How George Clooney helped me stop stressing about Facebook buying the Oculus Rift

Last night I was in IM with Inara Pey when she dropped a bombshell question me: “Harvey said anything on the FB buy-out of Oculus? :)?”

Until that moment, head down in rehearsal preparations for Paradise Lost, I must admit to not having heard a thing. Harvey actually had seen the news, and his first reaction, like mine, was “Ugh”. (For the record, he’s since changed his view)

The Oculus Rift, and virtual reality headsets in general, are an exciting technology that I one day hope to try. Will we all be wearing VR headsets one day, or will the idea be made irrelevant by something we can’t yet even imagine? I really don’t know what the future will bring, still, I’m interested.

Being as keenly invested in Second Life as I am and with an Oculus Rift headset on the way to me, I can’t help but imagine my experiences in our virtual world to be significantly affected by my experiments with this new technology. To put it bluntly, I’m excited – though not yet sold.

Yet for some reason, my gut reaction to the news that Facebook had purchased Oculus Rift for 2 Billion Dollars, was not at all positive. I found myself liking the Oculus less, as a result of its endorsement from Facebook. And I’m not alone.

After an enthusiastic first exposure, Facebook lost its appeal to me many years ago. While I’ve not understood the visceral hate-on that many vocal detractors seem to have, I have found Facebook less and less interesting over the years. When I think of Facebook today, I associate: false friends, too much information, threats to privacy, advertisements dressed as social media, social oneupmanship, Farmville, Candy Crush, and feeling a bit duped for voluntary participating in the world’s biggest ever personal data collection project (personal data, which is can now be sold – in aggregate, mind you – to enable more and more consumerism).

My gut reaction to something I was positive about (the Oculus Rift) being bought by something I have negative associations with (Facebook), struck me as both predictable and odd at the same time.

After reflecting on it for a while this morning over a cup of coffee, I think I know why, and I have George Clooney to thank.


Like most people, I aim for cognitive consistency, or balance, in my views. Balance Theory is a useful motivational theory put forward by psychologist Fritz Heider that can help us understand why we like or dislike things or people because others like or dislike them.

According to Balance Theory, if I like a celebrity (let’s say…uhm… George Clooney) and perceive that (due to an endorsement like the one above) George Clooney likes Nespresso, then I will likely like Nespresso more (even having not yet tried it), in order to achieve psychological balance.

On the other hand, let’s say I really disliked Nespresso before I even knew George was so into it. Balance Theory suggests that I may begin to dislike Nespresso even more in addition to liking George Clooney less, again to achieve psychological balance.

Heider’s model (referred to as the P-O-X model, where P is the person, O is the person that is before liked/disliked, and X is the object or person now under consideration) can be found in many psychology textbooks. I’ve recreated it here to fit me as P, Facebook as O, and the Oculus Rift as X.

Heider's P-O-X model with me as P, X as the Oculus, and O as the endorser.
Heider’s P-O-X model with me as P, X as the Oculus, and O as the endorser.

Balance is achieved when there are three positive links, or two negative links and one positive. Two positive links and one negative link creatives imbalance. I’m in a triadic relationship with both Facebook and the Oculus Rift. But if I like the Oculus Rift and dislike Facebook, what do I feel now upon learning that Facebook bought the Oculus Rift?

  • I (+) > Oculus Rift
  • I (-) > Facebook
  • Facebook (-) > Oculus Rift

If you multiply the signs, you can see that the person will perceive an imbalance (a negative multiplication effect) in this relationship, and will be motivated to correct the imbalance somehow.

So in the case of Facebook buying the Oculus Rift for 2 Billion Dollars, I can either

  • Decide that Facebook is not so bad after all,
  • Decide that the Oculus Rift isn’t as cool as I originally thought, or
  • Conclude that Facebook couldn’t really have invested in the Oculus Rift.

Any of the options above will result in cognitive balance, thereby resolving my dilemma and satisfying the drive. Of course, I could also ditch both Facebook and the Oculus Rift completely, resulting in even less stress created by the psychological imbalance.

Turns out, the option requiring the least effort, (and that’s up to you) will result in the likely outcome.

For me, I remain looking forward to trying out my Oculus Rift in Second Life, while enjoying a cup of Nespresso in my hand.

And that’s just two reasons I love psychology. 😀

One thought on “How George Clooney helped me stop stressing about Facebook buying the Oculus Rift

  1. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    My own balance is that I currently have zero investment (financial or psychological) in either. Given it’s unlikely we’ll see anything until after all the dust and kurfullf dies dowan, that means sitting on the sidelines with my coffee and observing. You, Harvey and George are all welcome to join me :).


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