Secret Internet Experiments Reveal Horrible Truth About Human Beings – Several dating Web sites and social-networking apps recently announced that they have been conducting secret experiments on users. Two such companies have pooled their data and discovered that people are lazy assholes who just want to eat high-calorie food, watch television, and have sex with nicer and better-looking partners, but realize, often with only mild disappointment, that life is instead about feigning politeness at work, mating with people who possess only moderate charm and comparable attractiveness, and forcing oneself to be upbeat about the utter humiliation of wearing a Fitbit.
It all started when PinkySwhere, a new social-networking app where users anonymously post shopping, restaurant, and travel tips that they have “pinky sweared” to not repeat, agreed to conduct research for a distributor of high-end microwavable club sandwiches, Henry Carlton, the site’s founder, said. The app assigns icons, generally of common objects like a bottle or a clock or a cat face, to users participating in conversation threads; for its experiment, PinkySwhere would randomly insert a fake user, represented by an icon depicting its client’s club sandwich, into threads. Comments associated with the club-sandwich icon were liked at a rate three times higher than the other icons. At the same time, when the club-sandwich icon happened to appear in threads with another PinkySwhere icon, an old-fashioned television set, users would chat for four times longer than when either icon appeared by itself. If comments in the thread were gendered female, meaning that they contained key words such as “sample sale,” “tampon,” and “salad,” users stayed seven times as long.
Intrigued, Carlton called up his old friend and fellow Stanford alum Martha Helen Peasedale, the founder of the dating site HungerSnuggle. Within moments of reconnecting, both were delighted to find themselves once again wrapped up in a conversation they’d seemingly been having for years: How could a lack of basic integrity and a complete disregard for human dignity combine to create personal wealth?
Peasedale confided that she’d found fifty-eight HungerSnuggle members who had been on at least five dates and yet were still not in relationships. In her experiment, fifty-three of them—twenty-three men and thirty women—were sent on dates with actors, who had received instructions to order complicated and silly cocktails, treat their companions cruelly, discuss a developing technology that would restrict HBO Go log-ins to one per household, and before parting say that they were clairvoyant and that their dates would be alone for the rest of their lives. When the test subjects arrived home, they were sent a seemingly random survey from HungerSnuggle. The last two questions were “True or false: It is my deepest desire to find real, lasting, and passionate love,” and “True or false: After the night I had, I would marry just about anyone.”
Eighty-five per cent of participants answered “true” to both questions. But that was just the first part of the study. The second part was what truly interested the companies. “Knowing when and how to make people give up their dreams is great,” Peasedale said. “But once they have, it’s time to ask the real questions: What’s next? What are they going to eat, drink, watch, and sit on? PinkySwhere brought nuance to the equation.”
Neither Carlton nor Peasedale wanted to reveal what, exactly, the research will mean for their businesses. But they were surprised that users were angry about being manipulated. “Hey, if you’re online, at some point you’re going to end up having a conversation with a fake club sandwich, which will make you think of eating a real one to placate your misery at having been tricked and, in a sense, at having been born at all,” Carlton said. Peasedale was less philosophical. “I don’t force anyone to use this site,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, everybody can suck it.”