How Facebook Pioneered Memetics research applications


Once I overheard my Mom and Aunt having a heating discussion about something.  At some point during the argument my Aunt said

“I was only trying to help”

Although I did not fully understand my moms reply, I would never forget it.

“If you find me in the forest in a fight with a bear…you better help the bear!”

And just like that…the agrument was over.

At the time I was too young to understand what that meant, but that did not stop me from using the saying, over and over again through the years.  Until one day in the late 90’s I was watching a college basketball press conference. The coach of the team who was considered to be the underdog, used the same quote to show confidence in his teams ability to beat anyone. It was then that I first realized that my Mom had not invented the saying.

So recently, with the world-wide web at my disposal, I set out to discover the true origin of the saying. But, while I was not able pinpoint its true originator, what I did learn was much more interesting and Important.  Because in the world we live in today, the words, stories and ideas that get passed along from one person to another are units of cultural information that can be tracked, monitored, and monetized. They are called Memes. And I am Certainly not the only person interested in how they are used.

The term Meme was coined by the british Biologist and Ethogist Richard Dawkins. In his book The Selfish Gene,  he explains how cultural information can spread from one person to Another Similar to the way the common cold spreads through a population.  This is where we get the concept of going viral. The common cold is soo difficult to cure because it interacts with the DNA of each person it infects.  So one person  with a cold may just get runny nose, and another person is in bed for days…or worse.  So in order for Doctors to be effective, the health care industry would have to divest an enormous amount of time and resources into monitoring and treating the population as individuals, and not as a collective.  But,Such endeavors would be too costly and time consuming

aint nobody got time fo dat

But in the case memes, or viral information, that is a completely different market where plenty of money can be made. In an effort to quantify this cultural information, the science of memetics was developed.  Its the study of how ideas spread from one person to another and  through a population.   And With the growth of the internet, Data scientists all over the world would suddenly  find themselves very busy. One person who was able to utilize the work of data scientists, was Mark Zuckerberg. He realized that in order to achieve longevity, Facebook, would have to be profitable. So he hired dozens of data scientists to achieve this goal. In 2012, Facebook scientists began a secret experiment on over 600,000 if its users. If you were on Facebook  at the time, there is a good chance you may have been one of its subjects. The study, named the ’emotional contagion’ would observe the way Facebook users responded to  positive and negative posts. The data collected, was used to manipulate the emotions of users in an effort to keep them engaged with the platform as long as possible. These types of experiments are conducted on many social media platforms. If you are saying “wait…I never signed up for this”  …actually, you have.  The ‘terms of use’ contract on Facebook, is over 9,000 words that you probably didn’t read. I know I didn’t.

So what’s my point here? The various social media platforms makes up one very large marketplace. What is being sold is your ideas, images, contact list, time, and attention. With balance, Social media can be valuable tool.

I’m not anti-social media, I mean I’m posting this on social media, hoping that you will hear this and ponder it as a positive bit of cultural information from my mind to yours. You can catch me on Twitter, @chuckeazay22, Facebook and Instagram. But other times, you can catch me …in some other place.

cash me outside

So I leave you with this question:   If you could create a meme that would be guaranteed to go viral. What would it be?  leave a comment below.




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