Today I got Graph Search, Facebook’s new search functionality, which really takes social media to a whole new level. Inspired by Tom Scott’s disturbing search queries displayed on his tumblr blog, I decided to give it a go myself. Talk about making connections visible. It all comes down to the creativity of the searcher, with a good amount of help from Facebook as you go. The default settings provide some simple and pretty harmless search options, such as searching for friends, or restaurants nearby.
So I tried some of these pretty simple searches. For instance, what kind of music or movies do my friends like? What are the top 5 artists in my network?
This is of course the exciting side of the coin. The nice part, music, books, movies and favorite national parks. This is what Facebook wants you to search for. This is how Facebook depicts the revolutionary potential of Graph search in its promotion videos and talks. But are users really most interested in “People who like Cycling and are from Seattle”?
Perhaps more realistically, as one of the Graph Search team members also suggests, is that it can be used for things like dating and recruiting. But to what extent do we want to be found? By whom, and in what context? Many have been with Facebook for so many years now (7 years this fall for me!!) that we’ve almost forgotten about our early compliance with filling out pre-formatted profile templates. Remember those drop-down menus and standardized options? “Relationship status” and “political views”?
I’m pretty sure none of the people showing in my queries above wanted to show up in that context. All of these queries are based on the seemingly innocent personal information that many of Facebook’s users provided as part registering to the site. To help you refine your search, Facebook provides some detailed options. You want to find someone born a specific year, with a specific relationship status, or political or religious view? Facebook makes it easy, there is even an option for letting you choose a specific age range, the youngest being people aged between 18 – 22. Luckily I wasn’t able to search for cohorts younger than 18. By tearing down those last walls that kept people at safe distance, has now made it frighteningly easy to find single females between the age of 18-22 living in Oslo, should you wish to do so.
If you were not concerned about privacy before, this would be a good time to start!