Facebook and the Future of Relationships in Social Media
About a month ago, Facebook quietly rolled out Relationship Pages.
This means that if you’re in a relationship with someone who also has a profile on Facebook, you can now visit Facebook.com/us to see a virtual archive of your history as a couple — at least, your history as seen by Facebook. Every post made on each others’ wall, every tagged photo, every mutual friend, every event attended together — it’s all logged as a memory on your shared timeline.
Now, these Relationship Pages aren’t exactly new. There’s nothing that makes them different than the Friendship Pages that Facebook introduced in 2010.
Tip: Is this the first time you’ve heard of Friendship Pages? Simply visit a friend’s page on Facebook, click the gear icon near the top, and select “See Friendship” from the dropdown menu. Viola!
If you’ve been in a relationship with someone on Facebook, your Relationship Page with that person is essentially the same as your Friendship Page. The only difference is the aforementioned shortened URL (Facebook.com/us) that automatically redirects to your individual relationship, provided you’re logged in at the time. The URL was rolled out along with other basic updates to Friendship and Relationship pages, such as switching over to the more-visual Timeline format.
Sounds like a non-event so far, huh? Barely worth the effort of this post.
But as the “Us” redirect link was passed around last month, many folks were confronted for the first time with the reality that Facebook had been aggregating their relationship content — nevermind that Facebook had already been doing so for quite some time.
Well. Some folks really weren’t happy about that.
There it was, a whole page of personal interactions going back to the very beginning. Predictably, many felt creeped out; almost violated that their relationship history was laid out like a digital scrapbook for the entire world to see.
Tip: It’s not! Check your privacy settings to ensure that only people who are friends of both of you can see your Relationship Page. Additionally, you can customize privacy settings for each post between you and your sweetheart, or you can hide, delete, or untag content you don’t want to appear on your pages.
You know, I can see where they’re coming from. It did feel a little odd when I first saw my own Relationship page — mostly, it made me uneasy to see my personal life laid out in a way I hadn’t ever requested or initiated.
But then again, I had, hadn’t I?
The minute I told Facebook I was in a relationship with someone, the gears started turning. As they did the minute I filled in the places I went to school, or where I worked, or my hobbies and the music I liked. Facebook never pinned me down and forced me to give it this information, just like it never forced me to sign up for an account. I willingly volunteered everything.
I gave Facebook permission to track my life.
The Relationship Pages kerfuffle underscores the larger privacy issues we’re grappling with on every social media platform these days: how much knowledge is too much? Who gets to see which bits of our lives?
Friendship and Relationship pages are the future. Not in the sense that they’re revolutionary or even particularly innovative, but they’re indicative of how companies can glean information. The more information companies can collect about an individual — and, increasingly, the unique relationships between individuals — the more they can deliver tightly targeted, highly personalized advertising.
The details of our lives are data, and data is money.
Love it or hate it, your social media profiles aren’t just about you. They’re about you, your social networks, and the companies that seek your business.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think of Friendship and Relationship pages? Did you change your privacy settings after learning about them?