Having already introduced changes to Facebook Chat that sees users informed when a message has been seen by a recipient – to the chagrin of avoidant types – now Facebook has announced an overhaul to Groups which allows users to identify exactly who and who has not seen certain posts. Were the company to roll out the feature to the rest of the site, could Facebook ‘stalking’ soon be a thing of the past?
There’s more than a slight feeling Facebook is doing its best to remove any anonymity users within the site currently have. By pushing ahead with the likes of the ‘Seen’ feature and the newly-unveiled visitor statistics, the company is severely pushing the boundaries of what the greater proportion of us will agree with. The past few years have seen the social network hit the headlines for a great many reasons (the fumbled IPO, a roll-out of Timeline, growing concerns over privacy), but if suggestions of the site unfurling the new technology across the remainder of the site prove correct, this will one of the biggest shake-ups on the social network for quite some time.
In a post on the Facebook blog, the company wrote; “Starting today when you visit a group, you can view who’s seen each post. This way you can stay updated on the group’s activity. For example, in your soccer group you can post the new practice time and then see who got the update.” While for the moment the feature appears to be genuinely useful - especially for those, like ourselves, who use Groups extensively - there is a fear (if you can call it that) that the company will extend the feature through the whole site, making Facebook wholly transparent. Want to check out your ex’s new catch? Fine, but she’ll know you’ve looked. How about snooping around the profile of some you’re interested in? Of course, just try not to give the game away. If Facebook’s many updates have taught us anything, it’s that the company does not shy away from potentially risky overhauls – it’s not too hard to imagine a near-future on Facebook where you’ll be able to press a button to see the latest people to have viewed certain contents of your profile.
Label it how you will (‘stalking’, ‘snooping’, ‘spying’?), but the act of trawling through users’ profiles, photos, statuses and groups for tidbits of information on your ex, your most recent interest, or indeed your most closely-associated friends is a big a reason as any why many come to the site in the first place. It’ll also be a significant factor in why Facebook has continued to not only remain relevant after years where other social networks have faded from the public eye, but continued to surge in popularity for its *extended* life online. If Facebook does indeed go for true transparency, online ‘stalking’ may have met its match.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.