Can Science Make Facebook More Compassionate?

A team of researchers is trying to boost kindness on Facebook.

I came across this article on the website of “Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.”

Facebook is confronting cyberbullying and online conflict. Can a team of researchers help boost kindness among the site's 900 million users?

Eighteen months ago, Arturo Bejar and some colleagues at Facebook were reviewing photos on the site that users had flagged as inappropriate. They were surprised by the offending content—because it seemed so benign.

“People hugging each other, smiling for the camera, people making goofy faces—I mean, you could look at the photographs and you couldn’t tell at all that there was something to make somebody upset,” says Bejar, a director of engineering at the social networking site.

Arturo Bejar, a Facebook engineer who has been leading its "social reporting" project, speaking at Facebook's second Compassion Research Day on July 11. Jeffrey Gerson/Facebook

Then, while studying a photo, one of his colleagues realized something: The person who reported the photo was actually in the photo, and the person who posted the photo was their friend.

As the team scrolled through the images, they noticed that was true in the vast majority of cases: Most of the issues involved people who knew each other but apparently didn’t know how to resolve a problem between them.

Someone would be bothered by a photo of an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, for instance, or would be upset because they were excluded from a photo that showed a friend’s “besties.” Often people didn’t like that their kids were in a photo a relative had uploaded. And sometimes they just didn’t like the way they looked.

Facebook didn’t have ways to identify or analyze these problems, let alone resolve them. And that made Bejar and his colleagues feel like they weren’t adequately serving the Facebook community—a concern amplified by the site’s exponential growth and worries about cyberbullying among its youngest users.

You can read the rest of the article on Greater Good’s website.

Rabbi Mark Sameth is the spiritual leader of Joyful Judaism: Pleasantville Community Synagogue an inclusive, progressive synagogue—with members from 20 towns, villages and cities all across Westchester and “A Hebrew School Your Kids Can Love.” Read The New York Times article. Follow Rabbi Mark on Twitter . Weekly meditation at the synagogue every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. is open to the public; everyone—without exception—is welcome and warmly invited. OUR MEMBERSHIP DRIVE IS ON. See “Top Ten Reasons to Join PCS” at www.ShalomPCS.com.

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