So when Facebook changed their site to allow posts to be edited, I had an idea. I was going to prank as many of my friends as possible. It was going to be a small harmless little prank.
The basics of it is this:
1.) I write a FB post imploring for likes.
2.) Wait a day or so.
3.) Edit that post to say something along the lines of "Like this post if you like to club baby seals..." or something like that. (That's actually what I had in mind to change it to, it being a fairly old internet meme and all).
4.) We all have an immature laugh at ourselves.
6.) Profit! (If you didn't get that, it's okay, I'm from the internet.)
Here's the original post in its entirety:
"Social Experiment: Everyone Please like this post. The results will be display sometime this week. The more likes, the better the outcome."
(I speak like a immigrant child with no understanding of English grammar when I'm on the internet for some reason.)
I figured a few of my friends would like the post and I would get a quick chuckle out of them with this prank. Slowly but surely my friends did start to like the post. The usual people that follow the nonsense I spout were the first. Then something strange happened. People I respected liked the post. People I respected a little too much to change a post they liked to say, "blah blah I like to club baby seals." I believe they expected me to do something of worth with this data. Then even worse, family.
Suddenly this had become an awkward social crossroads. I've implored my friends for likes with the promise of doing something magical with them, when really all I had were ill intentions. This is bad. What can I say that isn't so negative. "I slap around baby seals? But I give them a hug after..." No, that would just be weird. I could back out now. This whole thing would probably blow over and all those friends AND FAMILY would just wonder what that was all about. An occasional passing thought. I could live with that.
But I had a semi-captive audience. Being the eager little scientist I am, I went about figuring out what I could do with this little "Social Experiment."
So here are the facts:
- These people trusted me with a FB like with no idea where it would go and probably without thinking about any malicious intent on my side.
- The market value of a FB like is apparently low enough to toss around like a used napkin.
- These people were interested in what I could do with essentially nothing of value to them.
- The promise that more used napkin would yield something even more beautiful, didn't do anything. Maybe.
- After seeing a few names, I immediately started to reconsider my actions.
- Thoughts of maliciously tarnishing the reputation of such well known people... well I doubt that would happen but still I felt bad.
- I'll probably have to do a survey to get any real data out of this. That won't happen.
- To the post's creator (That's me!), these socially cheap currencies (FB likes) had a whole lot of value. ( I love used napkins?)
There was also one anarchist that commented on the post but would not like it, as an act of defiance. That was interesting. Noted.
Also another friend that posted that I was karma whoring. That's ... true.
As for myself, the first major emotion was ... I felt bad. I couldn't continue with what I had planned. I didn't want to be a dick to some of these people. Wait what? Some? I didn't want to do a dick to just some of these people but I was more than ready to do it a few others. Interesting. Even more so, I was prepared to be a dick to someone's face with absolutely no shame whatsoever. But if someone I wasn't willing to be a dick to, saw that action, I'd wet myself. This is getting heavy.
So now what could be done with a semi-captive audience?
This really could have ended multiple ways and could be exploited in the future by large corps looking for a media day. I mean I could have replaced the post with a picture of the KKK doing ... what they do. With the people that liked the post ... it would be more than just interesting. I also could used this opportunity to sell ad space (If TOS permitted). I'm not sure (as of writing this post) what happens when I edit a post. Does FB notify all the current "likers" that the post has been edited? Or maybe just the commenters?* I do know that they have a sort of version control system that shows what was previously posted though. Good on FB for that.
*I've found out that Facebook doesn't notify people that have liked the post when it changes...
So what to do with all these people that liked a post that I had complete freedom to change to whatever I want? I wasn't sure yet but there are many similar systems around the web; reddit and hackernews has a upvoting system, pinterest has pins, tweeter has retweets (although this carries a lot more value), etc. Some of them allow titles and such to be changed, others don't. At this point, I knew that I didn't want to do anything malicious anymore. So what are my options?
I could continue on with the prank and suffered the consequences of my actions. Or, I could keep tabs on how this grows and make a blog post about it. Maybe I'll change the original FB post to point to this blog post. Or is that still misleading those said friends and family? I don't even know anymore.
So what have I learned from all this?
The first thing to takeaway is the fact that Karma Whoring ... feels sooooo good. It's interesting how someone can derive so much pleasure and near obsession form what is no more than a badge of mediocre acknowledgement from someone that may be a complete stranger. Has the internet pushed us so far apart that we crave interaction, no matter the form? Or are we just evolving the way we interact. And does gaming the system mean you're a bad person? Or just better at this than most?
The really interesting fact about all of this is that even though we're on a semi-anonymous internet (Thanks Obama!) and interacting virtually over a social media site, we still put on faces. We often have illusions of how people view us and how we view others. I was ready to prank a few friends. But I had no idea (I of all people should have known better) that due to the nature of social media it went out to more people than I originally intended it for. And the people that I did attract had a completely different image of what I had planned to do with their used napkins.
In the end, I want to elevate the quality of content on social media. I think we have sort of accepted a lower level of quality over the years. We're quick to like, retweet, pin, share, embed shit but hardly ever stop, sit, wait, look, examine, and appreciate the content that's out there. I'm not blaming the tools though. I think it's more of a cultural phenomenon. We want it fast, we want it hard, we want it now. And we'll sacrifice quality for quantity. The world has a thousand Snooki's and we can always make more, but cultivating and appreciating something like House of Cards and it's full cast, now that's worth taking the time to click like on their fan page, tweet to the actors, and pin the show to your board. But it won't start until people start asking for it. There's are a lot of content out there that requires the viewer to be familiar with something that came before and I really think that being able to build upon other sources creates a richer overall experience. So here's my Social Experiment. Did you think it was worth it?
Afterthought and Data:
So this "Social Experiment" isn't really complete yet. To really have a "control" I would have to do something similar without adding the bit about it being an experiment.
Also, I sort of wanted to graph and really analyze the data and make this blog post kind of exciting. Sadly, during the week I got an offer for work that is going to take up all my time. Thus it'll have to end prematurely with just what I wrote the day this post sort of started.
As of writing,
Number of likes: 32
Female likes: 16
Male likes: 16
Split right down the middle. That's ... average.
Most of the people that liked this post have an above average background, completing some sort of higher education or educated in other means.