Scott Rosenberg: The Facebook mood-manipulation study is creepy because it shows the true face of Facebook

The “emotional contagion” study dramatically rips off a curtain that separated Facebook’s public face and its backstage. Publicly, Facebook woos us with a vision of a social information stream shaped by our individual needs and networks; backstage, the folks behind the curtain are pulling levers to find more efficient ways to hijack our attention and sell us stuff. (The frontstage/backstage theory sounds like The Wizard of Oz but is actually Erving Goffman’s.)

The simple reason Facebook’s mood study creeps us out

I started this blog in April as a means of maximizing the benefit I get from social networks. But over time, I find I like getting the most from social platforms while keeping them at arm’s length. That’s particularly true of Facebook.

Nope, that’s not a bit creepy

Facebook has been manipulating news feeds to make users happy or sad, as part of a scientific experiment on whether emotions are contagious online.

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.

A team of researchers, led by Adam Kramer at Facebook in Menlo Park, California, was curious to see if this phenomenon would occur online. To find out, they manipulated which posts showed up on the news feeds of more than 600,000 Facebook users. For one week, some users saw fewer posts with negative emotional words than usual, while others saw fewer posts with positive ones.

Digital emotions proved somewhat contagious, too. 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. The effect was significant, though modest (PNAS, doi.org).

Scott Rosenberg: As Amazon is to books, Facebook is to news

The donnybrook between Amazon and Hachette will repeat itself between Facebook and online news sites.

Over the past 2-3 years, Facebook has begun to assume an Amazon-like role in the ecosystem of online news. We have quickly moved from a Web in which you got your readers either from search or from “organic” traffic sources (home-page visitors, regulars, and e-mail subscribers) to one where you get an enormous chunk of your readers directly from Facebook shares.

Not true for business-to-business news sites. Facebook isn’t much of a source of traffic for B2B tech news.

Not true for this blog either. I get 3.5x more traffic from Google+ than Facebook. Twitter, Reddit, and search engines are also bigger sources of traffic for this blog.

Still, Rosenberg’s main point is correct: Online periodicals rely on social media for traffic, and it’s only a matter of time until the online news sites start putting the squeeze on.

Why Amazon vs. Hachette should have news publishers quaking

No good comes of connecting your Facebook account with your Mac

You just get a few annoying notifications every day.

Every few months, I seem to need to remind myself of this.

I think, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea to connect my Facebook account with my Mac?”

Then I do it and remind myself the answer is, “No.”

You get notifications of Facebook updates and messages you’ll see next time you log onto Facebook.

You see events on your calendar that you’re not interested in.

And you get birthday reminders for people you last talked to when you worked with them in the 90s.

You know how much I love birthday reminders.

This is not one of those rants against the evils of Facebook, even though it looks like it starts that way

I was much more relaxed and confident Friday than I’ve been in a while.

I stress out a lot. I fear failure. I compare my life unfavorably to the lives of others.

Yesterday, not so much. Oh, a couple of twinges here and there. But mostly I just did my thing and felt happy and satisfied. Well, as happy and satisfied as a person like me ever gets (to paraphrase a line from the sitcom Mad About You. I have found that line to be so, so true.)

One thing that made yesterday different: I didn’t go on Facebook and Google+ at all, and I only checked Reddit once in the evening. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

I don’t think that social media causes my anxieties. But if I’m feeling down or stressed, social media helps push things along. Social media is great for things that make you sick about humanity. I call it the Outrage of the Day — you know, like that basketball billionaire with his racist thing or some wingnut saying something moronic about slavery or homosexuality.

Facebook in particular is a great place to go to compare your own lives to others and find your own life wanting. Friends post that they’re going to parties, or great restaurants, or traveling the world. What are you doing? You’re sitting around reading Facebook. On the days when you’re going to parties, or great restaurants, or traveling the world, you’re not on Facebook — you’re busy doing those things.

I’m not planning to give up social media. There’s a lot of value in social media. It’s put me in touch with friends I’d lost track of years ago. It keeps me up with headline news. It helps me professionally. But I can certainly stand to do a lot less social media.

That’s one of the main reasons I started this blog. It’s a way for me to continue sharing what I’m thinking about without opening the door and letting anybody and everybody into my brain. Because I love you all but sometimes you can be a bit much, y’know?

P.S. You’re welcome to respond to this on Facebook or Google+. But I probably won’t see your response until Sunday. Or maybe Monday. Because I already did my social pass this morning and after that whole business with the dog this morning I don’t want any more stress today.

New leadership at Google+ suggests it’ll be integrated into other Google services

That’s just my gut feeling based on the background of Dave Besbris, who replaces Vic Gundotra at the top. Besbris has an engineering background, rather than marketing or management, suggesting he’ll be in charge of integrating and building rather than evangelizing.

Network World: As Gundotra departs, Google+ gets a new leader 

This is a good move for Google. It fits a strategy of breaking monolithic social networks into more focused components, as Facebook is doing with Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. It allows successful Google+ products, like Hangouts and Photos, to get free of the problematic Facebook-like Google+ stream. And it will reduce friction between Google+ and other parts of Google. 

Google has kinda-sorta positioned Google+ as a business social network,  like Yammer or Jive. It’s part of the Google Apps suite. That future is unclear now (which isn’t to say it was clear before). 

Network World: Google+ tremors rattle Apps suite