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Facebook has an empathy team to teach employees that users are human beings

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'It's kind of arrogant to think the only reason people exist is to use what you built.'

Every so often I like to go back and watch Facebook's first-ever TV commercial from 2012. It's only 39 seconds long, and it features a lot of chairs. I never get very far because the commercial is bonkers. It ends with the words: "Chairs are for people, and that is why chairs are like Facebook." Two years later and the social network is still struggling with how to relate to human beings.

To aid the corporation in its efforts, Facebook has marshaled together an "empathy team." Much like product or business, in Menlo Park empathy is still in development. Facebook’s director of product design, Martha Gould Stewart, revealed the existence of this group of empaths during a tech conference panel this week. Business Insider reports:

Martha Gould Stewart, revealed how Facebook has even redesigned all its internal dashboards, which used to say things like "daily average users," but now read "daily average people."

Gould Stewart explained why: "As somebody once said: It's kind of arrogant to think the only reason people exist is to use what you built. They actually have lives, like, outside the experience they have using your product, and so the first step of designing in a human-centered way is to recognize that they're humans."

Mark Zuckerberg, currently off compromising himself in China, often says his company's mission is to connect the world. So what was Facebook's design centered on before it became human-centered? My best guess is personal data collection or advertising, but maybe it was centered around chairs.

Much like product or business, in Menlo Park empathy is still under development

It's practically progressive in Silicon Valley to admit you have a people problem. Just look at Google Glass. But Facebook's empathy team isn't actually that focused on the end-human and her issues with Facebook.

That team actually goes in and visit partners like small businesses or large advertisers to help them run their ad campaigns and find out more about their companies and goals.


She explained:

"If you succeed or fail at a particular goal, you may not feel the pain or success that a real person using that product to run their business will feel. So we find when we pair individuals and build a relationship with a small business and the campaign they made fails, they [— Facebook staff —] feel that.


"They want to help that person succeed, which is very different from doing it in the abstract."

Ah right, the pains of a poorly executed advertising campaign. Something Facebook's 1.35 billion monthly active users can relate to.