Oh, my God, Facebook is introducing “read receipts” and there is pretty much no way on Earth this isn’t going to rebound and make the whole of Facebook’s user base look like stalkers.
Facebook “read receipts” won’t be a totally new concept to web users of a certain age — read receipts in general are a practice on the web that have fallen out of favor, notifying a person you’ve received or read a transmission they’ve sent.
In and of themselves, read receipts ratcheted communication up to a level of urgency it took a while to get used to — for those of us who came of age in the dying, pre-Facebook era of mailed letters and answering machines, there was a long window of plausible deniability during which you could process information and compose a reply. The whole process of read receipts makes communication fraught with the knowledge the sender knows you know they’ve said something, and every ticking minute makes it plainer you’ve not yet gotten in touch.
One of Facebook’s saving graces is that even when it’s scrobbling your embarrassing playlists and broadcasting your CastleVille exploits via the ticker, it still isn’t letting others know when you’re reading posts from your phone’s browser on the checkout line, or when you’re just in a sucky mood and unlikely to reply charitably to any human interaction — perhaps an important message will come through when you’ve just bickered with your boyfriend or are hanging back from a party and trying to keep a low profile.
Facebook’s read receipts, like several other previous controversial features, are only available to a random set of users who are reporting them as appearing on certain aspects of the service. (Though for chat, they may have been available as early as May.) Which could mean, terrifyingly, that your Facebooking habits are visible to someone right now even if you can’t see them.
Scary? Perhaps. Even scarier? Just opening a certain page can make it look as if you’ve “read” a post, so you may even wind up being implicated as a post-reader when in fact, you’ve only opened a page and not even seen a post because you scanned it, closed it out first or even opened it accidentally.
It’s not clear if Facebook is going to push forward with Facebook read receipts, whether an “opt-out” feature will ever be added, or if the feature is part of a larger function. Does the idea of Facebook read receipts creep you out?