“And I thank god for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin.”
On January 15, Mark Zuckerburg and his crew of innovators revealed a new tier in the Facebook model: Graph Search. The next evening a national facepalm and a documentary-turned-reality show created a new verb: catfish. A few hours later the Facebook team quietly released an update to the iPhone Messenger app that allows users to make free phone calls to friends while connected to Wi-Fi.
These were three stories over three days that will change the way you use Facebook, but how?
Using data from Facebook, Graph Search takes into account the past actions of you and your friends, such as check-ins and likes, to deliver customized search results. Want to find that picture of you and your friends at a UT football game last year? Use keywords like: “photos of my friends at Neyland Stadium from 2012” and voilá!
But, like all things Facebook, there is a creep factor to the search. One Tumblr account is already revealing problems. Searching “Current employers of people who like Racism” revealed the United States Air Force and Target as the top offenders. However, a closer look revealed that many of the people actually “liked” parody accounts such as “Casual Racism from Grandparents.”
With the level of search sophistication Graph uses, you’ll want to review your privacy settings ASAP even if you’re already set to Fort Knox. Use this guide to protect yourself before Graph gets its worldwide release.
Free Calls to “Friends”
Sure there are other minutes-free calling apps that use Wi-Fi like Facetime and Skype, but they’re held back by one major factor: they aren’t Facebook. They aren’t a database of friends, co-workers, classmates, acquaintances, networking connections, randoms, and the occasional family member. In essence, Facebook just became the millennial Rolodex.
We, of course, had to try it out. There was an obvious delay in our call, but it honestly wasn’t that bad. The profile picture of the person you’re calling pops up on your screen and there are options to put the call on speaker or on mute. You can even exit call and message others while talking to your friend.
The concern with this feature is that, when it comes down to it, a lot of the people you’re “friends” with aren’t your friends. At the moment the only ways to block calls are to not be connected to Wi-Fi, not having the app, or just plain ignoring the call.
Online Dating & Catfish
Forget about OkCupid and Zoosk, free online dating on Facebook is now easier than ever! Meet your soulmate in real life but have no idea who he is? Just put those super Facebook
stalking sleuthing skills you’ve perfected over the years to work and Graph Search him. Prefer a more anonymous approach? Graph allows you to search for people based on gender, relationship status, current city and more. Watch out single men in Knoxville who like Mumford & Sons, Harry Potter, and Community—I’m searchin’ for you!
In all seriousness—if you’re looking for love on Facebook, Graph might actually help you find a friend of a friend with similar interests. If you do find a stranger, just use common sense and Facetime!
Once again I’ll leave you with this guide to up the security settings on your profile. Realistically, you’ll be completely fine if you make the changes. I personally think Graph Search and calling will be like everything else on Facebook: we’ll hate it, we’ll love it, we’ll forget about it in a year when the next big change comes—because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that Facebook is the ultimate catfish:
They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin. –Vince Pierce, from the documentary Catfish