Facebook has always been creepy.
From its origins as a way for a socially inept Mark Zuckerberg to stalk cooler classmates at Harvard, the platform has consistently pushed the limits of conventional social and personal boundaries.
Rather than bringing the world closer together, Facebook’s motto should be: “Show us more. Tell us more. Let us inside your world, your heart and your head!”
Objectively, such rabid intrusiveness should make a person’s skin crawl. Why billions of people put up with it is likely explained by some combination of habituation, narcissism, voyeurism and genuine utility. (Honestly, I might not remember my own mother’s birthday if Facebook didn’t remind me.)
Sometimes, however, Facebook pushes people farther than they are prepared to go.
That was the case this past weekend, when it asked some U.K. users: “How would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures.”
After The Guardian reported the incident, Facebook quickly apologized.
“It shouldn’t have been part of this survey,” Guy Rosen, vice president of product at Facebook, tweeted on Sunday morning. “That was a mistake.” By way of explanation, Rosen said: “We run surveys to understand how the community thinks about how we set policies.”
But, it was too late. People’s creepiness detectors were flashing bright red.
“HOW do you define this as ‘a mistake?’” one Twitter user asked in response to Rosen’s tweet. “A mistake to post it? A mistake to WRITE IT and then post it? A mistake to EVEN THINK IT SOMETHING WORTH ASKING?? Please CLARIFY ‘mistake...’”
Truly incensing many people is that fact that Facebook didn’t include any mention of unlawful activity -- or the possibility of contacting law enforcement -- in its original survey question.
“I noticed ‘call the police’ wasn’t any option,” another Twitter user noted. “This survey is beyond the pale, even for Facebook.”
Howl as they might, however, people’s occasional realizations that Facebook is as creepy as any midnight stalker won’t change a thing.
Sure, Zuckerberg has grown up some since his geeky college days, and he recently vowed to make serious changes at Facebook, like curbing trolls and fake news.
But, invasiveness is in the company’s DNA, intrusiveness is core to its business model, and for Facebook, the only way forward is to continue drilling deeper into the darkest regions of our souls.