Facebook tests new way to connect more users on the platform

Posted On 05 Sep 2018
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Facebook’s ‘Things in common’ label will show users what they have in common with people they’re not connected to.

Facebook is testing a new way to get more users to become Facebook friends. To do so, the company is adding a “Things in Common” label above comments on business, brand and media Page posts from users who are not Friends, but may share common interests and experiences.

For example, if you’re reading through comments by a “non-Friend” on a business, brand or media Page post, Facebook will display a “Things in common” label above their comment, listing things about them that match what’s in your own profile information — like where you went to school or your employer.

A Facebook spokesperson sent the following statement about the test:

Knowing shared things in common helps people connect. We’re testing adding a “things in common” label that will appear above comments from people who you’re not friends with but you might have something in common with. Only information that people made publicly available on their profiles will be eligible to show up.

As Facebook confirmed, it only lists information that users have already made publicly available — surfacing details that could be viewed scrolling through the feed of a person you are not connected to.

Regarding the sharing of user information — a controversial topic when it comes to Facebook policies, or lack thereof — this latest test seems innocent enough not to raise too many eyebrows, but glitches can happen. In June, Facebook confirmed it had accidentally set 14 million users’ privacy status to public without their knowledge. Later the same month, it mistakenly sent app analytics reports to the wrong people.

While Facebook professes to be putting so much focus on user privacy and security, adding a feature that would open up user information in a public way, even information that is already public, seems inconsistent. Not to mention the fact that users probably won’t reach out to someone else just because they share a few common traits on the network. It is only a test — and results may prove that people actually are interested in connecting with someone because they both like the same NHL team. (I’m jaded in this way, and mostly only want to connect with people I already know I enjoy talking to in person.)

The push to get more users connected on the platform plays into Facebook’s overall mission to make the app more of a community-driven experience. In January, the company switched up its News Feed algorithm to show more posts from friends versus branded content. At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg also used his public page to comment on the pervasive divisiveness he felt was present on a global scale.

“The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent,” wrote Zuckerberg on January 4.

Showing people what they may have in common with other people could very well help establish more connections among Facebook users. Whether or not it will reduce the amount of division happening on the platform — and the divisive nature of comment threads — is the larger question, and one not so easily solved.

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