Facebook is bribing people to make their relationship “Facebook official”

“In a relationship.”
“In a relationship.”
Image: Reuters/Guadalupe Pardo
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For Valentine’s Day, Facebook Messenger is introducing a number of new features for users’ communications with their significant others. But to enjoy the overload of heart emojis that comes with the update, you have to help Facebook bring back a long-abandoned way of using the platform: indicating you’re “in a relationship.”

The features, including special filters and pushing your significant other to the top of “active” users in the app, will appear if you’ve recently updated your relationship status.

Remember the agony of “it’s complicated,” or having all of your Facebook friends know about your breakup? In recent years, users have stopped letting Facebook define their relationships, once a crucial couplehood milestone. BuzzFeed conducted a voluntary, non-scientific online survey in 2015, getting tens of thousands of responses from twenty-somethings asking whether they update their relationship status. Forty-three percent said it was something they’d never do.

Some other digital declarations of love, like photographic engagement announcements, are still common on the platform. But the way to announce your new relationship is now by making it “Instagram official” (h/t The Verge). Unlike an unequivocal “in a relationship” status or the ominous-sounding “it’s complicated,” there is an art to “Instagram official,” with entire guides for how to make it happen. Cosmopolitan advises: “Take a sneaky photo of him that doesn’t include his face, don’t tag him, caption it “😊😊😊.” A crucial part of easing your followers into your new relationship, and easing your boyfriend into your Instagram debut, is to do so slowly.”

Trying to bring the relationship status back is in line with the company’s mission to refocus on connections between Facebook friends, and not Pages or brands. The company is calling these preferred ways of connecting users “meaningful interactions,” but as Adam Mosseri, the head of News Feed, admitted at the Code Media conference on Feb. 12, Facebook isn’t sure what these “meaningful interactions” mean yet. Unless vintage Facebook becomes the new social media fad, past user behaviors show that relationship statuses are perhaps not among them.