Questions are an integral part of our everyday life, which is why we shouldn’t really be surprised that it has become part of our internet lives as well. Facebook, the undisputed leader in Social Networking, has just revamped ‘Questions’, an interface that allows users to post queries which their friends can answer. Before, Questions was a subject-based feature, meaning that users who share a common interest would be the ones to see the question. Now, however, it’s more oriented towards friends and family.
These questions can take the form of a poll or it can be open-ended. The questions are then posed to the user’s friends and friends of friends. Subsequently, the user can also answer questions posed by his or her friends and also his or her friends of friends. You can choose to “Ask Friends” or “Follow” questions posted by your friends.
Posing a Question on Facebook is very much like updating your status. In fact, the ‘Question’ button is right next to the ‘Status’ Button on the Share bar. When you ask a question, you have the option of loading the question with choices such as what you would see in a poll. You also have the option not to do this, and your friends will be the ones to supply the answers. Subsequent people who see your post can either add an answer of their own or ‘vote’ on the supplied answers. Now, even if you have no interest whatsoever on the question your friend is asking, you’ll be able to see it on your feed, same as any status update. Now, you might be thinking that this feature looks quite familiar. Indeed, Questions is pretty much like Yahoo! Answers, WikiAnswer, Formspring, and many other sites out there. The only difference is that the people in your immediate network get to see your question first and not just some random stranger, so you’re likely to get more meaningful answers, especially if you’re asking more personal questions rather than objective ones. For example, if you want to ask a question concerning which dress you should wear to the prom, you can attach a picture so that your friends and family can take a vote. It’s an excellent way to gather opinions from others – but (and it’s a big BUT), there’s a catch.
Casting a Wider Net
Facebook Questions would not even be half as effective if your privacy settings applied to it. If only your friends could see it, then you shouldn’t expect to find answers every time, especially if you’re asking a question that requires a factual answer. As such, Facebook has decided that anything and everything posted on questions is viewable to everyone on Facebook, and there are no settings to change this. Users who aren’t even remotely connected to you will be able to see it. The very nature of the feature requires that all people see the questions and the answers because networks are interrelated, and implementing privacy settings would mean big chunks of missing data, making the whole point of asking and answering questions completely moot. It’s really understandable why Facebook chose to make Questions public. In fact, they even made concessions by making sure that your friends and family get first dibs on your questions and vice versa. Still, this means that a complete stranger could get access to your preferences – though, admittedly, he has to do a lot of sifting to do so. If you are fond of answering questions about habits, for example, such as “Where do you usually go on Saturdays?” or “What do you usually do when you eat out”, Questions can easily become a security risk. Questions that seem perfectly innocent because they’re posted by your friends could provide telltale pieces of information that might possibly be used for identity theft. So, if you’re a stickler on privacy, steer clear of Facebook Questions – or if this is unavoidable, at least practice discretion when you ask or when you answer.