Angry about the big Facebook experiment? You're not the only one. Users, privacy lawyers and even a UK data regulator were none too pleased that the social network had manipulated the emotions of almost 700,000 people by tweaking what the posts they saw on their newsfeed. But what if you took your newfeed – and your emotions – into your own hands?
New York artist Lauren McCarthy has created the Facebook Mood Manipulator, a Chrome browser extension that allows you to choose how you want to feel and filters your Facebook feed accordingly. As she puts it on her website: "Why should Zuckerberg get to decide how you feel? Take back control. Leverage Facebook's own research to manipulate your emotions on your terms."
When you install the extension, you'll see a tab on your feed that allows you select what kind of posts you want to see based on four different factors: positive, emotional, aggressive or open. The extension works by scanning your feed for emotive words and filtering them accordingly, and is based on the same system of linguistic analysis that Facebook used for its study. In theory, turning the positive slider up to max will ensure only happy posts appear on your feed. Reduce that to zero and up the aggressive slider, and you'll see negative posts take over your feed.
I logged onto Facebook to try the app and turned aggression up to 100 and positivity down to zero (that's how I roll, OK?). Here are the posts that rose from the middle-to-bottom of my newfeed to the top:
– Someone who was "mainly disappointed" with the Italian football team
– This link about how children die in Australian immigration detention
– This article about Jerusalem being "angry and determined" after the murder of a Palestinian teen
– A Star Trek clip of Jean Luc Picard explaining how there is "no money" in the 24th century
– This poem from a friend in Montreal: "Roses are gray / Violets are gray / Everything is gray / – Dog."
It doesn't work for everyone, though – some users on the Chrome web store have said that the sliders don't seem to change anything on their newsfeed.
If you want to have a go at the Facebook Mood Manipulator, you can download it here.
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing