I never thought I would say this out loud, let alone to dozens of people, because I used to see Facebook as an unkept place, one that did not really care about it’s users. However, like many products that work really well, it’s easy to take that ease-of-use for granted.
I learned about Facebook’s serious attitude toward their responsibility last week I attended the Wisdom 2.0 conference* on the intersection of technology, mindfulness and purpose in business. The conference has the goal of forwarding the notion that our work can be part of a fulfilling life, even help us to create it.
Arturo Bejar, Director of the Protect and Care Team at Facebook, presented some of the work his team does to not only prevent untoward communications between the 1.25 billion people using Facebook, but to actually enhance their connection.**
You may be familiar with a capability that allows us to request Facebook to take down photos that we do not like. To implement this capability, it might have been easiest for Facebook to just take down every photo that received this request. But in reviewing the requests they discovered that only a small percentage of the photos really fit the reason people were asking to have them removed: harassing, obscene, hate speech, etc.
The engineering team realized that most of the time people just did not think the photo a flattering likeness, so they did not want it shown to others. In addition, the people who did not like the photos would rather have Facebook remove them than ask their friends and family.
The Facebook team decided that helping their users to better communicate with one another creates a product that is more easily sustained, and more important enables people to ask for what they want, and be empowered.
So the engineers crafted messages to help us figure out how to communicate with one another, taking Facebook out of the decision. They spent lots of time and effort testing several styles of verbiage and messaging methodologies to ensure that the max number of people use the capabilities.
I love that Facebook software engineers are helping their users take responsibility for communicating with their “friends”, rather than passing the buck. More important, I think it’s helping us to get better at one of the biggest issues in communication: the ability to ask for what we want. Bravo!
This is such a great idea that the New York Times covered it. In the article the author, Nick Bilton, states, “This may seem like a piffling side project to some. But I believe the success of social media largely depends on solving this problem and teaching users to be kinder and more empathetic.” I agree, and would add that learning to communicate better, especially asking for what we want in a gracious manner, is key to our human race continuing to evolve.
The additional idea I took from Mr. Behar’s presentation is that I do not want to rely on Facebook to help me ask for what I want, but somehow the engineering team taking this so seriously has motivated me to be better at communicating.
What about you? Do you find their work inspiring? What will you do differently in the near future? Please leave a comment to let us know!
* The conference was amazing! Stay tuned for more information on the insightful and useful presentations.
** You can see a YouTube of Mr. Behar at another Wisdom 2.0 conference here.