The Guardian has an exceptional in-depth article every Facebook user – basically any human with a smart phone or computer – should read. It details Cambridge Analytica, the firm employed to psychologically profile people for political purposes by leveraging their Facebook data through tools such as surveys and other third-party applications:

Starting in 2007, Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on “big five” personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism – and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles. Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook “likes” across millions of people.

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. “They had a lot of approaches from the security services,” a member of the centre told me. “There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked ‘I hate Israel’ on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

“There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.”

The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research. Boeing, a major US defence contractor, funded Kosinski’s PhD and Darpa, the US government’s secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is cited in at least two academic papers supporting Kosinski’s work.

This is why I never play Facebook games or use any of the third-party applications on the platform. There is just no granular control of the data you have knowingly provided to Facebook, and these applications can access just about all of it. Most people merely click-through the permissions page when installing a new game or survey, and remain completely oblivious to what they are giving away for free.

Over the past year I have begun to feel as if Facebook is almost like a cancer. It continues to grow and grow, and is at a point where it cannot stop metastasizing unless a drastic change occurs. What is that change?

People simply stop using Facebook. Cold turkey.

At this juncture, Facebook is too big for its own good. I really distrust Google, but have far less trust for Facebook. They collect a lot of data on people, and there are no controls in place to ensure they are safeguarding it appropriately. This article demonstrates their complete and utter disregard for personal information.

Do yourself a favor and take a step back from Facebook, stop using it for a week, and compare how you felt prior to and after this little experiment. I will almost guarantee you will better, if without that dopamine hit Facebook provides.

I found this read quite interesting simply because of two things: one, it is very difficult to stare directly into someone’s eyes for one minute much less ten. It must have felt really uncomfortable and disconcerting for those involved. Two, the psychology behind why this happens is quite fascinating. So consider me intrigued after reading how weird things start to happen when you stare into someone’s eyes for 10 minutes (emphasis added):

A psychologist based in Italy says he has found a simple way to induce in healthy people an altered state of consciousness – simply get two individuals to look into each other’s eyes for 10 minutes while they are sitting in a dimly lit room. The sensations that ensue resemble mild “dissociation” – a rather vague psychological term for when people lose their normal connection with reality. It can include feeling like the world is unreal, memory loss and odd perceptual experiences, such as seeing the world in black and white.

Giovanni Caputo recruited 20 young adults (15 women) to form pairs. Each pair sat in chairs opposite each other, one metre apart, in a large, dimly lit room. Specifically, the lighting level was 0.8 lx, which Caputo says “allowed detailed perception of the fine face traits but attenuated colour perception.” The participants’ task was simply to stare into each other’s eyes for 10 minutes, all the while maintaining a neutral facial expression. A control group of a further 20 participants also sat in a dimly lit room in pairs, but their chairs faced the wall and they stared at the wall. Beforehand both groups were told that the study was going to involve a “meditative experience with eyes open.”

When the 10 minutes were over the participants filled out three questionnaires: the first was an 18-item test of dissociative states; the other asked questions about their experience of the other person’s face (or their own face if they were in the control group).

The participants in the eye-staring group said they’d had a compelling experience unlike anything they’d felt before. They also scored higher on all three questionnaires than the control group. On the dissociative states test, they gave the strongest ratings to items related to reduced colour intensity, sounds seeming quieter or louder than expected, becoming spaced out, and time seeming to drag on. On the strange-face questionnaire, 90 per cent of the eye-staring group agreed that they’d seen some deformed facial traits, 75 per cent said they’d seen a monster, 50 per cent said they saw aspects of their own face in their partner’s face, and 15 per cent said they’d seen a relative’s face.

Caputo thinks the facial hallucinations are a kind of rebound effect, as the participants in the eye-staring group returned to “reality” after dissociating. This is largely speculation and he admits that the study should be considered preliminary. I’d also highlight that while it’s true the eye-staring group scored higher than controls on dissociative states, they didn’t score any of the items on the scale higher than 2.45, on average, on a five-point scale (where 0 is “not at all” and 5 would be “extremely”).