Thought Experiments

This Plugin Lets You, Not Facebook, Decide How Your News Feed Makes You Feel

Now, you can feel as aggressive or open as you want.
When was the last time anyone asked you this question in real life? (Screengrab via Lauren McCarthy

When was the last time anyone asked you this question in real life? (Screengrab via Lauren McCarthy

A couple weeks ago Facebook came clean: it wasn’t just your ex and the photos of him and his new girlfriend that were playing with your emotions. It was an inside job. Facebook’s data scientists — or perhaps we should call them omnipotent puppeteers — had manipulated users’ feeds without their consent.

Now, after public outcry and a lackluster apology from Sheryl Sandberg, Brooklyn artist and programmer Lauren McCarthy is helping us reclaim our feelings. Her latest experiment is called the Facebook Mood Manipulator, a Google Chrome extension that allows users to adjust the content of their news feeds according to how they want to feel.

After users decide how positive, emotional, aggressive and open they would like to feel, the browser add-on uses the same language-analyzing technology Facebook used in its own experiment, except for good rather than evil.

It’s basically a mix between a mood ring and a choose-your-own adventure novel.

Ms. McCarthy, whose other work follows a common thread of testing and exploring people’s relationship to technology, demonstrated the extension’s effectiveness on her own feed. Sliding the positive, emotional and open scale all the way to the right helped get a cute baby picture top billing on her feed while a combination of emotional, not-at-all positive, and a bit aggressive and open made her privy to an article about gun violence.

Finally, an efficient way to fuel your self-loathing. Or your penchant for photos of baby animals. After all, it’s up to you.

Follow Marie Solis on Twitter or via RSS.