So recently Facebook admitted it “manipulated” its users in a social experiment. The social media site had been tweaking the news feeds of 689,000 users- some users were shown more positive statuses, others more negative.
“The bias did colour those individual users' own postings later on on Facebook,” says Gareth Mitchell from BBC's audio technology show, Click. Those dished up with positive content were more likely to go on to post positive things themselves, and then vice versa for those who had more negative information.”
Those familiar with psychology- and some of the content on this blog- will be no stranger to the concept that positivity begets positivity. That having the right attitude can influence things in your favour, and that it isn't just psycho-babble to make naïve people feel better.
Hold that thought.
A few years ago I was using a failing Macintosh G4 computer. I'd had it for 8 years and it was CONSTANTLY freezing on me, to the point where I was borrowing my mum' laptop to get by. In the Mac's dying days, I managed to post my frustration onto Facebook, berating the Apple brand and my annoyance with the situation. I quickly forgot about this post once I got running with the laptop.
Cue the weekend. Ferro phones me from a pub out in Uppermill or somewhere, letting me know they're all already out, and asking where I was. They're all drunk already, and in the background I can hear them all screeching like wild animals and chanting my name. That's when I hear Hicks pipe up with “Macs are shit!” in some over-emphatic northern accent.
I went out to meet them, but that isn't the point. Hicks, Ferro- everyone in that group, I realised- had noticed the negativity I was pumping out on Facebook. So much so that, when they're pissed and think of me, they think of the bitching and moaning I do on social media.
I can't remember anything of the night (because it was years ago. I was sober, so can't blame the alcohol). But I remember getting in at the end of the night, thinking about my mates and our Facebook statuses. Hicks and Ferro- and pretty much everyone in that group- are generally positive people. Popular with men, popular with women, always have a joke to crack and are never short of conversation. Their statuses were generally positive. I, meanwhile, was depressed, broke, not doing well with women and didn't really get on with that many people. On Facebook, I was showing it without realising it.
Not long after that, I got an add from a woman who lived local to me. We had a handful of mutual friends, including Hicks and Ferro. She was beautiful, and she'd talk to me a lot on Facebook chat. I may have ploughed in too soon and we didn't meet up in the end. Maybe I asked her for a drink too early, or, maybe it was something else.
I tried really hard not to piss and moan in my statuses, but eventually I let something slip- possibly about people not going out as much. She asked me about it and I had to bluff my way around it and make it sound like I wasn't that bothered about this thing holding me back- whatever it was.
Since then, though, we don't talk as much. And it's a real shame.
Since these two moments occurred, I've made a concerted effort to make my statuses positive based on this one principal: If the person of your dreams were to add you on Facebook today, would they like what they see? Are you showing your best side? Are you making it as easy as possible for yourself to grasp opportunities when they arise? And are your friends influencing you to be more positive? And finally, are you- as you should be- influencing others to be more positive yourself?