Have you been noticing an influx of emoticons in your Facebook feed of late? The following will make for interesting reading, so. It's only slightly unnerving and not at all surprising - assuming it's true. Of course it's true... no technological giant is going to let the wants, needs and whims of almost 1.3billion active users just lie idle.
The recent study, which was initially reported by NewScientist, saw the news feeds of 689,003 users manipulated to showcase more emoticons - to see if they were "contagious." Some of the feeds were filled with positive emoticons, while others were peppered with rather more negative sentiments.
Apparently: "Feelings, like viruses, can spread through online social networks. A face-to-face encounter with someone who is sad or cheerful can leave us feeling the same way. This emotional contagion has been shown to last anywhere from a few seconds to weeks." Makes sense. But does seeing 'sad faces' on social meedja have the same effect? According to the study, it does: "People were more likely to use positive words in Facebook posts if they had been exposed to fewer negative posts throughout the week, and vice versa."
Interesting (if a little obvious) insights into the effect of emoticons aside, the fact Facebook has been utilising their users' feed in such a way has sparked outrage (mostly on Twitter). However - if you read the fine print - the organisation hasn't actually breached anyone's privacy with the study.
Adam D.I Kramer, one of the scientists who undertook the study, has since posted the following response, which can be read in full here.
"The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product. We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends' negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook... While we’ve always considered what research we do carefully, we (not just me, several other researchers at Facebook) have been working on improving our internal review practices. The experiment in question was run in early 2012, and we have come a long way since then."