Facebook’s Unethical Experiment: It intentionally manipulated users’ emotions without their knowledge.
Facebook has been experimenting on us. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook intentionally manipulated the news feeds of almost 700,000 users in order to study “emotional contagion through social networks.”
The researchers, who are affiliated with Facebook, Cornell, and the University of California–San Francisco, tested whether reducing the number of positive messages people saw made those people less likely to post positive content themselves. The same went for negative messages: Would scrubbing posts with sad or angry words from someone’s Facebook feed make that person write fewer gloomy updates?
They tweaked the algorithm by which Facebook sweeps posts into members’ news feeds, using a program to analyze whether any given textual snippet contained positive or negative words. Some people were fed primarily neutral to happy information from their friends; others, primarily neutral to sad. Then everyone’s subsequent posts were evaluated for affective meanings.
The upshot? Yes, verily, social networks can propagate positive and negative feelings!
The other upshot: Facebook intentionally made thousands upon thousands of people sad.
Facebook’s methodology raises serious ethical questions. The team may have bent research standards too far, possibly overstepping criteria enshrined in federal law and human rights declarations. “If you are exposing people to something that causes changes in psychological status, that’s experimentation,” says James Grimmelmann, a professor of technology and the law at the University of Maryland. “This is the kind of thing that would require informed consent.”
Ah, informed consent. Here is the only mention of “informed consent” in the paper: The research “was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.”
That is not how most social scientists define informed consent.
Here is the relevant section of Facebook’s data use policy: “For example, in addition to helping people see and find things that you do and share, we may use the information we receive about you … for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”
So there is a vague mention of “research” in the fine print that one agrees to by signing up for Facebook. As bioethicist Arthur Caplan told me, however, it is worth asking whether this lawyerly disclosure is really sufficient to warn people that “their Facebook accounts may be fair game for every social scientist on the planet.”
Any scientific investigation that receives federal funding must follow the Common Rule for human subjects, which defines informed consent as involving, among other things, “a description of any foreseeable risks or discomforts to the subject.” As Grimmelmann observes, nothing in the data use policy suggests that Facebook reserves the right to seriously bum you out by cutting all that is positive and beautiful from your news feed. Emotional manipulation is a serious matter, and the barriers to experimental approval are typically high. (Princeton psychologist Susan K. Fiske, who edited the story for PNAS, told the Atlantic that this experiment was approved by the local institutional review board. But even she admitted to serious qualms about the study.)
Facebook presumably receives no federal funding for such research, so the investigation might be exempt from the Common Rule. Putting aside the fact that obeying these regulations is common practice even for private research firms such as Gallup and Pew, the question then becomes: Did Cornell or the University of California–San Francisco help finance the study? As public institutions, both fall under the law’s purview. If they didn’t chip in but their researchers participated nonetheless, it is unclear what standards the experiment would legally have to meet, according to Caplan. (I reached out to the study authors, their universities, and Facebook, and will update this story if they reply.)
Even if the study is legal, it appears to flout the ethical standards spelled out in instructions to scientists who wish to publish in PNAS. “Authors must include in the Methods section a brief statement identifying the institutional and/or licensing committee approving the experiments,” reads one requirement on the journal’s website. (The study did not.) “All experiments must have been conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki,” reads another. The Helsinki standard mandates that human subjects “be adequately informed of the aims, methods, sources of funding, any possible conflicts of interest, institutional affiliations of the researcher, the anticipated benefits and potential risks of the study and the discomfort it may entail.”
Over the course of the study, it appears, the social network made some of us happier or sadder than we would otherwise have been. Now it’s made all of us more mistrustful.
Social media has changed the way people interact. In many ways, social media has led to positive changes in the way people communicate and share information; however, it has a dark side, as well. Social networking can sometimes result in negative outcomes, some with long-term consequences.
People As Products
According to e-Marketer, global social networking revenues will exceed $10 billion 2013. Most social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and many others offer their services to members for free, yet still net significant income. In fact, according to Mashable Business, Facebook earned $1.6 billion in revenues in the first half of 2011, and was on pace to achieve more than $3 billion in revenues by year end.
If the services are free, then, how do social networking websites earn such staggering sums of money? The answer is that you, the social network user, is the product these online giants sell to generate revenue. According to BBC News, social networking sites are uniquely positioned to make money by matching people to products. Since you generate content on a social networking site that indicates your interests, social and work background, and a great deal of other information about your personal preferences, the social networking sites can target advertisements specifically to you, a service for which advertisers are willing to pay significant amounts of money.
While many users feel their personal data is safe on social networking sites because they have set high levels of security settings, research suggests this is not the case. According to a 2010 Northeastern University and Max Planck Institute for Software Systems study, researchers created an algorithm to discover an individual’s personal attributes by examining the one thing that most people leave public even when all other privacy settings are place: their friend list. Using the algorithm, researchers were able to infer many personal traits merely from friend lists, including educational level, university attended, hometown and other private data.
Many social networking sites regularly make changes that require you to update your settings in order to maintain your privacy, and frequently it is difficult to discover how enable settings for your appropriate level of privacy. Because of this, many users do not realize how much private information they are allowing to become public by not re-evaluating settings every time the network makes a change.
Tagging can also serve as an invasion of privacy. When social networking sites have a “tagging” option, unless you disable it, friends or acquaintances may be able to tag you in posts or photographs that reveal sensitive data.
Negative Health Consequences
A 2010 Case Western Reserve School of Medicine study showed hyper-networking (more than three hours on social networks per day) and hyper texting (more than 120 text messages per day) correlated with unhealthy behaviors in teens, including drinking, smoking and sexual activity. Hyper-networking was also associated with depression, substance abuse, poor sleep patterns, suicide and poor academic performance.
While on the surface it appears social networking brings people together across the Internet, in a larger sense it may create social isolation, according to a BBC News report. As people spend increasing amounts of time on social networks, they experience less face-to-face interaction. Scientists have evaluated social isolation in many studies, and have determined that it can lead to a host of mental, psychological, emotional and physical problems including depression, anxiety, somatic complaints and many others. In fact, a University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine animal study showed social isolation impaired brain hormones, which is the likely reason socially isolated people experience tremendous levels of stress, aggression, anxiety and other mental issues.
While the above studies show actual correlations between social networking and negative consequences, others argue that many other negative consequences may exist that have not yet been studied. Some of the harmful effects people suggest social networking has that have not yet yielded conclusive study results include:
- Encouraging poor grammar, usage, and spelling
- Allowing the spread of misinformation that may be perceived as fact even in light of evidence to the contrary
Exposing children to online predators
- Creating a culture in which a single mistake such as a racy picture or poorly thought-out comment can cause irreparable harm to your reputation
- Decreasing productivity as workers habitually check social networking sites while they should be working
- Providing information that increases the risk of identity theft
- Creating a platform for cyber bullying
Decreasing the Impact
It is inherent on the individual to use social networking constructively, and parents must be especially careful to monitor their children’s use of social networking to minimize the potential for negative outcomes. Some tips:
- Always use maximum privacy settings
- Be cautious about what you share on social networking sites
- Minimize the time you and your children spend social networking
- Monitor your children’s social networking use and friend lists
- Make household rules about social networking and enforce them
- Educate your children about the potential hazards of social networking
- Do not allow strangers into your social networks
- Build online networks of people you also interact with face-to-face, and encourage your children to do the same
Here to Stay
While social networking has clearly demonstrable negative impacts, it is most likely here to stay. Deciding whether you or your children will use social networking is an individual choice. By using it responsibly and encouraging your children to do the same, you can harness the benefits of social networking while avoiding the drawbacks.
“Honestly, I sometimes truly wish that ‘tools’ such as the iPhone (or any smartphone), laptops, iPads, tablets, etc. hadn’t been invented. Sure, they’re great, incredibly useful, and fun time-killers. But the way teenagers abuse them, and turn them into mini social control rooms is frankly awful.”
At first glance, you might think this quote came from a parent or grandparent lamenting on the disadvantages of social networking and how social media has doomed today’s children. But it was written by a Seattle-area tenth grader as part of an assignment to answer the question, “How has online social networking influenced your relationships with friends and family?”
This student goes on to write, “The teenage way of life has completely changed from what it was only twenty years ago. Now, there is a dramatic decrease in face-to-face communication, which reduces our generation’s ability to interact with others on a speaking level.”
Not coincidentally, this same message was echoed by the young people interviewed in Tomorrow’s Change Makers: Reclaiming the Power of Citizenship for a New Generation. Youth engaged in their communities claim that face-to-face interactions is what motivates them to make a difference in the world.
This is a two-part article gleaned from reviewing the essays of a class of tenth graders, with their permission, of course. It is meant to generate additional discussion on the benefits and disadvantages of social networking and its effect on healthy youth development.
Below are the most discussed disadvantages of social networking according to these tenth graders, including quotes from their essays. In a similar format, you can also read reflections on the benefits of social networking in my column at Psychology Today.
10 Disadvantages of Social Networking
1. Lacks Emotional Connection
“A couple weeks ago, one of my friends and I got into a fight and she told me all of her feelings as to why she ignored me for two weeks. Assuming it would have been really hard to say it to my face, she sent me a text message. The negative side was I didn’t know if she truly felt sorry because I didn’t hear it from her. The quality of a conversation using social media is awful because you cannot sense the emotion or enthusiasm from the other person. It makes you wonder if they actually mean what they say.”
2. Gives People a License to be Hurtful
“I do think it has gotten to an extreme point where you can say things you can’t say or get away with in person.”
“I’m disappointed whenever I hear about social media being used as a way to hurt people. I wonder if this happens when the writers forget that there are real people behind the screen.”
3. Decreases Face-to-Face Communication Skills
“Computer reliance could hurt a person’s ability to have a face to face conversation by making it awkward and unusual to hear something and respond with a thoughtful message through the spoken word because of one’s dependence on a keyboard to convey a message.”
4. Conveys Inauthentic Expression of Feelings
“Social media conversations today are filled with “haha”, “LOL”, and other exclamations that are meant to represent laughter. This shorthand has become second nature and is often used when the sender is not even smiling, much less laughing, in real life. On the occasion that our “roflcopter” is actually put to use at a funny moment, we are replacing actual laughter with, in this case, a simple ten-letter acronym. According to Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, the actual physical act of laughter, and not the abstract idea of something being funny, is what makes laughing feel so good. If we are so willing to replace the act that, honestly, we all love, with an artificial, typed representation that doesn’t even bring the same joy, what else would we be, potentially subconsciously, willing to exchange?”
5. Diminishes Understanding and Thoughtfulness
“Since the inception of social networking, the quality of conversations has dropped. I believe that people are spending so much time online that they don’t always understand the feeling, emotion and/or character of the person they are talking to. When you talk to someone through a message or even a voice, you can’t always fully understand them.”
“Social networking has ruined the thoughtfulness in basically saying hello in person. For instance, you could say hello to your friend in Germany with Facebook, chat in seconds; but what if there was no way to communicate via social networking? Well you would have to write them a letter and that is something very thoughtful.”
6. Causes Face-to-Face Interactions to Feel Disconnected
“When I see my friends on their phones and I am around them, I feel disconnected even though we are only two feet apart….. Unfortunately, sometimes friends use their phones so much that it is difficult to have an actual conversation with them. Sometimes friends can get so socially attached to something such as a blog or gaming console that they lose touch with friends, creating small gaps and holes in close friendships/relationships.”
7. Facilitates Laziness
“The new socially active era causes laziness because instead of running to your friends you can message them. Or instead of walking upstairs to notify the family of dinner, I can blog it. Social networking makes life so convenient that it creates laziness. In my opinion staying fit is important, but it is difficult to go beyond the newly developed status quo.”
“It’s really easy to spend hours doing nothing….It’s a fantastic way to waste time.”
8. Creates a Skewed Self-Image
“We tell ourselves lies about ourselves and develop something we are not. We post pictures of us looking perfect and share the good news. We never post pictures of ourselves when our dog dies, when someone we love leaves, and when we lose a job. We never share the bad news that always clouds our lives. We all develop this perfect image of ourselves and some of us actually try to rely on this imaginative thought we have of ourselves instead of staying true to who we are.”
9. Reduces Family Closeness
“Texting, Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail alienate us from our families more than we actually think it does…. When my family is spending family time together and watching a movie, in reality my brother and I are on our phones rather than actually watching the movie with our parents.”
10. Causes Distractions
“When I have my phone out, it makes me feel like nothing else is going on around me. I use social media as a way to feel popular, important, and also just to fit in. My friends and I always compare ourselves to each other, wondering who has more Facebook friends or Twitter followers. But what really ends up happening is I begin to talk less and end up relying on text for a conversation. Ever since I got a smartphone I have been distracted from everything. I watch television less, do homework less, and even spend less time with my friends and family.”
Addressing the Disadvantages of Social Networking
The disadvantages of social networking and social media will continue to be studied for decades to come. In the meantime, we already know it is a significant source of concern among privacy advocates as well as parents who worry about their children’s safety. But clearly, the disadvantages of social networking go much deeper than privacy and safety. These high school students described some of the serious drawbacks to relationships — the foundation of human development.
The disadvantages of social networking strike at the very heart of healthy youth development. In his recent book, Lightweb Darkweb: Three Reasons to Reform Social Media Before It Re-Forms Us, musician and child advocate Raffi Cavoukian provides an abundance of evidence to suggest needed reform. Using an ecological, systems framework to delve into this topic, he challenges parents, educators, and citizens, to see the connection between youth development and what he describes as a “vast sociological experiment” that may forever change human relationships.
In the coming months, I plan to interview Raffi for more details about his ideas, which I know have evolved from conversations with great thinkers and researchers around the world.
What do you think? How will we ensure the healthy growth and development of children and teens, given the known harmful effects and disadvantages of social networking?
When I posed a question the other day about possibly leaving social media, I got a response that shocked me. People said it was risky—dangerous even. They told me I shouldn’t leave or change my social media strategy for fear of missing out.
It’s strange how fast we assimilated social media into the very DNA of our relationships. When at one time we questioned how we could live with it, we now question how we could live without it.
To some degree, this is troubling because many of us know the many disadvantages to living our lives on social media, and yet, we’re too afraid to cut the chord. We’ve grown too attached to the reality of social media.
After much discussing, I decided not to leave social media (namely, Facebook). But the whole discussion on the matter led me to truly analyze the pros and cons of social media.
I discovered that not many people even want to look at the disadvantages of social media because they know they can’t live without it. But maybe it’s time to face the dangers we’re unwilling to look at, because that’s the only way we can make our experience online a healthy one.
This list below is not my attempt to convince you away from social media. It’s my attempt to level the playing field and help you realize there are just as many dangers to relying on social media as there are to leaving it.
Here are just a few dangers involved with social media:
We’ve always wanted to be accepted. Social media has just exacerbated this desire in the form of likes and retweets. Seeking validation online is a danger because it has us relinquish our power to affirm ourselves even more. We now look for even more external measurements to our worth.
When we seek validation, we attempt to define who we are online, not have online complement who we are. Let’s cut all the validation at the roots and get back to being our true selves.
When we see other’s accomplishments, how many of us envy them? How many of us compare instead of connect? Like validation, we’ve always done this with our peers. But with social media’s ability to edit our image, we now do this even more. It’s time for us to stop comparing ourselves to others and place the power back in our own hands to judge our worth.
I often get bitter that one person liked another status and not mine, or that one person shared a moment with another friend and not me. This is ultimately a heart problem on my part. But how many of you also grow bitter from what you see on social media? Maybe the best cure is to step back from the platform that only fosters a bitter heart.
4. Caring About the Wrong Things
I used to care more about real, tangible things—like my relationships with others. Now I find that being watered down with cares about a virtual world—how my image looks on social media or how many “likes” my Instagram photo got. Give priority to what happens in the real and visible present, not what occurs in a virtual world.
Before, I used to really take the time to digest content. I would read longer paragraphs online and thoroughly enjoy it. But now, I only read lists online. The clutter and barrage of noise has led me to only consume bullet point information. This way, I could read everything given to me.
The reality is, however, you filter what’s noise from what’s essential, and you only consume the beneficial essential. This unfortunately becomes increasingly difficult with social media sharing everything.
6. Convenient Friendships
We don’t have much risk with our relationships today. It is now hard to call someone on the phone because that involves giving something of ourselves. Instead of risking, it’s easier to glance at someone’s profile to learn about his or her world. Unfortunately, this makes a relationship convenient and easy, when the best foundation for a long lasting relationship is one that’s willing to risk.
7. Wasting Time
Time is valuable, which means we shouldn’t waste it with people, interactions and advertisements that offer no return for our attention. Social media forces us to waste time with these sort of things. It’s better to invest our valuable time in something that gives the world—and us—more value.
On social media, we are in a world within a world. It’s easy to shut ourselves off from interaction because we believe our interaction online is enough. It’s easy to not see people all day, but rather see them online.
Distance yourself from this tendency to isolate. Allow social media to push you in the world even further, not away from it.
It is just as equal of a danger to stay on social media than it is to leave. What this means is we are free to choose. We are free to pick which set of problems we want. We can decide how we want to improve our online experience. And most of all, we can choose which measures will help us honor God and live more like His Son in this world. The choice is yours.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The New York Times reported on Saturday that the National Security Agency, the main U.S. government surveillance organization, had since 2010 used data it gathered to map some Americans’ “social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.”
In the latest revelation of the activities of the NSA, which have prompted concern about previously unknown intrusion into Americans’ privacy in the name of protecting against terrorist and other foreign attacks, the newspaper quoted documents provided by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who fled to Russia earlier this year.
It said the documents showed that “the spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and email logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after NSA officials lifted restrictions on the practice.”
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an NSA memorandum from January 2011, the Times said.
It said the NSA was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every email address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.
The agency could augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents, the paper said.
It said NSA officials declined to say how many Americans had been affected and said the documents did not describe the result of the scrutiny, which it said “links phone numbers and emails in a ‘contact chain’ tied directly or indirectly to a person or organization overseas that is of foreign intelligence interest.”
Earlier this week, leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said they were working on legislation that would tighten oversight of federal electronic eavesdropping programs. Support for such changes has been growing since Snowden leaked information in June that the government collects far more Internet and telephone data than previously known.
The Times said that an NSA spokeswoman, asked about the analyses of Americans’ data, said, “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.” It quoted her as saying: “All of NSA’s work has a foreign intelligence purpose.”
She said the policy change disclosed in the latest revelations was based on a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that Americans could have no expectation of privacy about what numbers they had called.
The Times quoted her as saying that, based on that ruling, the Justice Department and the Pentagon decided that it was permissible to create contact chains using Americans’ “metadata,” which includes the timing, location and other details of calls and emails, but not their content. The agency is not required to seek warrants for the analyses from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
NSA officials declined to identify which phone and email databases were used to create the social network diagrams, and the documents provided by Snowden do not specify them, the paper said.
It said the NSA did say that the large database of Americans’ domestic phone call records, which was revealed by Snowden in June and caused alarm in Washington, was excluded.
The Times said that while concerns in the United States since Snowden’s revelations had largely focused on the scope of the agency’s collection of the private data of Americans and the potential for abuse, the new documents provided a rare window into what the agency actually did with the information it gathers.
Does it sometimes seem like there are more homosexuals in the world than you actually thought? Or more white supremacists? Or that more people support a political or social position than you thought possible — or logical? Or that all Christians are bigots and all Muslims are terrorists?
You’re not alone. Millions of people all over the world have had similar thoughts and observations. As it turns out, there is a reason for such misconceptions — our perception is being purposely manipulated in order to promote certain agendas, according to recently released research.
“One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others,” reports Technology Review.
“Today, we get an insight into why this happens thanks to the work of Kristina Lerman and pals at the University of Southern California. These people have discovered an extraordinary illusion associated with social networks which can play tricks on the mind and explain everything from why some ideas become popular quickly to how risky or antisocial behavior can spread so easily.”
The “majority paradox”
Scientists who study social networks have long known about their paradoxical nature. The most notable example is the friendship paradox — on average, your friends will always have more friends than you.
This phenomenon occurs because distribution of friends on popular social network platforms tend to follow a power law, of sorts. While some people have smaller numbers of friends, others have a great many and so the average is skewed purposely.
Consider this analogy, says Technology Review (TR): “Measure the height of all your friends and you’ll find that the average is about 170 centimeters. If you’re male, your friends, on average, will be about as tall as you are. In fact, the mathematical notion of ‘average’ is a fine way to demonstrate the nature of this particular data.”
However, what if one of your friends was much taller than you? This person would skew the average of all your friends dramatically, and that would make your friends taller then you, on average. So in this case, “average” is not a good way in which to capture the data set.
This is the same situation that takes place in social networks, TR reported, but not just for numbers of friends. On average, your co-authors will be cited more than you and the people you follow on Twitter will post more often, and so forth.
Lerman and her team have now discovered a related illogicality — a phenomenon they call the majority illusion. This is when an individual can observe a behavior or quality in most of his or her friends, though it is rare in the network as a whole — “the local impression that a specific attribute is common when the global truth is entirely different,” TR reported.
Manipulating the masses
The reality is, the U.S. government — via the military and various government spy agencies and domestic bureaus — have long used social media platforms to manipulate public opinion.
In July 2014, the UK’s The Guardian newspaper reported that the U.S. military’s advanced research division, DARPA, had recorded and analyzed the activities of users on Twitter and other social media, with an eye towards influencing opinions.
In addition, as The Guardian reported in a separate story, researchers at Facebook adjusted news feeds to control or manipulate users’ emotions.
In June 2014, Facebook “published details of a vast experiment in which it manipulated information posted on 689,000 users’ home pages and found it could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of “emotional contagion,” The Guardian reported.
It should really come as no surprise, however, that the powers that be want to control the minds of the masses. Propaganda has been used as a political tool for centuries. It’s really just ironic and disturbing to see this technique employed by an allegedly benevolent government that claims to represent “individual freedom” and “personal liberty.”
They are convenient, relatively easy to use, and help millions of people around the world stay connected with family and friends, at least digitally. But social media portals like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly being exposed as what appear to be bait-and-switch spying networks funded, and potentially even run covertly, by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other government agencies. And this is all apparently being done for the purpose of gathering real-time data on the private lives of individuals willing to freely post such information for the world to see.
It is something that serious investigative journalists and skeptics alike have suspected for years, especially as sites like Facebook have gradually and quietly eliminated users’ access to the privacy controls that once kept their information “classified” by default. Today, Facebook is literally an open book of information that is freely available not only to the rest of the internet, but also to numerous government agencies that many years ago invested millions of dollars to make social networking sites like Facebook what they are today.
The way in which people frantically communicate online via Twitter, Facebook and instant messaging can be seen as a form of modern madness, according to a leading American sociologist.
“A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological,” MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes in her new book, Alone Together, which is leading an attack on the information age.
Turkle’s book, published in the UK next month, has caused a sensation in America, which is usually more obsessed with the merits of social networking. She appeared last week on Stephen Colbert’s late-night comedy show, The Colbert Report. When Turkle said she had been at funerals where people checked their iPhones, Colbert quipped: “We all say goodbye in our own way.”
As I was roaming through the blogsphere, catching up on some of the news and notes I have missed in recent weeks, I read one of Jeremy Zawondy’s recent blog posts addressing a very similar topic. He poses the question does the convenience of having access to someone with answers inhibit people from thinking about and solving their own problems, when they know a quick email, twit, or IM will get them the answer without them having to make any real effort?
Many of the new Social Media websites seem to encourage this type of behavior. More specifically I am starting to see this type of behavior a lot on Twitter. I am not sure whether or not it is the law of averages or maybe even just the company I keep on the service? Maybe I interact with too many online marketers?
But it seems like as the list of people I follow grows, more and more I am seeing requests for superfluous information that could quickly be ascertained on their own in the same amount of time it would take someone else to twit back.