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At Facebook, Creating Empathy Among Cyberbullying -

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According to a report released this week by Pew Research’s Internet Project, 65 percent of young adults 18 to 29 in the United States said that they had been harassed online, and 92 percent had witnessed someone else being bullied.

Facebook’s efforts to curb this may be working: 

The company told me that each week eight million Facebook members use tools that allow users to report a harmful post or photo. (The tools can be used by clicking on the little upside-down arrow in the upper right corner of a post or the options button at the bottom of photos.)

Mr. Bejar’s team designed these tools to let people know someone had hurt their feelings, and he said the system actually worked. (This is different from the newsfeed experiment in June, when Facebook received criticism for tinkering with people’s emotions as part of a psychological study to examine how emotions can be spread on social media.)

Creating empathy on Facebook has not been easy. Researchers have learned that a few letters can have a profound impact. For example, in the first iteration of these tools, Facebook gave users a short list of vague emotions — like “embarrassing” — to communicate why they wanted a post removed. At the time, 50 percent of users seeking to delete a post would use the tool, but when Facebook added the word “it’s” to create a complete sentence (“It’s embarrassing”), the interaction shot up to 78 percent.

Teenager are a particular focus, not just as victims ofcyberbullying but because they sometimes lack the emotional maturity to handle negative posts.

Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, who is working with Facebook on this emotions project with the Protect and Care team, said their research found that teenagers need more pathways and options to voice their feelings.

On Facebook, teenagers are presented with more options than just “it’s embarrassing” when they want to remove a post. They are asked what’s happening in the post, how they feel about it and how sad they are. In addition, they are given a text box with a polite pre-written response that can be sent to the friend who hurt their feelings. (In early versions of this feature, only 20 percent of teenagers filled out the form. When Facebook added more descriptive language like “feelings” and “sadness,” the figure grew to 80 percent.)

“We’ve played around with having pre-populated messages versus no message at all,” Dr. Brackett said. “If kids are given a blank box, often times they are going to say things that are not going to be helpful,” including cursing at their friends. When Facebook offered more developed responses like “This post is mean. It makes me feel sad and I don’t want it on Facebook,” 85 percent of teenagers who wanted a post removed sent a message.

“When kids let someone know they’ve hurt their feelings in a personal way, there’s a strong likelihood that the other kid will take that down,” Dr. Brackett said.

Interestingly, more often than not, the posts were not meant to hurt, but were jokes lost in digital translation. When Facebook asked people why they shared a post that hurt someone else, around 90 percent of respondents said they thought their friends would like the post or would think it was funny. Only 2 percent of users wanted to provoke or alarm someone else.

“Believe it or not, most of the time people do mean well,” said Dacher Keltner, a director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, who is also working with Facebook’s empathy team.

"can't you take a joke" is the most common excuse used when a bully is confronted. I'm glad Dr. Brackett believes in humanity, but as a bullied kid myself, I don't. teenagers are crazy. 

Just teenagers? :-) we are all a mess of hormones and conflicting motives. Good for Facebook trying to call people up to their higher selves.

No, not just teenagers. 

"Only 2 percent of users wanted to provoke or alarm someone else."

If Facebook has a billion users then at least 20 million of them want to be mean to other people.

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