Relationship drama: “Ask” button controversy shows Facebook is for stalking, not interrogations

Facebook can sometimes seem like a digital microcosm of your entire life. It’s where you share snippets of personal information with your friends (and the company’s advertising network), chat with everyone you’ve ever met, and make any major life development “Facebook official.” But the harsh dismissal of a new feature allowing Facebook users to ask friends if they are in a relationship when they haven’t told Facebook yet, shows that the service still has its own rules of etiquette — and that it’s not a perfect replica of the real world.

The feature works like this: someone notices that a friend hasn’t filled out the “relationship status” section of their profile, then messages that friend by clicking on a special “ask” button. After the initiator of the request explains why they want to know if the friend is single or not, the friend decides whether to respond, either privately or publicly. It’s basically a private messaging tool made for one type of conversation.

That question wouldn’t seem strange outside of Facebook. People ask each other about their relationships all the time — it’s hardly a taboo subject. But according to the reaction to the feature from sites like Slate, Time, and Jezebel, a feature made for asking Facebook users about their love lives is stranger than Facebook’s new drone-powered future. A betting man probably would have thought that a social network using flying robots to provide Internet access would be stranger than this “ask” button, but it looks like he would have been wrong.

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