According to Facebook, the Messenger app currently has around one billion users. Those users can do a lot of things: Order flowers, play games and bother everyone on their contact list with inane location updates. Now, if a new report is to be believed, users may soon receive creepy conversation topic suggestions from the app. Image: AP
TechCrunch reports that Facebook is currently experimenting with "conversation topics", which would provide users with possible material to discuss with friends. Per TechCrunch:
These conversation starters appear to rely on Messenger's connection to Facebook's larger social network, as they reference things your friends have done lately — like where they have been, or events they plan to attend, for example. …
In other cases, the suggested topics might include things like the songs the friend just listened to on a music streaming service, or an event they have indicated they have said they're interested via Facebook Events.
Chris Messina, an Uber employee, noticed the feature — which is apparently still in "small test" mode — this weekend, and described it as "clever".
— ?Chris Messina (@chrismessina) October 16, 2016
Sorry, Chris, but "clever" isn't the word I'd use here. Sure, this feature might be helpful if your Facebook friends aren't actually friends and are really just random people you went to high school with. But for everyone else, having an easily accessible list of the recent activities and habits of your friends is creepy, not rad. (And besides, if you're in the first camp, why would you want to initiate a conversation with these people anyway, unless it's the night before a reunion and you're all like, "Hey, Nick, it's been a while, but which bar should I show up to tonight?" or, "Hey Maggie, I just got fired, can you put in a good word with your employer?")
The impulse behind this idea makes sense, sort of. Facebook seems to be trying to help you be a more attentive friend, but the feature really just feels like another reminder that the social network is keeping track of your every move. It's similar to the already-existing "nearby friends" and "this friend is attending an event near you" features, which are also exceedingly unsettling.
Facebook still appears to be testing things out, so the majority of us are safe from Messenger's prying eyes for now. (We reached out for more detail on the timeline, but hadn't heard back at time of writing.) But for now, never forget: Mark is always watching.