*Author’s note: I promise this isn’t just another post about things I don’t like about Facebook. I think context is a fascinating discussion and I would love it if you read this entire post and provided your thoughts.
Sometime in 2010, Facebook introduced the open graph protocol which enabled the construction of new buttons comparable to the now ubiquitous like button. These buttons were supposed to bring us into the age of context. We were supposed to begin seeing the “want” button, the “watched” button, and so many more.
Thus far, there are few of these buttons around the web and instead, it seems as though most applications have bypassed the button entirely and now just add the context when sharing to Facebook (see post below “Jeff biked…”)
Facebook recently took another page out of another social network’s playbook and added the contextual status update. In today’s post we indirectly pay homage to the MySpace mood status update and I’ll tell you how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking about the contextual status update.
What is a contextual status update?
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a tiny emoticon button at the bottom of the Facebook status update box now. When you click it, it presents a drop down menu.
Rather than telling your Facebook network “what’s on your mind” the contextual status update “allows you” to provide additional information by providing context beyond “thinking.”
What’s fascinating to me is that to utilize this feature, one needs to click (or tap on mobile) 3 times, when instead they could just write it (e.g “I’m feeling happy”). The user experience definitely leaves something to be desired.
Facebook should really look into making this feature in-line where typing “feel exhausted” automatically adds the context.
What can we do with this information.
If this feature is intended to provide our followers with additional information, then we should be able to search for this information. Alas, we cannot.
Since context is most relevant in real time, it’s curious that the information is not discoverable.
So again, if this information is not usable, like a hashtag, why would individuals go through extra effort to click the buttons to share extra information that they could just as easily write?
I think the answer is nothing more than “because it’s there.” This then begs the question…why is it there?
Context as a feature
Context is easily added through language, so why is it that Facebook decided to make this a feature? If we look from their perspective, as a public company, their goal is revenue, and more data means more revenue.
Facebook has become astoundingly clever and successful at getting its massive user base to provide more and more information about themselves. Facebook then takes that information and devises new and innovative ways to sell it to advertisers who want the most precise ad targeting opportunities the world has ever seen.
The reason this is a feature is so that Facebook can sell more ads. But enough about Facebook’s nefarious goals of selling our information, let’s talk about context and what it means to us as social human beings.
Why we use it
In a VERY informal poll of my network, I found that some people DO, in fact, use this feature. Primarily people seem to use the feelings context (a la MySpace).
One person said that she uses the context to provide additional information for her followers.
Another said that she feels the context adds value to her posts and gives her friends another layer. She described it like an onion. The copy itself is the outer layer, but the context is a deeper layer sharing not only the words but the emotion as well.
In some of us, there is a desire to share more of ourselves with our networks. We want to create an even deeper connection online. Which begs the question, what’s the next level down?
As a social business strategist, I see this information as insanely valuable. Being able to identify the multitude of emotions that make up sentiment is the holy grail of social data.
As a user, being able to access this information about my friends gives me new things to connect with my friends at a deeper level, and potentially in real time. I’d love to see a list of my friends who are “cooking breakfast” or “watching the Eagles game.”
What do you find when you dig deeper?
Here’s the bottom line, and the purpose of this post: what are we doing here? Why are we connecting and sharing? To a certain extent I think it is how we are hard wired. We desire connection and companionship in happiness and misery. We want to feel like we’re not alone. When we add context to what we say, we add another level of ourselves.
What I want to know is: What is the next level beyond context and will we ever be comfortable enough, or trust in our platforms and friends enough to share the next level?
Is the next level just more and more context? Location, feelings, actions, vital signs?
What Facebook does with our data is scary enough. Are we ready to reveal more of ourselves or will the age of context prove to scare us away from sharing more of ourselves?
This is why I harp on Facebook and trust issues. We have the profound opportunity with social to become more connected, more open, more honest, more accepting and ultimately a more empathetic and compassionate species.
On the other hand, we could also use those ideas as a trojan horse to monetize those feelings to the biggest corporate sponsor. And I fear that would be the greatest tragedy.
It’s your turn. Tell me what you think and feel.
1. Do you use the contextual status update?
2. What is the next level deeper than context? What else can we share about ourselves once we’ve provided context?