Who among us has not spent 15 minutes perusing Facebook without at some point concluding that life could be better? Show of hands.Now we know why. It’s not that life sucks, per se; it’s just that the geniuses at Facebook were messing with us. They wanted to know if small variations in the number of cat videos and dinner entrees and vacation sunsets could have an effect on one’s mood. They fixed it so that instead of yet another hilarious meme or Buzzfeed quiz, one might see one of those pathetic posts from someone complaining about their neighbors or contemplating suicide.
Turns out it makes a difference! According to the data, plaintive cries for help are kind of depressing, while getting 10 likes on an Instagram photo induces a euphoria akin to orgasm. If the research can be trusted, we may now conclude that positive things make people happy, and negative things don’t! This has profound implications.
Of course, a number of people immediately got on Facebook to bitch about being used as unwitting lab rats. On one comment section, it took only about 10 posts for the Nazi analogy to surface. Mark Zuckerberg = Josef Mengele. There were also a number of empty threats about canceling Facebook accounts, but we know how that goes: two days later, you’re back — to check whether you got any likes on the post about canceling your Facebook account.
For the record, I won’t be canceling my Facebook account. Kind of late in the day for that. I may be a little more discriminating about bestowing likes — no sense making it easier on the bastards. But I’m thinking the horse may be out of the barn, datawise.
This latest little experiment just shows that Facebook is what it is: an ever-more efficient way to sell us stuff we don’t need. Not just goods, in the fullness of time, but ideas too. In return, we get this odd, curated view of what certain friends and family are up to. Odd, yes, but better than nothing. Facebook willing, we also get some tiny amount of affirmation once in awhile.
I suppose it’s like booze in a way: when you sip from the bottle, the bottle also sips from you. We know it’s a poor bargain, we know we should quit. But we know we never will.