Facebook News Feed Experiment: Caveat Emptor

(Credit: morguefile.com.)

(Credit: morguefile.com.)

I have a friend (really, a friend — not me in disguise) who does not use “Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of that stuff.”

This person is not missing any meals, either. He owns a house with a pool in Gwinnett County, drives a Cadillac, and recently sold a boat that he kept at Lake Lanier. He’s semi-retired from his job. Yes, he has a smartphone, but only because there’s a phone in it.

So the recent disclosure that Facebook had manipulated the news feeds of some users in an experiment probably would mean about as much to this person as a dust storm on Jupiter. And something tells me there are other people out there like this — people who don’t use social media, and who still regard the Internet as a curiosity.

There are also plenty of social media fanatics who are unemployed, or who are not nearly as well off as the friend I just mentioned.

So the Facebook disclosure has to be viewed in relative terms — not as some sort of Manchurian Candidate-type of experiment. If you don’t use Facebook, it doesn’t matter.

And Facebook did not perform its study on everyone. Reports indicate that it was about 680,000 users — roughly half of its registered users.

Facebook could have helped itself by disclosing the experiment in advance, and I have no idea why they didn’t. But hey, if they had, it would have likely scared off some users and prompted an outcry. Damage control is always easier after the fact.

But I say this is another example of why people do not need to become too dependent on the Internet, or any one company which lives on its backbone.

There is still a real world where you can shop, dine, play golf, make travel reservations, listen to CDs, go to parties — and make phone calls, even without the NSA listening. Getting too dependent on the Internet is just that — a dependency.

I’m not arguing against Internet use, either. It has put enormous power in the hands of individuals, and has been a real boon to small businesses. I love it when my California friends head to the fair or take off on a cross-country excursion in their RV — I get an online travel journal.

But know that that power, like anything else, has a cost.

Did someone say the Internet is free? That’s a four-letter word.

— What are your thoughts on the Facebook experiment situation? Leave a comment below.





About Steve Burns

I live in the Atlanta area. I also lived for many years in Southern California. I'm into mainstream media, social media, sports, business and politics. I worked for AOL's Patch, but this is my personal blog. I'm on Twitter (@bsteve76), Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. See ya 'round!
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