Social media: Facebook joins the dating game
“Watch out, Tinder,” said Kaya Yurieff and Sara Ashley O’Brien in CNN.com. “Facebook wants to help people find love.” The world’s biggest social network announced last week that it is launching a new dating feature that will target the 200 million users worldwide who identify themselves as single. Users will be able to set up a separate dating profile, which won’t be visible to friends, and will be notified of events and groups related to their interests. People with the same interests will be able to message one another “in a private messaging inbox.” The move into the dating world follows Facebook forays into a broad array of online businesses, including its marketplace feature that competes with Craigslist and its takeout feature that challenges Seamless. Still, this announcement feels curiously timed, said Deepa Seetharaman and Georgia Wells in The Wall Street Journal. Facebook has been battling “questions about how it handles users’ data and privacy,” so now seems an odd moment to ask people to hand over even more sensitive personal information. The competition was quick to offer some mocking jabs: “Their product could be great for U.S.-Russia relationships,” said Joey Levin, CEO of IAC, which owns a majority stake in Tinder, Match, and OKCupid.
“Who will actually use this feature?” asked Kari Paul in MarketWatch.com. Older people, that’s who. Industry experts believe Facebook could provide a comfortable platform for “divorcées and users over 40 who may be less likely to use other online services.” Older users are the one group where Facebook is still seeing growth, said James Temperton in Wired (U.K.). Young people are “ditching Facebook in droves”; in the U.S., nearly 3 million people under 25 are expected to sign off the social network for good this year. But almost 3 million Americans over age 35 are expected to join, “with the largest growth coming in the over-65s.” And the dating feature is expected to encourage those users to spend more time on the platform.
Moving into dating actually “isn’t much of a leap for Facebook,” said Lisa Bonos in The Washington Post. For years, couples have been meeting and connecting on the network, and many “go on to marry and have children.” The Facebook-owned Instagram has also been known to be an “accidental matchmaker,” serving as a kind of “portfolio for your dating life.” In many ways, Facebook is just “making explicit something that’s already happening implicitly.” Maybe so, but after recent privacy scandals, I’m not sure why users would ever trust Zuckerberg and Co. with their love lives, said Emma Teitel in the Toronto Star. I understand that the social network is desperate to revamp its image and is trying to shift focus “from the political to the personal.” But by wading into a market that virtually guarantees the “collection of even more personal data,” it opens itself up “to further public scrutiny—and possibly scandal.”