Dislike: The Problem With Facebook's New 'Ask' Feature

woman confused at computer
Love, Self

Facebook's newest button lets people ask you about your relationship status. How unromantic is that?

I have 15 outstanding "Pokes" on Facebook.

One is from my dad — he has no idea how to use Facebook.

One is from my old boss — that's just weird.

And the rest are a well-balanced combination of middle-aged men I've never met before and guys I haven't spoken to since I was a teenager.

There was a time — that I can hardly remember — where we kept our "hands" to ourselves. Just like we kept our personal information and our most intimate thoughts stored away and written down on pages of a diary that was protected with a puny lock (that any and all older brothers could pick off with their eyes closed).

But as quick as we grew out of wearing training bras and carrying around Lisa Frank trapper keepers, we started sharing more with each other, with the entire world. We posted our evolving moods via song lyrics or quotes or away messages on AOL or Live Journal posts. We found ourselves three hours deep into a conversation in our very own mini chat room, asking questions and sharing info with people we were desperate to learn more about.

Then we graduated from all of that and jumped on Facebook and on Twitter and on Instagram where we shared everything we could capture in a written thought, a filtered picture, or a 15 second video shot with our very own phone. Our newborn children, seconds after they were born. The diamond rings sliding onto our fingers, the second we were asked — were suddenly pumped into the lives of people we hardly knew we knew so well.

So why was I so surprised this week when I heard that Facebook unveiled a new feature that allows people to "Ask" you about your relationship status?

Back in the good ol' days, if Johnny wanted to know if Suzie was single or not, he had to swing the dials on his phone and ask her. But now, a friend you haven't spoken to since sophomore year of high school, or someone you met once, three years ago, at a party in the West Village, can click a button and send you a notification asking what your "deal" is.

How painfully unromantic is that?

We've all been part of a conversation where someone was justifying the seriousness of a relationship based on if it was "Facebook" official. People do (or still do — I hope) enter into relationships in a natural, in-person, and awkwardly-exciting way. But none of that matters until one of them dashes over to a computer, logs into their Facebook account, and scrolls their mouse over an option in a drop down box that list them as "In a relationship with ___".

I think what bugs me the most about this new feature is that it invades our privacy even more. We either put our relationship status on Facebook or we don't. Or we say it's complicated with our best friend — just to show how inconsistent and invalid that question is.

Most of us who are single already have our mom, our Rabbi, or 92-year-old great aunt, the guy behind us in line at Chase Bank asking us why we haven’t found the one yet. We don't need one of our 1,500 Facebook "friends" who would most likely pass us on the street asking that question with one simple button.

This "Ask" button is just another shortcut that will leave us lacking the social skills to seek people out in person and have meaningful conversations. Why meet friends for lunch when you probe them with questions while you sit behind a screen in your Scooby-Do pajamas.

You can be a poker or an asker — or you could be a human being and pick up the phone or send a person a message and say, "Hi, how are you? I'd really love to catch up."

And no Facebook button will ever be able to replace that for you.

P.S. We can be Facebook friends here. As long as you virtually pinky promise to never "Ask" button or "Poke" me.


Jen Glantz is the author of All My Friends Are Engaged, a book of dating disaster stories. She's the heart behind the website The Things I Learned From. She'd love you to say hello: @tthingsilearned or thethingslearned@gmail.com.