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7 Online Psychological Tricks People Use To Manipulate On Facebook

manipulationFacebook has made connecting and sharing with people you know online easier than ever before. Within a few clicks, you can have access to friends’ photos, activities, and work and life histories. Although social networking can be a great way to connect with others, sharing online is also an open platform for psychological tricks and manipulation. A look at some of the ways that people manipulate their Facebook friends can help you stay ahead of the game when spending time on social media.

Reality Filter

New research suggests that social media acts as a filter through which we see the world. Facebook friends can manipulate this filter to highlight parts of their lives they want to emphasize. Whereas daily, in-person interaction can cause you to see all sides of a person’s life, Facebook uses can emphasize work status or social groups over other parts of their lives. Facebook users can also highlight superficial characteristics without question. In this way, Facebook users read their news feeds like a newspaper that replaces what may actually be happening in the “real” world. Jamais Cascio has stated, “Facebook becomes the determinant through which we see the world.”

Photography Manipulation

Any Facebook user can recall scrolling through friends’ photo albums of vacations, parties, graduations, and birthdays. Although some people genuinely use Facebook as a convenient online photo album, experts say that some users use the photo feature to prove that they are living “the good life.” Facebook users should view the smiling pictures with perspective, since studies have shown that users who spend long amounts of time browsing photos on social media end up comparing themselves to others and may suffer from depression or low self esteem.

Status Updates and Soundbites

Experts report that people also use status updates as an easy way to be narcissistic without direct consequences. Quick soundbites such as “Just got my new employee badge! So nervous,” may be just the perfect way to let old rivals know that a person is thriving in a new career. Public “thank you’s” visible to all Facebook friends, rather than sent in a message to the recipient’s direct inbox, can be another way to let friends know all about your good fortune.

Persuasive Language

Persuasive language language is a classic form of manipulation that can be easily used online. Facebook users may persuade others to join groups or “like” status by convincing others that they will become part of a community. Persuasive phrases such as “join 50,000 other motivated women” can help sway others into participating on a page.


Although empathy is often seen as positive, this skill is also one of the most common forms of manipulation. Users can use empathy on a person’s Facebook status in order to gain trust, even if they rarely communicate in day to day life. Showing empathy for the Facebook status of a lost pet or breakup also creates obligation for others reason to return the favor in the future.


Along with empathy, Facebook can encourage a false sense of familiarity. Through Facebook, people often share photos and other personal details as they never would have prior to the rise of social media. Good manipulators can use person details to create rapport and build trust – even if it actually unearned.

Lying by Omission

One of the classic forms of psychological manipulation, lying by omission is easy to do online. Many Facebook users will use the platform to allow others to make assumptions about education and status, knowing that their “friends” will be none the wiser.

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Clinical psychologist George Mansfield works daily with people who have serious mental illnesses, including failure to face reality. George enjoys writing about psychological illnesses and techniques employed to alter people’s perception of reality. He has also contributed to a terrific resource for finding the best online bachelor’s of psychology programs for others interested in a career in this fascinating field.

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