrage recently when Facebook users discovered that they may have been part of a large social media experiment that manipulated their emotional responses on the network. Frightening, Orwellian and disturbing have been used to describe this perceived breach of privacy. This is just the beginning.

While brands have been manipulating our emotions for years through advertising (everything from color scheme to the images being flashed in front of us elicit an emotional response); this is a grand opportunity to get in on the ground floor of really getting into our brains. Perhaps though, brands won’t be the ones who are writing massive checks to Zuckerberg and co.

“The real value of this recent Facebook dive into communist style thought control is that they can identify people who are most susceptible to having their emotions manipulated,” artist, author and sociologist Pablo Solomon tells me via email. Pablo believes there is one group of advertisers who might be frothing at the mouth for this new form of outreach — Politicians.

“This is a dream come true to those politicians who wish to govern a nation of dependent zombies.”

Pablo also believes that this latest foray into the grey area of public privacy on social media will be close to the final straw for Facebook. While that might hold true in some alternate universe where people actually quit things that are bad for them, in this universe we aren’t ready to put down the social media bottle.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula tells me that he “sounds like Chicken Little when I talk about the mental health ramifications of social media.” Dr. Durvasula agrees with the overall assertion that social media is a choice, but not a choice unlike that of tobacco.

“I like to think of Zuckerberg as the new big tobacco and he sucked everyone in,” Dr. Durvasula tells me. “There is a real ‘caveat emptor’ that people somehow are missing here in the world of social media — and at this point users are so deep into it (in that way Facebook sort of reminds me of tobacco) — that they aren’t willing to give it up, or are giving in (perhaps angrily) to the idea that they may be mined or manipulated in this space.”

Just like tobacco, we are all checking the box agreeing to terms. There is no requirement to use Facebook at all (which is why I just use it to post mostly nonsense and links to my own articles — emotionally manipulate that Facebook!)

“I think there is a pervasive naiveté we are observing amongst social media users, especially FB users,” Dr. Durvasula continues. “There is a seemingly utopic anticipation that this information and this site exists solely for social purposes.” Facebook is a business offering a free service — one which we clearly take for granted.

Dr. Durvasula believes that this latest study on emotional contagion was quite interesting and so do I. So does every political adviser around the nation, ready to ditch public access attack ads and get right into our heads. Facebook and overall social media may be a worse addiction than Tobacco, as we can’t tell you that your clothes stink. Hell, your clothes stink.

Don’t forget to share this post on Facebook!

--- originally published here: ---

Image: Flickr photo by SharonaGott. Used with gratitude via a creative commons license


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