Depending on your opinion, people have either been (a) getting their panties in a twist or (b) expressing some legitimate concerns over Facebook’s sinister-sounding “emotional contagion” research project, news of which hit the Internet in full force yesterday.
The week-long study, conducted in January 2012, selectively altered the news feeds of about 70,000 Facebook users by skewing the news, photos, and statuses they saw to either an overly positive or overly negative angle. And as various media outlets have frantically reported, turns out we are influenced by other people’s moods and the type of information we receive. Crazy.
While Facebook itself collected the data, the results of the study were analyzed by scientists at Cornell – and before the world could even point an accusing finger towards Ithaca, a well-timed press release from Cornell’s Media Relations Office was quick to shout, “don’t look at us, bro.”
tl;dr of the release: Cornell’s Professor Hancock only had access to the research results, so you don’t need to worry about the school keeping your alcohol-fueled depressive statuses in a database somewhere, waiting to be revealed Snowden-style. The decision was also made to not consult the Human Research Protection Program because Hancock “was not directly engaged in human research”; or, we’re all just meaningless numbers in the end.
Cornell: even when they try to reassure you, they somehow make you feel worse.