Great Achievements in Facebook

Facebook Swears ‘Ask’ Button Isn’t Just For Creeping

We test it out and prove otherwise.
(Screengrab by Jack Smith IV)

(Screengrab by Jack Smith IV)

Since January, Facebook has been slowly rolling out a new feature onto profile pages everywhere. It’s a little button that says “ask” that allows you to request missing profile information, and it takes Facebook stalking to a new, more interactive level.

The “ask” button appears on the front page of your profile next to information you’ve declined to provide — we’ve noticed it mainly next to “relationship status” and “hometown” — and there’s no way to hide the button from your profile.

“A friend could ask where you work or for your hometown,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN this morning, completely dodging the fact that no one cares where you’re from, and this feature is clearly just going to be using this to find out who is or isn’t available.

We decided to run the experiment and ask a number of Facebook friends for their relationship statuses and hometowns (hell, why not) to see how they’d respond.

Screen shot 2014-05-20 at 1.12.01 PMIn order to ask someone for their status, you have to include a brief message — something charming like “Uummmm…” or “Hey grl” or “( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°).”

“If you choose to answer, this information is then added to your profile,”  the spokesperson said. “By default, only you and your friend can see it, and you also have the option of sharing it with others.”

This what they see, while you're checking your notifications every 30 seconds for three hours. (Screengrab via Molly Mulshine)

This what they see, while you’re checking your notifications every 30 seconds for three hours. (Screengrab via Molly Mulshine)

When it came to asking about people’s relationships status, the result was a lot of awkwardness, a little flirtation and some people who just didn’t realize the information wasn’t already public. No one responded to our request for their hometown, because who cares, and that’s not the point.

One possible explanation for why Facebook introduced the feature is that it’s a ploy to get users to share more information for Facebook’s marketing schemes, though we can’t imagine how much more valuable Facebook’s data fire hose would be simply by knowing that my college roommate and I are still in a “domestic partnership.”

The more likely answer is that the feature is more of a ploy to bolster our addiction to stalking crushes and exes, which by our unscientific estimate accounts for 95 percent of Facebook’s traffic.

Follow Jack Smith IV on Twitter or via RSS. jsmith@observer.com