Ok, before you say anything about the gender choice in the title, let me be clear - obsessive and paranoid boyfriends could become just as entrapped by Facebook's new "Message Seen" feature as anyone. I'm a guy, so I chose girlfriend - I'm on no mission to reinforce stereotypes. Just don't yell at me, internet peoples.
Sorry about that - it seems that everyone's paranoia is rubbing off on me.
And what are they paranoid about? Apparently, Facebook users no longer feel that they can ignore people on purpose because now, that person will know they're ignoring them. Not only that, but the ignorees now have to sit there, staring at their computer (or phone), wondering why nobody wants to respond to messages that they've clearly read.
In terms of new Facebook features, the one that's causing this uproar is pretty small. It's no Timeline or News Feed redesign. It's merely a few words added to the messaging interface. But to many, this tiny addition is a massive invasion of privacy.
For those of you who may have simply glossed over this recent update, here are the basics:
For both mobile and desktop Facebook chatters, viewing a message that you receive will mark it as seen. Your conversation partner will now see something like "Seen by Josh, 11:46am." According to Facebook, messages will be marked as seen if the recipient is actively chatting and when they check their messages.
I'm sure you are already thinking about various situations where this could be unbearably awkward. Friends, significant others, family members might see that you've seen a message and expect a decidedly quick response. And if they don't get one, well, fans shall be assaulted with shit. If you're ignoring them on purpose, well, that's your decision. But what if you simply saw the message and are crafting a lengthy response, or you plan to get back to them later?
reddit user MrNotSoSure asked the /r/facebook subreddit "How the hell do I stop Facebook from telling my friends I've read their chat message?" He had an interesting hypothetical scenario to share with us:
If you don't know what I mean, let's say a friend will write to me "Hey, want to go killing baby seals later?". Since I can't be bothered replying to that I just read the message and move on with my life. They will see in their chat window "Read 14.45" and reply back "Hey fuck you man, at least respond. Just trying to get something nice organized!"
Bradley Wint at What's Hawt detailed a similar (minus the clubbing seals part) scenario where Facebook's new Message Seen feature created some confusion between him and some friends who wanted to go on a trip:
Later on I ended up receiving a number of phone calls from them but chose to ignore them because I was talking to someone else, and I simply had not made up my mind about the situation just yet. I later got another Facebook message from them, confirming that I did read the messages. They also came to the baseless conclusion that I did not want to spend time with them at the beach, which wasn’t true.
Only after the incident did I realize what had happened to me. I felt as if my privacy had gone out the window in the snap of a finger. While the issue really exists on a people level, I think Facebook should have accounted for such a thing by not allowing others to monitor your every step. I’m now at the point where I have to seriously contemplate whether I should check my Facebook messages.
I can definitely understand why someone would want to let their messages pile up, unread, due to the concern that they would encounter one they didn't want to respond to and the sender would know they are being ignored.
If you want some NSFW thoughts on the new feature and how it could affect a relationship between a girl and some guy, check out this YouTube video:
A Facebook spokesperson told the LA Times that "knowing when your friends see your messages means you no longer to have to wonder if a message you've sent was received and is a lightweight way to make your messages more conversational."
Maybe so, but the implications of this little tweak could wind up causing heavyweight problems for some people. Yes, it's nice to know if someone has seen your message. In some circumstances, it could put your mind at ease. "Oh good, John saw that we changed the time of the movie to 9."
But the feature also has the ability to play with insecure minds and cause some truly unnecessary kinks in relationships. I mean, if we can no longer ignore people on Facebook - what's the point, really?