Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard that Facebook is currently being criticized for manipulating about 700,000 of its users’ news feeds to see whether or not it would affect their emotions. They concluded that it did. Now, a lot of people on the interwebs are all butthurt about the fact that they were 1.) unknowingly manipulated by media and 2.) used as research subject without their express consent.
I have to get up on my big old soap box here and loudly call Bullshit. Yep, it’s gonna be one of those posts.
Watch the Video on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbTJEZxC0rQ
Are you kidding me?! Never mind that we are being and have continuously been manipulated by all manner of messages 24/7 since the 1920’s when Edward Bernays, the father of modern advertising, figured out that if you speak to consumers’ insecurities, you can sell more stuff. This concept quickly morphed from merely using consumers’ lack of self-esteem against them, to actually perpetuating and even creating more of those insecurities. Never mind that 99% of most people’s opinions are not their own and have merely been unquestioningly adopted from their parents, teachers, politicians, television, movies, magazines, and society as a whole. Never mind that the real issue is not whether or not others are trying to manipulate us, but that we are so manipulatable in the first place.
Let’s debate if it was right or wrong for Facebook to do exactly what everyone else is doing. Yeah, because that’s what’s important.
We’re missing the point
We’re focusing on the wrong questions. But that’s the core of the whole problem, isn’t it?
I’m not here to defend Facebook, believe me. I’m also not here to tell you that the powers that be are trying to manipulate your brain waves through the TV and you should start wearing tinfoil hats immediately. I’m here to argue that we shouldn’t give a shit what Facebook and their brethren do. We should make it totally irrelevant. Instead of fighting against those who would manipulate us, we should become unmanipulatable. I’m here to change the damn debate.
What do you actually think?
How many of your own, personal opinions are actually yours? Do you form opinions quickly, or do you take your time, gathering information, trying out different points of view instead of just dismissing the unfamiliar? Are your opinions set in stone or do you reevaluate them often, making sure that what you believe is still in line with your ongoing and never ending evolution as a human being? Do you tend to agree with those around you, or do you challenge perceptions and beliefs, preferring to form your own point of view? Do you tend to think of things in terms of “right opinion” and “wrong opinion” or are you comfortable living in the space in between?
Opinions shouldn’t be formed quickly, especially not big, important ones. They should be deliberated over, thought about, debated and be open to change. And this is why this whole debate about the rightness or wrongness of what Facebook did bugs me. Because no matter what side of that debate you’re on, you’re still totally missing the point that we don’t have to pay any attention to what’s in our newsfeeds, or on our television screens or written in magazines. The question should never be about how to control those who control our minds. The question I want to ask is: why aren’t we freaking controlling our own damn minds in the first place?
The study that Facebook was conducting was looking at whether or not it’s possible to manipulate someone’s emotions by showing them either positive or negative impressions. Well, duh, of course it is. But this is not some kind of inherent psychological human trait that we can’t do anything about. It’s simply the result of living reactively. If your emotional stability is determined by whatever just happens to pop up in your field of vision, then you’ve got much bigger problems than what Facebook is currently doing. Because that means you’re living reactively, instead of deliberately.
Why living reactively sucks eggs
When you live your life reactively, you are making everything and everyone around you responsible for how you feel. This is a rather difficult way to live. You have to try and control everything and everyone that doesn’t agree with what you think is right, with what you’ve been told to think is right. You live your life in black and white; there are “right opinions” and “wrong opinions”. The grey areas in between, the ones that require you to think for yourself, are scary. You’re not seeking happiness, you’re just trying to stay safe, and anyone who thinks differently from you is clearly a threat to that safety.
And when you find out that those whom you’ve entrusted with your emotional wellbeing didn’t take good care of it, even manipulated you for their own purposes, you get angry. How dare they not take this responsibility seriously? How dare they take advantage of you? After all, you trusted them!
I have a question: Why? Why do you entrust what is essentially your own mental and emotional health to someone else? Why would you hand over the only thing you actually have control over, your own, unique point of view, to others? And how many times do they have to abuse the privilege before you take that responsibility back and put it where it belongs – with you?
Let’s break the cycle
How about, instead of ranting about the audacity of those who have, once again, not honored the immense gift we have entrusted them with, like drunken sailors lying on the pub floor, briefly raising our heads to yell “Fuck You!” at some random stranger before falling back into an inebriated stupor, ultimately changing nothing, we actually flip the script once and for all? How about we change the damn debate? What if we stopped trying to get others to manipulate us better, we simply stopped allowing them to manipulate us at all? What if we challenged every assumption and opinion? What if we stopped allowing magazines to tell us how to feel about ourselves? What if we didn’t buy anything simply because we were told to like it? What if we actually (gasp!) thought for ourselves, gathered information and formed informed opinions with the ability to evolve them?
What if, instead of having the same argument over and over again, we just walked away?
What if we stopped giving ratings to TV shows that perpetuate damaging stereotypes? What if we didn’t vote for misogynistic politicians just because they have nice hair? What if we decided not to listen to the opinions about others, but got to know people ourselves before jumping to conclusions? What if we simply withdrew our support from those who send a message of hatred, prejudice and intolerance?
What if you took a look at all of your opinions and asked yourself how many of them are actually yours? How much of what you believe is the result of careful consideration on your part? You might be surprised at just how much of what you live every day is governed by what others have told you. You might be shocked, in fact, to discover that almost none of the rules you live your life by are your own. You might even be embarrassed to realize that you’ve even argued vehemently in defense of a position that isn’t yours (we all have, let yourself off the hook). Keep in mind that the angrier you get when someone disagrees with you, the less sure you are of your own position. This starts to shed a whole new light on fundamentalism, doesn’t it?
People are waking up
You may have noticed that this Facebook debacle is just one more fight in a long string of ugly debates that are coming to the surface lately. People are either screaming at each other in mindless defense of positions they are actually quite insecure about, or, and this is the beautiful part, stopping in their tracks and walking groggily into the dawning realization that all is not as it seems. Something that they’ve just assumed is dead wrong, turns out not to be. Someone they just knew was the villain, turns out to be the victim. And the responsibility for how we feel and think and live our lives cannot lie in the hands of others. It has to lie with ourselves.
Nope, I’m not here to argue in favor or against what Facebook did. I’m here to tell you that I don’t care and neither should you. I’m here to change the debate. It doesn’t matter what images are thrown at you if you exercise your ability to think for yourself, choose what you give your focus to and form your own, educated opinions. It doesn’t matter what some company does as long as you remember that you don’t have to buy their products. It doesn’t matter what the TV shows you as long as you remember that you have the power to change the channel and turn it off. And if you don’t like the content that’s being distributed, make your own. It’s never been easier to voice your opinion. It’s also never been easier to research all sides of any topic. There really is no excuse to live mindlessly anymore. There really is no excuse for handing that much power, the power over your own experience in this physical reality, over to others. But if you do, you really have no right to complain.
You may or may not agree with what I’ve written here (and I’m actually arguing for your ability to do either!), but I sincerely hope that you’ll at least think about the point I’ve raised. Sure, it’s easier to go and blame others for not giving you something better to focus on, but that’s missing the fact that you have the ability to choose. You can choose what to give your attention to. You can choose what to think and believe and feel. That is your power. Isn’t it time you stopped arguing with those who shouldn’t even be part of the debate and took that power back?
Just catching up on your posts after a few weeks and loving them. Thanks so much for your insights and funny sailor talk, you make me smile, rock on Melody x
I just read this post today, and well, just today, I also heard this song for the first time on the radio. I didn’t hear the lyrics that well because the song was just playing in the background. But I liked the rhythm and tune. So I launched the music ID app, found the name, and downloaded it. Then, when I heard the lyrics, I just loved it and thought you might as well. Then, I read this and thought, wow, isn’t this the perfect place to share the song?
Also, I think of what facebook did as a gift. After all, if you saw depressing or positive things in your newsfeed, it, like anything else, is your own manifestation. 🙂 So it might tell you how you are doing vibrationally. If only more people lived the LOA …
I think you’re the one who’s missing the point, Melody.
The controversy has little, if anything, to do with the manipulation of peoples’ feelings. It has everything to do with privacy. Specifically, that Facebook went and conducted this study on Facebook users without their permission and without their knowledge. Yes yes yes, I’m sure we all probably agreed to it in some tiny line in FB’s TOS but it still feels like an invasion of privacy.
Don’t believe me? Let’s assume everyone on Facebook was indeed immune to influence. Facebook, no matter how it arranged its feed, would not be able to affect peoples’ decisions. With that, the study is still there, as is the feeling that Facebook tried to manipulate people. Whether FB succeeded or not doesn’t matter. They pulled a dirty move.
Oh, one last thing:
“What if we challenged every assumption and opinion? What if we stopped allowing magazines to tell us how to feel about ourselves? What if we didn’t buy anything simply because we were told to like it? What if we actually (gasp!) thought for ourselves, gathered information and formed informed opinions with the ability to evolve them?”
So in other words, you want everyone to be a skeptic? 😉
For the record, I personally don’t care about the study.
I get your point, but mine was that while yes, FB pulled a dirty move, those dirty moves are being pulled on us all day, every day by multiple entities. The problem is much more systemic than just Facebook. We can be outraged, sure, but let’s be outraged by the real problem, not just a symptom…
Most people define the word “skeptic” in a negative way. It’s often synonymous with “cynic”. But yes, I think we should be positively skeptical. Don’t believe something just because it’s on TV or on the internet. And yes, I get that I’m preaching to the choir here. The people looking for sites like mine are already thinking for themselves. But there’s always the chance that someone just waking up will find a blog like this and get some much needed validation. 🙂
Thanks so much for adding to the discussion.
Having your own opinion, and not just going through the motions is a hard thing to do. Because now all of a sudden you have to explain why you disagree, when everybody else agrees with everybody. Some people actually gets angry, because you refuse to accept the status quo, but prefer to have your opinion. I have been called anti christ, anti social, psychopath, attention seeker, crazy and worse. However here I am today, with my own opinions about what’s happening around me
and in the world. They still get there opinions pre-packaged from everything and anybody else, except from their own minds.
I live under a rock, a beautiful rainbow coloured one. First I’ve heard of this story and I couldn’t be bothered to even go and read up about it now. I just don’t care about BS like this. I have always been immune to advertising, I’m not a consumerist by any means and I really don’t give a rat’s bottom about people’s opinions, especially those who make a living out if writing about them, ie, journalists, particularly the tabloid variety.
I agree with Melody, make up your own mind, you’ve got one and nobody owns it. Thanks Melody for once again talking sense and reminding us to take ownership of our minds and our thoughts.
I just have to say “Well done!” You really rocked this topic Melody! Thank you for saying so vehemently what I FEEL! My guess is that you are preaching to the choir here, but some sleep walkers may stumble onto your blog and actually wake up. The only time I watch TV is when it’s DVRed so I don’t have to watch commercials. When you stop watching, you get really sensitive to the insulting drivel that is vomited out on the sleep walkers who are mindlessly watching for hours on end. It’s sad, really.
Thank you for putting out thoughtful, thought-provoking information for the small percentage of us who really don’t give a damn about Facebook, or any of the mind-numbing media garbage! Keep up the great work! You are making a difference!
I was wondering if you were able to spit that drunken sailor comment out in one go. Loved the bloopers! 🙂
I have to admit, I was one of those who initially was angry when I read about what FB did. But not because I personally felt manipulated. Normally, I hardly ever use FB. But I know quite a few loved ones who seem to be *ahem* GLUED to it. I posted it on my feed but I have a lot more people on my friend’s list who are no where near the point of waking up to what gets done to them, so I got angry and then reposted it. I was hoping even if just ONE person saw it and was like “Hey! Ya know what? Maybe I should spend less time on this stupid site and go outside or spend time with my REAL family who is sitting in front of me”….well mission accomplished! 🙂
People take FB way too seriously. When I first started slacking off on my FB usage, I had a friend call me and ask me if I was depressed because she hadn’t “seen” me on FB in a while. I was like “Really?”. I had no clue people took FB that seriously. It’s almost funny sometimes, but sad sometimes as well.
But you are very right. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be so easily manipulated. I’ve also noticed that what I see on my feed has changed as I evolve. My hubby complains all the time that all he sees on his feed are people complaining. He and I went to school together. We know a lot of the same people, so we have many mutual friends. I hardly ever see people complaining. My feed is FULL of inspirational pics and qoutes from my “liked” pages. So uh yeah…..manipulate your own damn feed because apparently that’s very possible. 🙂
Hey! What if the article ITSELF was the FB test? Oooooooh.
*cue twilight zone music*
Edelweiss, thanks for your words of wisdom. I learned something new today.
I think Melody is trying to say: “there is a third option”, there is a “none of the above” option.
If this is where she is going, she’s barely scratching the surface.
For those who wants to get pass the various manipulations, let me link you to a good read.
I really love when you do these kinds of posts. They always seem to correspond with a conflict event in my own life and push me back on the path. Thank You.
I came across this wonderful quote a little while back: “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” – Andrew Lewis. Good to always remember this.
I like Facebook. I am an expat with friends scattered all over the world. I find it is an easy way to stay up to date. And I don’t have to read what I don’t like and I don’t have to share what I object to and I subscribe to many uplifting and happy feeds (like Melody’s!). I don’t visit often, but when I do I often find something uplifting. And I ignore the rest.
I never actually heard about this, but before you even began speaking, I already knew I didn’t give a single damn, governments and advertising agencies have been manipulative since forever.
But I do want to replay that single second at 5:31 over and over and over again until it stops being HILARIOUS to me, which might just be never, because it was amazing… I would have had a lot more bloopers for that part that you, was very well done.
I love you.
That is all <3
Looooooooooooove this post!!! LOVE IT! I tried to explain this to my friends (you said it more eliqunetly, I am going to forward this post to them) Since living my life through the law of attraction, I have taken back my power and selected what kind of media, social network I want to focus on. Unfortunately people let media and social network dectate how they should feel.
Hi Melody, great topic! Couldn’t have explained it better! 🙂 So very true!!!!
Zombies – did someone mention zombies?
For the first time in months I had to go right into the centre of the city. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to walk due to the infuriating number of people text-walking. They walk sideways into you – they suddenly stop mid-stride. They stand in doorways of trains and at the top of escalators. Totally lost in their own digital world. What has this got to do with FB? – well it is all part of the same loss of self-determination/awareness and consciousness. When hundreds and hundreds of people cant even walk down a city street sensibly because they are totally transfixed by what is happening on a screen in their hand – we have crossed a threshold. I know getting irritated with these people is not good for my vibration and karma, but holy crap – I want them to look up and pay attention to where they are going! (And I mean this both physically and metaphysically)
Yes! This is major irritation for me. And I know it is my reality and I am choosing my irritation, but still…
Do. Not. Care. Some years back I made a VERY conscious decision not to FB. I could not understand why people wanted to tell a profit-making corporation EVERY SINGLE SINGLE thing about themselves. Am I the only one that has read Orwell/1984?
I get that FB makes it easy to connect. But you know what – I prefer to connect with people who make a bit of an effort.
Some years ago my TV aerial broke. I tried to get it fixed – but no serviceman (has to be a man) would turn up to do the job. So it stayed broken. Eventually I moved the big plasma TV I had once lusted after out of the loungeroom as it was taking up too much space. I know doubt it even works. You know what? I dont miss TV at all.
When the new delivery guy could never lob my newspaper onto my driveway – meaning I missed the delivery more often than I got it – I stopped subscribing. You know what – I dont miss the newspaper. Using the LOA I seem to know what I need to know to get by in the world – and the rest – is just noise which I now dont hear. I have time to think, meditate, write real letters to real friends, watch clouds, walk the dog, think. Did I mention think?
FB is not your benevolent best friend. FB is a profit making enterprise and you are providing the raw material – content – for free.
Thanks for your post Melody. I’ll stop here as I could rant on and on and on and on….
I’m glad I’m not the only one who takes the little, meaningful things in life (that would make others go crazy) and appreciate them!
I LOL’d, I guess I’m living under a rick cause I had no idea about this! But I loved your article! I don’t care and didn’t know about it because I choose what I read on my fb page. Thanks again, I love when you’re on your soapbox!
First, I hadn’t heard about this so thanks for sharing. Very interesting indeed. I loved this post because it speaks to a core issue we have…where do our beliefs come from? When I first got into my personal development ‘journey’ that is one of the first things I began evaluating. I asked myself why did I believe what I did, and upon further examination, I realized it was just stuff I had taken in from outside sources around me. Once I decided to believe more empowering things, my whole world changed. Great stuff as always!
Though I had to laugh because I am one of those people living under a rock and honestly hadn’t heard anything about this story until you mentioned it here.
Haha, me too, but I blame it on all those LOA teachers who argue that you shouldn’t watch the news and read papers and shit.
Anyhow, now that I know it still does not bother me, so whatever.
Melody, totally off topic but I think the dark background thing makes your hair look extra extra shiny 🙂
I must be one of those living under a rock, too. This is the first I’ve heard about this. I agree with Melody on this one, though — I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal because it’s not like every media agency out there isn’t doing the same thing. Reasons I don’t watch the news, and rarely have the TV on these days. I never liked the unbalanced emphasis on doom, gloom, pessimism and catastrophizing that the media clings to (the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy), and a while back I just couldn’t stomach it all anymore. So I stopped watching and listening. I focus instead on the stuff I want to see more of in the world and build on that. 🙂
Either I wasn’t one of the 700k, or I don’t follow enough negative pages to have noticed! I had no idea ’til I read this.
It’s amazing the amount of stuff I used to reprimand myself about or feel shame over or the opinions that I never actually took the time to think about that I got from family, the cool kids, or, even worse, movies. 🙂 I’m happy to say I’ve turned off auto-pilot in quite a few areas of my life. Still a bit more work to be done, though. 🙂
And the point about arguing and pushing more when you’re insecure about your position is dead on! At the beginning of my LOA learning when I was still kinda doubtful and in the “Could all of this really be true?” stage I would push and try to convince my mother that it was all true, and then get angry if she couldn’t see how “right” I was. 🙂 Now, it doesn’t bother me one bit. She has her beliefs, I have mine, and we’re both doing fine.
I actually hadn’t heard about this at all. I like my rock. 😉
I love the video format. AND I love the out takes at the end of this one.
I love the take you have on this. I actually hadn’t formed an opinion on it yet. And that’s pretty much because I had…1) Just found out about it, since I have not been on FB for quite a few years until very recently. And 2) I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it yet since I’ve got my mind on other things…like my own life.
I suppose if we’re going to be pissed at facebook we need to be pissed at directors, writers, producers of movies, TV shows, books and even commercials. We are surrounded by manipulators every day.
As far as opinions go…that’s something that is on my mind every so often because there was a time in my life I had lost myself so much I didn’t know my own opinion about just about EVERYTHING. I was involved in a severely unhealthy relationship and identifying with the way he thought.
I remember my thought process when I realized this and set about changing that. So now many years later I am pretty vigilant on gathering info and sometimes it takes me a long time before I form an absolute opinion about something. And it took me a long time to realize that that’s OK and I don’t have to rush to know what I think on a subject.
Love your ‘I call Bullshit” rants. It would be cool to see more.
Hugs for you.
This was awesome! Had to read watch this today! Hooray! And you are so cute with your bloopers, haha!
Unfortunately, most people live a reactionary life. I see zombies walking around like that. I know there is a shift taking place (hooray!) but most people will be in the dark. Not our problem, though. As Abe say, “they are irrelevant”. 🙂
“Keep in mind that the angrier you get when someone disagrees with you, the less sure you are of your own position”- yes, good to keep in mind.
OMG!!! ALL OF THIS A MILLION TIMES!
When I heard a news report this evening talking about this, I was like, “Um, this is some shit. WTF gets mad at a website for supposedly making them feel a certain way?!” I am so over this story. Thank you for bringing some sense to the world on this.