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Facebook’s ubiquitous 'like' button can reveal a treasure trove of potential insights. Should we worry? And how should we manage our impulses in this brave new social media world?

Facebook’s “like” button is ubiquitous across the web. Seeing what people “like” helps Facebook understand its users – which means they can target adverts more effectively, and tailor newsfeeds so people spend more time on Facebook. Some say there’s nothing to worry about – targeted adverts are nothing new. Others worry that the Cambridge Analytica scandal shows how Facebook might shape our opinions. But perhaps what we should worry about most is that social approval can be addictive, and a “like” is social approval distilled into its purest form. Tim Harford asks how should we manage our compulsions in this brave new social media world?

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editor: Richard Vadon

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14 minutes

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