If you were to log into your Facebook account right now (or maybe you’re already on it), you probably wouldn’t notice that anything has changed. In an age of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and constant innovation, we have become so accustomed to changes in technology that they barely faze us anymore.
Remember when Facebook introduced the “timeline” a few years ago instead of just a wall, and all of your status updates, photos, etc. were tracked as memories? That was a big change, but now I bet you barely remember what the old Facebook layout even looked like. Or, if you were a teenager or young adult in the mid-2000s, remember Myspace? Teenagers today barely know what it is. The thing is, when it comes to technology, we accept change as par for the course- we embrace it, even, because change in the technology sector is synonymous with innovation. Technology companies are constantly seeking ways to improve their products.
Just in the past few weeks, Facebook rolled out a series of new features, and is in the process of developing one of them even further. According to Mashable writer Dan Beres, “Facebook is turning into a confusing social nightmare.” Is is possible innovation could be a bad thing and over-complicate our lives rather than simplify them as intended? Well, it’s probably too early to tell and it depends on who you’re asking. But one thing’s for sure: Facebook continues to assert its social dominance and shows no signs of slowing down.
One of the biggest features Facebook has introduced is M. Not Em or Emily, just M. Like Alexa, Cortana, or Siri, M is the latest in personal assistants. M was unleashed to the U.S. yesterday and as Facebook describes in its press release, “M is your helpful assistant in Messenger, powered by artificial intelligence.” M works by syncing with your messages and offering suggestions by analyzing your messages to determine if you’re sending a sticker, requesting or sending money, looking for a ride, sharing your location, or starting a poll. Based on your predicted actions, a suggestion box will pop up to help you out.
The idea for M was first introduced in 2015, and as many features as M currently offers, it’s really just a prototype compared with the plans Facebook has for it. David Marcus, Facebook vp of messaging products, described his vision of M as follows: “Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.” The current version of M makes it easier to use pre existing services, but Laurent Landowski, a product manager, emphasizes that “M is an evolving product” and future plans involve M completing outside tasks.
Facebook has released some other new features recently as well, including a “Stories” feature that allows users to post colored blocks of text as status updates, a false news identification tool, and a new rocket icon that will bring up a secondary newsfeed with content curated to suit your interests based on your past behavior on the site. It seems, with all these updates coming out in a matter of weeks, that Facebook is trying to compete with other social media apps to maintain its dominance. The “stories” feature is especially indicative of this, as that’s Snapchat’s domain, and Instagram introduced their own version recently as well. Facebook may still be the most popular social media site, but with so many other apps available vying for users’ attention, it no longer has the level of authority it once did. Social media is competing with itself. According to Beres, “The mismash of features has made Facebook a confusing mess to navigate, and it may be the clearest signal yet that our social interactions online are becoming fractured.”
With these features being so new, it remains to be seen what the general consensus will be, or how long it will take users to even notice any difference at all. Some may argue that technology is becoming too intrusive, encroaching upon every aspect of our lives, but that’s a conversation for another day.