“Seen at … HH:MM” – Facebook’s Ticking Time-Bomb

This exercise was quite entertaining as it allowed me the opportunity to stalk my social media news feeds and justifiably – this is a class assignment after all, (right?) – judge all of its content.  Of course there are many pet peeves I have when thinking about peoples actions online.  Constant ‘point-less’ photo uploads, whiny-complaining status updates, SELFIES (!), are just a few I can think of at the top of my head.  However, what I also discovered while doing this ‘research’ is that I didn’t feel comfortable writing a whole blog post discussing my frustration towards some of these specific actions for the fear that I either have already done some of them in the past, OR, better yet, will do some in the future.

Yes, constant-food uploads of identical looking brunch meals blow up my Instagram as well, but hey, sometimes food just looks so darn good it’s hard to resist!  And yes, the typical arm-on-hip pose people judge girls for doing can look quite conceited, but I am most definitely a victim of the trend, similar to how people used to think the “duck face” somehow made them look better.

So I decided to take another route.  Instead of complaining about social media pet peeves I have towards what my fellow ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ do, I decided to rant about a recent technological change that comes from social media giant Facebook instead.

When sending emails and text messages, something that I greatly appreciate is the ability to read a message whenever, wherever and respond with equally the same freedom.  This unfortunately is not the case with Facebook Messages.  The dreaded “Seen at” haunts my thoughts no matter who I am receiving a message from.  I no longer feel as though I have the ability to leisurely read messages without the added pressure of figuring out when to respond.  For those of you who don’t know what I am referring to – does this image bring out some feelings of deja-vu?

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 11.24.08 PM

With this new innovation Facebook implemented about a year ago, I have realized an increased sense of anxiety after I read messages, since I no longer feel the same sense of privacy I used to prior to this change.  Not only do I feel more inclined to respond after I have read a message, but it frustrates me knowing that when they see it has been ‘read,’ they will inevitably begin to speculate my whereabouts.  As outlined in the LA Times, it can create some extremely unnecessarily awkward situations between friends.  And I say ‘unnecessarily’ because why should I have to explain the time lapse between when I read versus when I responded?


Nancy Baym talks about how we are being pushed towards “continuous interaction” and it is innovations like this that cause this anxiety that clouds over social media in general.  Peoples concerns about their privacy no longer surround the thought of personal information being posted to the public, because now it is normal to have this available for everyone to see.  We think that since everyone else is on the same page, it is okay that it is this way.  This domestication of these online platforms is part of the continuous evolution of the digital world, but why oh why does this need to include the exact moment I press a button to open a message?  Especially since, some of the times, I don’t even read the message in that very moment.

But it doesn’t stop at Facebook; a similar feature was also launched on the iPhone’s Messages App.  However, the one difference is that Apple provides an easy Settings option with the ability to turn this off.  Facebook wasn’t so generous and does not provide us with an easy, accessible, user-friendly way of going about this – Google Chrome, however, does (although it is neither easy nor accessible considering one needs to go out of his/her way to download it).

While it can be appreciated that Chrome came out with a downloadable option for users to “turn-off” this “Seen at” feature [as can be found here] – why should I have to turn it off?  Why can’t I instead have the option to turn it on?

I guess, like every other technological change, it takes a period of adjustment to get used to it.  The LA Times quotes a Facebook representative as stating this feature as a way to make “messages more conversational” and while I see the thought-process behind this, I also see the irony.  Yes, it creates more pressure for people to respond in ‘real-time’ and have more organic conversation flow online, but it also causes stress.  We shouldn’t need to feel forced to respond within a certain time frame, we should want to respond under a time frame we implement upon ourselves.


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