I’m actually really surprised at the outrage surrounding the “emotion experiment” that Facebook did. I can go into detail about it all, but Wired did a great job over here. Or try this, this or this for even more fun. In a nut shell, they wanted to see if your mood could become sad by reading other sad posts. Um, yeah, that would probably do it. Fundamentally, however, people are crying out about manipulation.

Why I find it so strange is that the entire online marketing world is one big manipulation. We are being tested and experimented with all over the place. I recently posted about retargeting. That practice seemed to appear out of nowhere and seems just as invasive and manipulative to me as someone serving up feeds to try to change my mood.

Spend a day shadowing an email marketing department. They are collecting data about you: what you click on, what you fill out in forms, what pages interest you, and then serving up specific email content that is more applicable to you. Is that a manipulation or are they tapping in to technology to do a better job serving up content? They’re using data YOU gave them or actions YOU took without you really saying, “sure, use this to make my experience better.”

There is a side to this argument that maybe I am just too naive to care about, but I guess if I decide to play online, participate in social media, voluntarily sign up to post content to my social network, all while using free tools, it’s hard to fight when they use my content to help their business. Is there really a fault here? We’re collectively playing the game. Many of us click right through the “terms of use” agreements without reading and then when those terms of applied, get all worked up. This Facebook emotion experiment seems to be the scapegoat right now. Watch out Google, you’re up next. Or maybe Pinterest?

All you have to do is watch the ads that are being served up on your Facebook feed to realize that manipulation is all around us. I’m guessing the only way to incubate ourselves from this reality, dare I say manipulation, is to go back to flip phones that just make calls and disconnect completely from the internet. I don’t think that is going to happen.

What say you?

Photo credit: 90692443@N05

With over a decade of experience, I have managed online marketing for a wide range of industries including biotech, high-tech, financial, higher education, non-profit, manufacturing, hardware providers, and startups. My specialty is helping business make the right turn with their online efforts focusing on lead generation and analytics.

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