Facebook Tells Users What They Have in Common

John Lister's picture

Facebook is testing a feature that identifies when users have something in common. The theory is that it will boost connections and even lead to more polite conversations.

The feature is not related to the "People You Might Know" section, which suggests other Facebook users to add as friends. That's proven controversial in the past as it often appears to be driven by data users haven't provided directly, such as when two users both appear in the phone contacts list of a mutual friend.

Instead the new feature will take effect in comments, whether that be underneath a post, a photo, a link or anything else. It will only affect public content rather than comments that are only seen between friends.

The idea is that as a user is reading the comments, a new line will appear above the name of a commenter with whom they have something in common.

Education and Employment Potential Connections

The full list of potential common factors hasn't been made public yet. According to CNET, some of the known examples include having gone to the same college, being from the same town, being members of the same Facebook group, and working for the same company. (Source: cnet.com)

Exactly what the feature is meant to achieve is also not entirely clear, though Facebook says that "Knowing shared things in common helps people connect."

One possibility is simply a hope that users will add more Facebook friends. That increases the range of possible content the user will see (such as posts or links from the new friend), in turn increasing the time spent on Facebook, and thus seeing more ads.

Common Interests Could Cut Clashes

Another is that the sense of connection could cut down on hostile interactions.

In theory, if a user reads a common thread they disagree with, but sees that it's made by a colleague or somebody who shares an interest, they might be more likely to picture them as a person rather than an 'anonymous' stranger and thus be less likely to reply aggressively. Of course, that in turn could also make people more likely to engage with the site for longer, which in turns means more ads displayed.

Facebook has noted that information will only appear in this feature if the user has set it to be publicly viewable on their profile. For example, if a user has listed the company they work with (to help them find colleagues) but set their account as 'private', it won't be mentioned as a common factor. (Source: techradar.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Would you find this information helpful? Would knowing you had something in common make you more likely to reply to a stranger in a polite manner? Would it be more likely to prompt you to engage with the person and possibly add them as a Facebook friend?

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Dennis Faas's picture

About the only time I use Facebook is if I'm sitting somewhere (like a doctor's office) and need to kill some time. Whenever I see a suggestion of "People that I might know," it is usually way off - like a friend of a friend of a friend that I've never met. In this respect, I don't care to see "news feeds" of people that I don't know.

I've also been publishing online since 2001, and know first hand that if you make content that people are interested in, they will stick around longer, which also means more potential revenue due to increased page views. To me, this new Facebook feature seems to be geared toward that same idea, rather than something that would be truly useful.

bruce.schau_5665's picture

I to am a casual user of Facebook, and find it annoying that they feed me stuff and suggestions I have no interest in. All I want to do is follow friends, family and any thing I subscribe to.