Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facebook Introduces "Graph Search," and Let's Talk About That.

[Before we get started...  "Graph Search"?  That was really the best idea that was floated their way in terms of naming this thing?  Graph Search?]

In case you haven’t heard (and it’s been hard to hear much of anything lately over the din of Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey dominating the airwaves like it’s freaking 2006), Facebook has a new search feature.  It’s (regrettably) called “Graph Search.”

You, dear reader, are almost assuredly not among the tiny group of beta testers who have been selected to try this new tool.  You do, however, have the option of being put on a “waiting list” if you’d like to get access earlier than the general public.

Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that we, as a species, have now reached such a stage of technological saturation that we go on waiting lists for Facebook features (and every ounce of my disdain there I’m directing toward myself, because I signed up to be waitlisted yesterday like the lemming that I am), and move directly into an exploration of what this feature is, how Facebook is marketing it, and how the media is touting its potential.


Graph Search is an expansion of the search feature that already exists on the site.  Currently, when you start to type into the search box at the top of the page, you are given a list of people, pages, and groups as Facebook attempts to anticipate who/what you’re searching for (much like Google’s “predictive” search feature).  The results are not alphabetical, but based on an algorithm derived primarily, though not exclusively, from whom you interact with or search for the most.  It’s a system that’s about par for the course when it comes to Facebook:  overly complicated and the subject of countless conspiracy theories.

Graph Search is set to change all that by offering results that are easier to scan (bigger pictures, more at-a-glance biographical information, etc.) and by allowing searches based on multiple parameters. Right now, the only time I use the search function is when I want to look up a specific friend or page. But Facebook is placing a bet that if I had the option, I’d do a different kind of search and I’d search more often.  Graph Search will allow me to search for things like “friends I went to high school with,” or “friends who like the Beatles,” or even “poorly-rated pizza establishments in Memphis,” pulling the results from the information my friends, and friends of friends, have already generously donated to Facebook via their “likes” and comments.


Zuck, through a flashy “unveil” page and video-with-gradually-crescendoing-music, wants me to think that this is an amazing new thing, this ability to search based on pretty much anything anyone's ever put on their profile, ever.  But Zuck has forgotten that I knew him long before he had a symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.

Back in the day, finding “friends I went to high school with” was as easy as clicking my graduation year on my profile.  In doing so, a list would appear with every person on Facebook who listed themselves as a graduate of Bartlett High School in the year 2000.  (Clicking the name of my high school, similarly, brought up a comprehensive list of everyone on Facebook who had gone, or was going to, Bartlett High.)

Zuckerberg.  We meet again...
Same with Beatles fans; prior to the onslaught of official “pages” (which brought with it the death of describing one’s interests in one’s own words), every “interest” that I listed in my profile was hyperlinked, and a simple click pulled up a list of anyone else on the site who had listed the same interest, with those I was friends with or who shared another similarity with me (like living in the same city) being ranked higher on the list than other complete strangers.

I realize that times have changed and there are now more sophisticated ways of organizing data than hyperlinking everything, but for the sake of argument, I can’t resist pointing out that hello, it was Facebook who took away the option of searching by category in the first place, so let’s not act like it’s some huge concession on their part to let us do it again.

And as for searches like “poorly-ranked pizza establishments in Memphis,” well, I was never going to search for that anyway.

And if I was, I’d just go to Google.


The same Google, that is, that the media is now telling me Facebook is in direct competition with.  Because of Graph Search, Facebook and Google are being billed as potential equals.

Okay…where do I even start with this…

a) Let’s not make the assumption that the bulk of my internet searches are reflective of a personal failing on my part to gather basic biographical data (that I’m apparently very curious about) from people face-to-face.  (Put another way, I never before searched for "friends who live in Memphis" not because Google couldn't answer that question, but because I would never search for that because I don't care.)

b) Also, let’s not assume that I trust my friends, or my friends’ friends, above all else as sources of information.  (OF COURSE I DON’T.  Not now, after I’ve seen all the dumb shit they post on Facebook…)

c) For every time that Graph Search will legitimately come in handy - in helping to find a good vet or in finding a deserving home for an extra concert ticket - every goddamn last one of us is going to waste days of our lives reading through the results of searches for things like “people who have written the word ‘fuck’ in a status update” or “friends who gave birth in their teenage years” or any other myriad of mind-numbing bullshit that we’ll come up with to search for.  Google is many things, but it has so far generally steered me away from getting too terribly personal with the lives of private citizens.

And yet, as is always the case, it's the bigger picture here that I am rebelling against more so than the specifics.  I don't have Graph Search (still waitlisted, it seems), but when I get it, I will probably secretly have some tiny amount of fun with it.  And that's my problem. 

When did it happen that "fun" became "sitting alone at a computer and sifting through other people's personal information"?  

Graph Search will likely be successful for Facebook (whose aim, after all, is simple and direct:  to get you to spend more time on Facebook).  But why is it that all of us are apparently leading such boring and empty lives that there was ever a market for this sort of thing to begin with?


  1. Replies
    1. It's my 200th on this blog!! And it's gotta be somewhere in the vicinity of 1600+ for my blogging career...maybe after all this time I'm finally getting the hang of it... :)

  2. "like" ..............................

    lol - really good post... and yes, I guess FB is nothing but the proof that most lifes on this planet are boring as hell - and whatever distracts us from that fact makes it better ... or at least gives us the illusion of not being alone or such

    geeeez I am so tired and it was one of the worst days of my lifes, so this is probably not making any sense.

    Annie Sasha

    1. I'm sorry you had such a bad day (your comment made perfect sense to me!). What happened? Or if you don't want to talk about it, I completely understand. :(

      P.S. YES, I agree with you 1000% in your assessment of us wanting to be distracted from our inherent aloneness and dullness! It's damn depressing if you think too much about it...

    2. oh that is too long of a story to put here - and I really wouldn't want to put it out so public O.O but thank your for asking ... xox ... and offering an ear :)

      re P.S. yep, better not think too much about it. x) gonna give you a head ache

    3. P.S. P.S. I am sorry for my long time to get back to you ... kinda like some recovery needed and luckily I got distracted by the arrival of Sams littel bub :)

    4. Haha, definitely no need to apologize...Sam's baby was BY FAR the most exciting thing to happen last week!!!! (Way more important than blog comments. ;D)

  3. Well, I got Graph Search. Another post may be in order...