Facebook are shaking things up again with the aim of making the site more of a community. They are testing a new way for people to connect with each other – by showing them a ‘Things in Common’ label when they read a comment by someone they are not already Facebook friends with. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, said early this year that ‘the world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do…making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent’.
Let us explain how this new feature will work. You might be browsing through posts on a business or brand’s Facebook page and see a comment by someone you are not linked with as a Friend. Above their comment, the ‘Things in Common’ label will display any interests or information that you may share with that person, such as hometown, favourite sports team or similar music taste.
The ‘Things in Common’ label has raised eyebrows for those who are already sceptical about the way Facebook uses personal data. Facebook claims that they will only share the information that the user has agreed to show publicly on their profile, but with memorable slip-ups in the past, not everyone will be pleased with this new feature. As recently as June, Facebook changed 14 million users’ profiles to public without their knowledge or authorisation.
It also is unclear how many people will connect with someone else on Facebook due to a single shared interest. Would you add someone because they like to listen to the same music artist as you, or because they live in the same area? There has been a move lately towards people becoming much more careful with what they share online, especially if their Facebook has personal posts or photos of their family. A lot of people may be hesitant to share that information with a complete stranger, no matter how strongly they support the local football team.
This new feature is currently just in a trial phase, and it may be that Facebook decides against its long-term implementation across the website. If the trial goes well, it could be a new way for people to make connections in this busy digital age, when people are less likely to get to know each other face to face at local shops or services, for example. It could also be useful for those who have relocated to a new area and not made friends and acquaintances yet. Facebook groups have been the beginning of many real-life friendships by connecting people over shared interests or geographical location, so the ‘Things in Common’ label could be a logical and successful extension of that.