From hometowns and high schools, to employment status and favorite movies, Facebook is always pestering users to fill out more of their profile. The Ask button, which was used previously for these other factoids, has been added to the relationship status. It’s possible that this is just another pester-friendly feature from Facebook, but it’s also catering to Facebook’s dating pool.
The function of the Ask button is to flat out ask a friend or acquaintance what’s up with their love life. Instead of scrolling through old updates and trying to infer a user’s status, now users can reach out to one another. Samantha Murphy Kelly, tech writer for Mashable, sees directly to the heart of the change: It’s for dating.
“With the continuing success of online dating sites and Facebook’s massive user base, the only surprise here is that the feature wasn’t introduced sooner” she says. Even when a user shares this information with only one other user, it is still exposed to Facebook, which could be very useful to Facebook’s marketing machine. They keep an eye on what we don’t post, after all.
Indeed, Facebook’s massive user base has inspired romantic connections. Jeffrey Hall, a University of Kansas professor, discovered that seven percent of those who married after meeting their partner online met on social networking sites, including Facebook. And those relationships report being as happy, if not more so, than couples who met through other dating-focused websites.
“Partners who met via social networking reported being just as happy as those who were introduced on online dating sites, which tout their compatibility benefits, and more satisfied than those who met on online communities,” says Alice Park, a staff writer for Time, adding that “social networking-based relationships were happier than those that began offline, in traditional ways such as being introduced by mutual friends.”
So the Ask button may seem a little invasive or creepy, but Facebook has been developing in the direction of sharing as much as possible since the beginning. In the early days, Mark Zuckerberg also ran Facemash, an attractiveness rating tool for college students. And what’s more social and network-oriented than dating and relationships?