Tag Archives: Facebook

Phase 2 of Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study

The following is a work of satire. I’m leading with this disclaimer, because many of these examples of Facebook’s attempts at mind control sound a little too believable.

Facebook's emotional experiments give user mixed messages
Facebook’s emotional experiments give user mixed messages

Phase 2 of Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study

This week, Phase 1 of Facebook’s emotional manipulation experiments came to light. Having altered their Data user policy to include “research,” Facebook performed a study to test its influence on users’ psychology.

Positioning positive posts in the first test group’s feeds, the social network manipulated users to make merry messages of their own. Satiating some in sullen cynicism, they found these users were prone to mope and moan. Inspirational influencers led to delighted updaters, while pensive peers led to cocky contributors.

In his article Digital Market Manipulation, Ryan Calo believes companies “will increasingly be able to trigger irrationality or vulnerability in consumers.”

Like the copywriter in the Film Roger Dodger says, “You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad… you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void.”

There’s speculation Facebook implemented these studies to appease its shareholders. These suspicions would make sense, had evidence of Facebook’s second study not surfaced. It turns out these early experiments were the tip of the iceberg.

Phase 2 Experiments:

The Relationship Status Randomizer

Toying with eagle eyed ex lovers and potential stalkers, Facebook implemented the relationship status randomizer, listing married users as single, turning their private phone numbers to public, then posting “Feeling lonely” as their status on the hour every hour.

The Bogus Baby Broadcaster

Since baby announcements get the most engagement, Facebook posted pregnancy news on behalf of couples who weren’t expecting, pulling random ultrasounds from Google image search. The Bogus Baby Broadcaster asked family friends to vote on children’s names. The most popular choices were: Link McFly Skywalker, for boys, and Buffy Ripley Croft, for girls.

Open House Mode

Taking advantage of their Oculus Rift acquisition, Facebook started mapping real spaces for Virtual Reality. Rift owners have reported early access to a feature called Open House Mode. Stitching architecture together from users’ pictures, Open House Mode allowed beta testers to go on virtual tours of their friends’ homes. Rendering intimate living spaces, complete with exteriors from Google Street View, Open House Mode points out structural vulnerabilities like flimsy locks and windows that can be pushed open. When pressed for comment, Facebook’s lawyers said this feature was for users who wanted to throw surprise parties for one another.

Facebook's new mind control features are its best ever
Facebook’s new mind control features are its best ever

The Celebrity Death Generator

Attempting to stir up grief, Facebook filled users feeds with links that falsely reported celebrity deaths. A candlelit vigil, for actor Steve Buscemi, caused a twenty block traffic jam in downtown Atlantic City. The show runners for Boardwalk Empire had already hired Digital Domain to create a CGI stand-in, by the time the real Buscemi appeared on set, hungover, but still breathing.

Bladder Triggers

Promoting posts containing the words “hand soap, linen towels,” and “quilted tissue,” Facebook found an uptick in geotags to ‘home thrones.’ Once users were in their bathrooms, Facebook blasted them with footage of kayakers going over waterfalls, three story fountains, and animated gifs of lemonade flowing from bottles. This drew criticism from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, fearing the effects a mass flushing incident will have on the nation’s sewer systems.

Samurai Shaming

Manufacturing outrage, Facebook posted updates as ESPN, tricking users into believing the Washington Redskins were changing their names to the Washington Yellowskins, replacing their native American logo with that of a crude cartoonish Samurai. Soon after, the hashtag #YesAllShoguns started trending.

Penicillin Petition

A petition to ban penicillin emerged, after Facebook made an article linking the antibiotic to childhood obesity trend. Medical authorities flooded the net to refute the claim, taking over the conversation in a matter of hours, but not soon enough to prevent media personality Jenny Mccarthy from endorsing the original findings. In the aftermath of the incident, Orange County has reported an outbreak of typhoid fever.

The Title Lengthening System

Some users awoke to find the phrase, “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next” tacked onto every link in their newsfeed, others saw, “… is the worst kind of discrimination.” Some reported seeing each link wrapped in the phrase “What… did is genius.” Everyone exposed to this title lengthening system reported feeling disturbed by the trend, as if they were the only ones noticing it happening.

Phantom Zuckerbergs

Businesses, sports teams, and families reported finding phantom images of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, in their photos. In each image, Zuckerberg appears to be interacting with people, bringing his hands in for a team building seminar, hitting a beer bong at a keger, even wrapping his arms around someone else’s grandmother. Those who noticed the phantom CEO, said he appeared immediately after they uploaded their pictures, as if he’d been there all along. One group experimented with the feature, pointing to a camp fire in mock horror, posting the photo, they found Zuckerberg emerging from the fire.

Facebook’s Milgram Experiment

Members of the psychoanalytic community were horrified when the social network conducted it’s own interpretation of the infamous Milgram Experiment.

Testing blind obedience, the Milgram Experiment urged subjects’ to commit actions at the expense of their conscience. Subjects took on the role of a teacher administrating electric shocks to a learner, an actor who was in no real danger. Every time the learner failed to answer a question, a man in a lab coat would instruct the teacher to hit them with shock treatment. Ignoring the actor’s cries, this authority figure would tell the teacher to up the voltage. The goal was to see how many of the subjects would protest, halting the experiment before the lethal jolt was given.

Facebook introduced a virtual version of this experiment. Believing they were administering electric shocks to prison inmates, users became executioners by way of an application. The app gave users a video stream of both a researcher, commanding them to move forward, and a prisoner writhing in agony.

Stanley Milgram found that 65 percent of his participants administered the lethal dose. Facebook, on the other hand, had a 100 percent success rate. In fact, the only user to report distress, was a man in Texas, claiming to be “bummed out” when the app disappeared from the service.


As social networks become more prevalent in our virtual lives their effects will be felt in the real world. If the cost of connecting means surrendering control of our bowels, most of us will pay it. If the price of admission is submitting to a full body scan, most of us will jump right in. We’ll accept, that if Facebook wants us to be happy, we’ll be happy, and if we’re sad, it’s because Facebook willed us to be. The social network works in mysterious ways.

We’re just guinea pigs, hitting ‘Like’ to get more food pellets, wandering through this maze of messages, looking for meaning. The all seeing eye of Zuckerberg watches us share pictures of our plates on first dates, engage in political debates, and when we think our cameras are off, he watches us masturbate.

Ours is not to question his reasoning, but to trust in his plan. We must open our minds and accept his influence.

Is Facebook toying with your emotions
Is Facebook toying with your emotions?

Check out my April Fool’s post Facebook Buys DrewChial.com and my article on how The Facebook Bait and Switch is already effecting authors.

We are the Internet

Full disclosure: I saw a design like this on chezapocalypse.com for their Cthulu themed YA Romance novel Awakened and I loved it.

As more information archeologists dig into the web, content creators have been getting the short end of the pickax. Dependent on services to host our treasures, we’re finding them hidden, buried behind copyright claims, closed off to adventurers who once sought to share them. The internet is still their dig site of choice, but it feels like we’re being shut out of it.

Last year, YouTube launched an Auto Content ID system to seek out copyrighted material from videos. It matched waveforms to a sound library. It protected YouTube from litigation, but it had an adverse impact on content creation.

These measures were to stop users from uploading entire albums and films scene by scene. Problems arose when critics needed to show b-roll from theatrical releases, DVDs, and video games to discuss them. Better safe than sorry, the copyright bots gave warnings to videos that used clips within the guidelines of fair use.

In the aftermath of Content ID, YouTuber Angry Joe wondered if game publishers were taking advantage of these changes to quell criticism, claiming infringement to censor bad press. His fear was that these new restrictions would reduce his show to a talking head with no visuals (fortunately, this wasn’t the case).

The panic generated by Content ID is one example of how artists are at the mercy of corporate entities.

Earlier this year, Facebook changed the way posts from Pages appeared in News Feeds. They wouldn’t show up until the Page Manager paid to push them. Authors trying to build a following were destined to be nickeled and dimed. With every link and every book announcement, they’d have to pay a micro-transaction.

These changes limit all the social elements from an author’s platform. Why post an amusing anecdote if you have to pay to promote? Why share a life event if it will reach less than one percent? Why upload a clip of an embarrassing karaoke duet if it’s not within your budget?

Unless your followers are checking your page, commenting and liking on their own, your voice will be reduced to a marketing drone. Your Page will be a graveyard for links to be buried in. I’ve written about Facebook’s changes at length, but I fear they’re part of a broader trend.

Hail Hydra!
Hail Hydra!

The FCC have proposed changes to their net neutrality policy, lifting regulations that make internet service providers neutral on the flow of info. ISPs will have the ability to charge websites more for express traffic. Data with financial backing will get to its destination faster than upstarts can afford to compete with.

I’ve written a satirical short on the subject, but these are my genuine feelings on it.

If Facebook is the only social network that can afford to stay in the fast lane, they’re the last ride we’ll get to see our friends. If YouTube is the only video-sharing service on the motorway, they can control whatever we say. If Netflix is the only streaming service on the Autobahn, we’ll be paying more to ride along. Less entrepreneurs on the expressway means less competition, and higher costs for everyone.

At the turn of the century there were a dozen search engine options. This ruling will make sure that Google will always be the only game in town.

Think about it like this: if BuzzFeed is the Walmart of the internet, your blog is the mom and pop shop in its shadow. If UpWorthy is the big chain restaurant your site is the hole in the wall struggling to make a name for itself. If ViralNova is Fox News your blog is late night public access television. They’ve got readers, sharers, and advertisers. They can afford to give service that you can not.

These changes to net neutrality will make it even harder for the little person to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

I have an irrational fear that the Internet will devolve into the worst parts of television: news feeds becoming cesspools of advertisements, ad walls blocking entry into every site, commercials running before every captcha.

Our participation will be limited to voting on talent competitions. Meaningful content will hide behind subscription costs. Unique perspectives will shrink. Unique voices will be drowned out. The tone of the conversation will shift from sharing ideas to buying and selling. Content creators will be reduced to consumers.

There’s a lot of money in making us feel ugly, lonely, and incomplete. Advertisers give us these problems so they can sell us the solutions. The more bandwagons we’re exposed to the more isolated we feel. The more attractive figures we’re shown, the more our mirrors distort. The higher our expectation for happiness, the more depressed we get.

The formula for advertisements has had a toxic effect on how we see ourselves. The net is one of the last refuges from it. Sure, ads are prevalent, but there’s a counterbalance. In this marketplace of ideas we’ve found more positive ways to promote ourselves.

Authors might send me annoying auto-DMs on Twitter, but they’re never going to make me feel like shit to sell a book (unless they’re in the self-help business).

We’ve had a free press for some time, the trouble was none of us owned one. The internet gave us free expression we had never known. Now that we’ve tasted it, we’re never going to spit it out.

There’s a reason I called my fears “Irrational.” I’m not panicking about these proposed changes to net neutrality, because I know I’m not the only one with something at stake. I’m not the only blogger, video-logger, or podcaster whose livelihood is on the line.

Content creators won’t be written out of the code, lost in the tag clouds, or blacked out of the search terms. We’re the draw that gets users to come. We’re the stream of ideas the world gets its revenue from. We’re the sugar that lets people stomach your advertisements.

We won’t bite our tongues, hold our criticism, or muzzle our dissent. We’ve grown accustomed to the sound of our own voices. You can buy all the microphones, all the loudspeakers, and all the stages in the world, and you’ll still be a whisper in the crowd. In here, your lobbies are meek, spam our email accounts automatically sort into the junk bin. Your agenda is lost in the choir, your pundits are outnumbered, your interests bore us. Your slant has been flattened, your closed communications are open to interpretation, your opacity is an emperor with no clothes on.

Shut us out at your own risk. We won’t come to your party if you make it too exclusive. We won’t think it’s cool if you leave us to talk to ourselves. We won’t buy anything if you price us out of the bar.

The internet is the closest we’ve come to equal representation inside the system. We’re not giving up our seats at the table. We like life outside of the bottle, we’re not going back in. We know our place, it’s everywhere. Our vines stretch past your walled off gardens. You can cut us off at the knees, but it won’t limit our reach.

We ARE the internet.

Facebook Buys Drewchial.com


Facebook is set to purchase Drewchial.com, a blog best known for entries on the burdens of self-promotion, in a $1 billion acquisition. Though the site was created to promote the unpublished works of Drew Chial, Facebook plans to use it as an extension of its platform.

In a conference call with shareholders, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer said, “The next frontier of social media is self-deprecating self-promotion and Drewchial.com is at the forefront.”

Drewchial.com is known for articles on the futility of trying to go viral, making insensitive comparisons between self-promotion and panhandling, and premises for film reboots Chial is in no way involved in. Drew Chial himself, is known for being voted “MOST LIKELY TO CHANGE HIS NAME INTO A SYMBOL” in high school and little else.

Baffling analysts, Facebook sees something that’s crucial to its business.

On his profile page, Zuckerberg outlined scenarios where other authors might adopt Chial’s methods, launching smear campaigns against their own work, calling themselves out in a feedback loop of what he calls, “meta media criticism.”

“Imagine getting away with clogging your friend’s feeds with links, because you’ve already blasted yourself for doing it. That’s the kind of experience we’d like to share with the general public.”

This risky purchase is just one of the many bewildering tactics Facebook is using to stay ahead of the competition.

Staggering into the office in sunglasses and a bathrobe, Zuckerberg addressed his developers, “Every aspect of teenagers’ lives are filled with commercials; from the military murals stretched across their lockers, to the Hotpocket coupons in their health books. They tune ads out, skip them on YouTube, block them with plugins. Backhanded brand awareness is the best way to snag those cynics.”

Kicking his chair out, Zuckerberg wobbled to the whiteboard. He lifted a lever in the shape of a dry erase marker. The board spun around revealing a fully stocked bar. Climbing up on it, Zuckerberg pulled several bottles off the top shelf, hopped down and mixed himself a martini.

Swirling the concoction, Zuckerberg took his seat. “Advertisements aren’t cool, but making fun of them is. Drewchial.com comes with its own ridicule built in.”

Downing his drink in a single sip, Zuckerberg slapped the table, “I’m talking about millennials, bitches. That demo is my shit.” Then he collapsed.

Thumbds Up

The acquisition is a huge advance for Drew Chial, who at the time of this writing, does not have a published work to his name. Chial, a self-declared introvert, was surprised to find the social network showing any interest.

“I’ve come to accept that Facebook works in mysterious ways.”

Chial says he plans to use the money to host a martial arts tournament on an island far from the United Nations and their “meddlesome human rights regulations.”

Financial analysts are critical of Drewchial.com’s low reach, low views, and lowbrow humor. They’re concerned by the site’s inconsistent subject matter.

One analyst said, “I don’t get it. Does Drewchial.com promote a humorist or a horror writer? Sometimes it offers writing advice, sometimes it’s just journal entries on how this sad sap can’t score. Where’s the hook? How does the author plan on retaining visitors?”

Flicking off a limo driver, Zuckerberg said, “To truly appreciate Drew’s genius, you have to look at the traffic he’s not getting.”

Unzipping his fly, Zuckerberg urinated on a fire hydrant. “I just wanted to snag his site before Google or Apple got their grubby little hands on it.”


Facebook does not yet have a business model for Drewchial.com. Chial says he plans to post entries openly complaining about the transition so that his audience can still respect him.

His next article “The Self Righteous Sell Out” promises the same high caliber hypocrisy, and shameless selfies, his audience has come to expect.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

How Facebook’s changes have made it tough for an author to build a following.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

Introducing the Facebook "Pay" button the only way authors can reach anyone
Introducing the Facebook “Pay” button the only way authors can reach anyone

In the past, Facebook provided a great free service for authors. Allowing us to create fan pages to reach our readers, it let us keep separate accounts for our friends and families. Choosing to “Like” our pages, audiences got updates on projects, saving our other accounts for personal status.

As brick and mortar book stores crumbled at the feet of e-readers, social-network-self-publishing seemed like a viable option. Author pages became a yard stick for agents to measure the worth of a client. Traditional publishers changed their contract criteria. Now it wasn’t about how many awards a writer had won, or how many short fiction collections they’d been featured in, it was about how many smiling icons they had at the bottom of their profile page.

Social media gurus preached, “The keeper of the publishing gates will look at how many followers you have and judge you accordingly.”

We thought we were paying Facebook, by keeping the social network relevant. As far as we knew, money was exchanging hands. Advertisers were paying to reach users outside of the ones who’d “Liked” their product, while we ground along winning ours one by one.

When we shot trailers for our books, Facebook was where we premiered them. Our revenue came from iBooks and Amazon, but Facebook was where we made our sales. Not limiting us to 140 characters, we filled our elevator pitches with the details that gave our stories meaning.

Writers put everything they had into their author pages. Some used them as a substitute for a blog. Why not? Instead of linking readers to an off site destination, Facebook could make that connection. Livelihoods depended on what they were offering.

Facebook gave authors a broad reach, then they chopped off our arms. Why? So they could sell us all prosthetics. They hooked us on a free service. Made it crucial to our business, then made us pay for what it once was.

It’s a classic bait-and-switch grift.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch
The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

In the span of a month, my posts went from reaching half of my followers, to five percent of them. Rather than entice me with membership only features, they’re charging for ones they used to give away for free.

Why not pay? Because I don’t trust their brand. I could shell out the cash to reach 100% of my followers, but next month they could throttle me back and ask for a larger chunk of change. I’m just building a following, I haven’t even tried to sell anything.

Recently, I wrote an article on how the hate group leader Fred Phelps accidentally struck a blow for gay rights. Despite having nothing to do with the type of fiction I write, I want all of my followers to see the piece. Still, I’m not going to pay to boost it.

I’m not going to pay Facebook to promote my author page either. Why, because I want to represent myself on social media, finding readers through a direct connection. I don’t want to depend on an impersonal algorithms recommendation.

I’ve considered abandoning my Facebook author page in favor of posting on my personal one. It’s a broader audience, a few friends with shared interests are among them, the rest are relatives, classmates, and coworkers. This is a temporary solution that might cost more “Friends” than it gains. I’ve already written about getting flack for it.

Embracing Facebook’s monopoly on networking, we let it step all over us. While social media gurus still sing its praises, this author has been priced out of it.

Face Palm

Authors should consider which social media plates to spin and which ones to let come crashing down. It’s hard enough to balance life and work with writing. Social networking can eat up even more of that time. You need to be selective about which services you invest in.

At this point, I’d tell new authors that building a following on Facebook is like building your house on sand.