It seems that the ever entrepreneurial Mark Zuckerberg, no longer content with simply labelling, ordering, locating and time-stamping every tiny detail of your virtual life, is now set to open the Facebook portal in ever new and invasive ways. The latest of these is the option for users to pro-actively "ask” or request a relationship status in an attempt to stir loins across the globe – or perhaps more cynically, gather an increasing amount of data for marketing agencies to exploit.
The latest feature to be introduced allows users to send a "relationship update request” alongside such catchy one liners like "let's grab a drink”. The receiver is then able to reply to the request outlining their current relationship status alongside an answer to the ever-so-charming proposition. Perhaps the only saving grace of the feature is that these requests are confined to people you are already Facebook friends with and you also have the option of keeping your relationship status between you and your potential beau.
It is perhaps unsurprising that Facebook is looking to become involved with online dating – the industry in the US alone bought in an annual revenue of some $1,249,000,000 during 2013 and, as the perceived stigma involved with online dating is now little more than a forgotten one-night-stand, the industry looks set to grow exponentially over the coming years. However, many Facebook users are asking whether this is indeed a step too far from the social media portal; with many finding the latest updates verging on the awkward and uncomfortable.
Flirting or Following?
The problem it seems, lies not in your wish to declare your relationship status (or not) on the site, but the pro-active requests made by users in this latest round of experimental "upgrades” from Facebook. What is intended to be flirtatious and friendly actually begins to seem a little invasive and impolite, particularly when you consider the other information available to users and also, the fact that the vast majority of people didn't join the site to be courted by strangers.
Many users have reacted to the new features with disdain and distrust and have suggested that online dating is best left to the professionals – such as mobile dating apps like iLove. However, as the unrelenting social media march continues, it seems that Facebook is unlikely to give up on any area of the internet which it feels it can shoe-horn itself into.
So, as Zuckerberg and Co. take their first tentative steps into the growing online dating industry, there can only be speculation as to what will come next. Perhaps a large take-over bid for an existing dating portal to complement the Facebook brand. Who knows, however, at least for now it seems that people are more than happy to keep their virtual love-life and virtual social life firmly apart. Just like the "real” world.