A funny thing happened last week in Facebook world. As a means of, I suppose, helping people better identify their moods or what they are eating at the moment, Zuckerberg Inc. added a new feature to status updates. They had already changed "Say something" to "How are you feeling?" in the status field, prompting many, MANY "I'm doing fine, thanks Facebook" half-hearted humor attempts. But then they went the full Monty and dropped smilies (and photos of foods like ice cream and links to movies like The Notebook, shudder) into the status update box.
Seeing the smilies immediately reminded me of another wondrous social network: MySpace. Remember MySpace, kids? Sure you do. It was that Web site where glittery profile pages and random hookups were the order of the day. Bands used it, too, but if you wanted to have cyber sex with a 16-year-old whose page was covered with My Little Ponies, MySpace was your home away from home.
And one of the signature features of old-school MySpace was the "I am feeling" notification on every person's individual profile page. You could choose from a variety of options, each with its own matching emoticon. It was dumb then. It's dumb now. So, why is Facebook doing it?
My first thought is because they can gain value from it. If someone decides to utilize the option, they could choose "I am watching" or "I am listening to" instead and choose from a list of preselected movies and TV shows. No doubt this would be a great way for Facebook to generate additional advertising revenue.
It also makes for a great way of gathering additional information from the user. If they can tell how you are feeling, that can factor into the algorithm that delivers advertising to your page. If you say you are sick, a link to WebMD might just show up. If you say you are eating tacos, how about a Taco Bell ad? It would be brilliant if it didn't feel so damn diabolical.
And frankly, does anyone need an emoticon to help better define how the day is going? Of course not. Most people do it, and rather creatively, on Twitter, and one of the biggest complaints relates to the inanity of posts on that social network.
"Why do I care if someone just ate a taco?" goes the standard argument against the micro-blogging service. Why indeed? Well, because we like to know what our friends are up to and it's faster than a phone call and more widespread than a text. But no one needs help explaining what we are doing, so why does Facebook think they should assist? It's pretty clear the answer is money, and my guess is boatloads of it.
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