Facebook is still Facebook.
After years of focusing on privacy and user data privacy, Facebook is testing a system that will allow you to organize groups that range from short-term “mommy groups” to membership-based affiliates. Facebook says in a blog post that the new service allows users to organize groups around specific interests, causes, and more—if that’s what your “Mommy Group” wants to do.
So if you had a soccer group, a knitting group, or just one of those little virtual ghettos on the thing you just bought, Facebook wants to help you join it so you can all feel connected to the larger social network.
There are some big drawbacks to Facebook’s plan.
First of all, it’s a one-way street. What’s the point of organizing group if your mom isn’t able to join?
And let’s say your mom isn’t able to join your soccer group: your soccer group will remain weird because she can’t join you, and her interests might never be included. This is, of course, also a personal issue that your mom is not meant to have to face.
Facebook is using this system to help users “share their passions and activities in ways they love” and “meet like-minded friends.” The full feature is currently only available in Brazil and India—at least for now.
The short-term interest-based groups are Facebook-speak for an Active Network. In the “Metaverse,” people can automatically reach out to people and groups across the group and Mini Network—a sort of virtual giant echo chamber.
Facebook is testing the features for users who have received “a small number of questions about mini communities.” The site says that the primary goal of these groups is to maintain conversations between people rather than constantly take up space, and help members with a broad swath of interests.
For other groups who simply want to have conversations without the artificial distraction of a numerical number, Facebook is testing a new feature that could allow users to create smaller group threads, so that conversations can also work as forums for discussion, rather than just asynchronous silos for vocal echo chambers.
Finally, Facebook is testing “Chat,” a tool that lets users reach out to other members of a group from a single spot. If you message a group member without having to drop into one specific thread, the tool will ensure the individual message doesn’t make its way back into the discussion. The feature is available to Pages but not shared with the general public.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this new group-planning system is Facebook’s suggestion that the feature will be used to help avoid trolling. The Metaverse features are described as a “forced (and well intentioned) break from our current relationship with the social networks,” and will be available to Facebook users who “need a little break from the dramas of the living world,” the site says. In a follow-up post the company insists the Metaverse is just that: a portal for people to discuss interests, but “not for so much as a virtual hotel room,” such as on the crowded side-hallways of a family home.
Facebook is still the Metaverse. Your mom’s misinformation group is just going to meet different faces with a different group of people.