Hayley Brooks & Ali Kokot | Searching for serendipity


Think Twice | Facebook’s new search engine, Graph Search, knows that Hayley likes quinoa


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Ali Kokot & Hayley Brooks
Think Twice

Photo by Hayley Brooks and Ali Kokot


We were searching for a new best friend to help us write the column (Think Thrice?) through the new Facebook Graph Search feature. Landing on a brunette over 5-foot-7 who loves baby animals, “The Book of Mormon” and cheese plates, we figured we had found our perfect match. Right?

Possibly. But we’re going about it the wrong way. Facebook’s new Graph Search will change the very verbs we use to talk about finding friends. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls graph searches “recruiting.”

Really, we’ve been reduced to recruiting friends? On-campus recruiting is over, guys.

This new search engine within the interwebs of the social network, a feature Facebook has been rolling out through a waitlist system since January, will allow users to find friends through various keywords — some serious and some ridiculous.

Every search will sort through the entire history — conversations, comments, likes — and network of that Facebooker and will regurgitate corresponding results. A search could be anything from “My friends’ favorite restaurants in New York City” to “What are my friends doing for Spring Break?” We could even look at “People who like quinoa,” which would create a list of one’s friends, and potentially friends of friends (and so on) that also enjoy the most magical, carbiest protein on Earth.

Ali would not be on said list.

An already viral Tumblr, “Actual Facebook Graph Searches,” has highlighted some questionable queries including “Mothers of Jews Who Like Bacon” and “Married People Who Like Prostitutes.”

Now, technically, Facebook isn’t revealing anything about you that you haven’t already disclosed to your social network. But if some creepy guy who lives in his mom’s basement searches for single women in Philadelphia, and you identify as such on Facebook, you could hypothetically make this dude’s list.

You should probably change your privacy settings immediately. Like, right now. We’ll wait.

Aside from its ability to provide these results, Graph Search is smart. It speaks our language. According to The Wall Street Journal, the engine knows that “besties” and “homies” are our closest friends, “randos” are just friends of friends of friends and by taking verbs, synonyms and grammar into account, we can find other “students” 275,000 different ways.

So while Graph Search is cool, efficient and novel, it also makes us worry about what’s happening to our so-called friendships.

It’s on us to use this tool appropriately.

Graph Search has taken the “making” out of friend-making, and this instant gratification can’t compete with the rewards of taking the time to really get to know someone. Will there come a day when we can no longer enjoy the process of unearthing our quirky common interests — like quinoa — because Facebook will have already detected them for us?

The quest of discovering others defines the human experience, and when we cut out the journey and skip to the destination, our lives will become real boring real fast. It’s exciting to stumble upon shared traits with others, while looking it up in a search query is so deliberate and so lame.

Are we heading to a future where a blind date greets you at the door with your favorite flowers while serenading you with your favorite song before taking you to your number one dinner spot?

Romantic or creepy? We’re still not sure.

Facebook’s Graph Search is but one addition to the rising trend of eliminating conversation and interpersonal contact. As busy Penn students, we all try to cut the unnecessary out of our days, but we’re making a big mistake when we devalue taking the time to get to know someone — whether as friends or more. This slow, organic process is what builds the lasting bonds of true love and friendship. Everybody knows that.

We may not be the most technologically literate, but we’d rather make friends — really make them — than passively search our way to discovering our besties.

Sorry Zuck, but no software will replace the joys of serendipity.

Ali Kokot and Hayley Brooks are College juniors from New York, N.Y. and Ft. Lauderdale, F.L. respectively. You can email them at thinktwicecolumn@gmail.com or follow them at @haybethbrooks and @alikokot. “Think Twice” appears every Wednesday.

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