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Social Norms, Market Norms and Facebook

I initially understood the fuss around Facebook running experiments on their users' emotional state in terms of social norms and market norms.

Quick intro on the difference between the two: I first heard about social and market norms in Freakonomics. A nursery had problems with parents turning up late to collect their children. The instituted a fine system thinking that this would make parents turn up on time. Instead parental lateness increased. The nursery had switched from a socially normed relationship by putting a market value on being late. Parents would rather pay the extra lateness charge than turn up on time.

Confusion over whether a relationship is a social or a market one causes all kinds of tension. The dispute between Sherpas and Tourists on Everest this year can be understood in this way. For a closer to home example; next time you see a pregnant woman on the tube offer her your seat in exchange for £0.20. This is an excellent deal for her, but she won't like it because you are switching a social relationship into a market relationship (and muddling the two - if it were purely a market relationship you'd auction the seat to the whole carriage).

Relationships with websites like Amazon are conducted almost exclusively under market norms. People have a clear idea of what is being exchanged and why. And if Amazon wan't to use some kind of trickery to get people to buy more then that is fine - this sort of thing is expected in a market norm relationship.

I initially thought that most people have a socially normed relationship with sites like Facebook because the sites are used socially and the transfer of value isn't obvious. Of course, Facebook sees this as being a market relationship and behaves accordingly which causes all kinds of tension.

But after further thought I think the fuss around their emotions experiment can also be understood even if we assume users interact with Facebook well aware of the market they are in.

How much is my data worth?

Facebook $7.87 billion in revenue and has 1.28 billion active users so as a rough approximation each user's data is worth 7.87/1.28 = $6.14. I feel this is slightly low for me (as an twenty-something male who buys stuff online) but it is the right order of magnitude.

Thinking about what Facebook know about me and how I use their platform (seeing what old friends are doing mostly) I feel comfortable with this exchange.

But, what the latest news has revealed is that I have also given Facebook some control over my emotional state. I value this at a lot more than $6/year ("How much for me to be able to make you happy or sad at whim over the next 12 months?") so suddenly my relationship with Facebook no longer looks like I'm getting such a good deal. 
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Tamsin Mehew's profile photoRichard Fergie's profile photoWhitney Ryan's profile photo
 
"And if Amazon wan't to use some kind of trickery to get people to buy more then that is fine - this sort of thing is expected in a market norm relationship."

No, I think people expect limits to the 'trickery' - not outright lying, for example. I wouldn't expect people to say that dark patterns are acceptable (but don't have a citation on that to hand).
 
+Tamsin Mehew yes, saying any trickery is acceptable is an over simplification. I also think that saying a relationship is either social or market is a bit too black and white; there is a bit of a continium
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