Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, Facebook is adding a few features to Messenger that’ll appear for new couples, ranging from mostly innocuous tweaks to cloying changes that’ll remind both of you that Facebook is always watching and trying to embed itself deeper into the fabric of your lives.
First, after confirming you’re in a relationship with someone, a messenger chat will open up between the two of you, which sounds super helpful in 2018, a year in which it’s totally possible that people in a relationship have never chatted online. When you open the chat, hearts will fall across your screen. Facebook will then display a prompt to set custom emoji, nicknames, and colors for the chat. The default emoji will also be changed to the face with hearts for eyes.
There’s one change here that actually almost gets at being useful: whoever you’re in a relationship with will now appear at the top of Messenger’s Active tab. I say “almost” useful, because having your significant other appear at the top of the screen would be helpful — my significant other is the person I chat with the most, so that would be great — except that I don’t believe anyone uses the Active tab, which is a made up list where Facebook pretends people who have somewhat recently interacted with the site are online and interested in talking to you, when that is not true or how messaging works in 2018.
Now look, I feel it’s only fair that I admit, yeah, my girlfriend and I have set custom nicknames, and changed the chat colors, and picked a new default emoji in Messenger. We may have even chosen the face with hearts for eyes, which Facebook says is the third most popular choice globally, following a heart.
The prompt seems like it’s meant to introduce these features to people who might otherwise miss them — they’re buried inside chat settings normally — but Facebook’s insistence on popping up right as you change your status is another one of those moments where the network ends up coming across as desperate for attention. On top of that, it’s a weird addition coming just a month after Messenger’s leader said the app is “too cluttered” and is in the process of being “massively” simplified and streamlined.
I’m also told by my colleague Ashley Carman that no one uses Facebook relationship statuses anymore and that it’s now “all Instagram official.” Kindly, she has given my long-term relationship’s use of a Facebook relationship status a pass. “If it’s been there since like... hmm... 2012? It’s fine.”