Why Facebook wants to know if you’re dating anyone

Posted at 1:02 PM, May 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-20 13:02:24-04

(CNN) — There’s no “Hey, baby, what’s your sign?” button. But if you have a friend with a mysteriously undefined love life, Facebook may have just become a little more like a singles bar at closing time.

A new “Ask” feature lets you ping friends who haven’t set their Relationship Status and ask them what’s up. Facebook has been quietly rolling out the feature for testing in select countries, including the United States.

Clicking on “Ask” brings up a dialogue box with the text, “Let (your friend) know why you’re asking for (his/her) relationship status.” It provides space to expand upon your request — say, to invite them out for drinks.

A Facebook spokeswoman said that similar “Ask” buttons have been available on mobile and Web for a few months for other profile information.

“This feature provides an easy way for friends to ask you for information that’s not already on your profile,” Facebook spokeswoman MoMo Zhou said in an e-mail.

“For example, a friend could ask where you work or for your hometown. If you choose to answer, this information is then added to your profile. By default, only you and your friend can see it, and you also have the option of sharing it with others, too.”

Well, that sounds a little less like an overture from someone who’s hitting on you. Or for that matter, a Poke.

And, yes, even the relationship-status version presumably will have non-stalkery applications. A friend just checking in. Someone who was at your wedding and offering a gentle reminder for you to update your page.

Or … you know … your mom, who remains convinced you’re just not trying hard enough to find Mr. or Ms. Right.

As noted, a user may reply to the person who sent the request without updating their status, though they are given an opportunity to do so. And it’s surely not lost on Facebook that relationship status is a handy piece of information for advertisers trying to target their ads.

Still, some commenters on Twitter found the new feature a little … creepy.

“Are you single or taken? Facebook now lets you ask someone out in the most awkward way possible,” said Ali Mostofian.

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