As Facebook turns five, should it consider its practice of breaking hearts?
A couple of weeks ago the newspaper headlines declared â€śChelsy Davy let the world know that she had broken up with Prince Harry using a thoroughly modern tool: her ‘relationship status’ on social networking site, Facebook.â€ť And in last Sundays Observer, there was a full page story on the very same topic. The author of the Observer article, Georgina Hobbs-Meyes, a 24 year old who has just broken up with her Facebook cheating husband, laments, â€śonce you announce you announce your relationship on Facebookâ€¦your love life is on show to all.â€ť Hobbs-Meyer goes on to state that rather than change her relationship status she has opted instead to simply delete it and avoid the â€ścascade of news through friendsâ€™ newsfeeds.â€ť
It was this very cascade of unwanted news and attention that I discussed with George Hopkin and Christian Payne at a recent Social Media Breakfast. When we were chatting, Christian described the flood of consoling messages he received when he changed his relationship status from married to single. The thing is Christian wasnâ€™t breaking up, his wife simply didnâ€™t want to be linked to from his Facebook page, but there was no option to avoid the news cascade.
This is something I have thought about a few times. The smart people at Facebook could come up with a way to change your status without announcing it to your Facebook news feed, so why havenâ€™t they? My theory is that news items announcing relationship changes generate a very high rate of comments, private messages and general page views. All of these mean more time on the Facebook network, which is good news for those trying to sell ads for Facebook (full disclosure – my employer Microsoft is one of the companies that sells ads for Facebook). Is this another case of Facebook putting ad sales ahead of the desires of its users?
Image stolen from here.