In which he who asks most learns least

Facebook has found a new way of ruining everything. Not content with giving us all body image complexes and diluting the concept of ‘liking’ down so far that we think we like video tributes to people’s dead pets, it’s now introduced an ‘ask’ feature that allows friends to request info on, among other things, your relationship status. 

I say ‘friends’, but of course that’s a diluted concept too. A friend can just ask. A friend already knows. What we mean here is ‘creepy almost-stranger who has run out of socially-approved ways to hit on you’. The formality of it adds an additional level of creepiness – where a flirty message written with actual words would do the job, this takes out any semblance of effort by laying out tick boxes, notably without the option to say ‘err, no comment’. It’s like a Freedom of Information request, but horrible.

To be fair, in recent years things have got trickier for the Facebook romancers (whoever they be). Most of us have stopped listing a relationship status at all, because we learned that there is nothing more awful than changing it back to ‘single’ three months later and watching the concerned sadface emojis flood your wall. By the time a new courtship is solid enough to risk the change, it also seems daft to declare it. “HEY EVERYONE, WE HAD THE ‘WHERE IS THIS GOING?’ CHAT! WE SURVIVED! VALIDATE THIS,” it screams. Besides, everyone who knows you knows you’re a couple anyway and will just write sarky things underneath.

But just asking? There’s something so incredibly un-British about it. Everyone knows dating is meant to be a long, confusing dance of mystery and intrigue where everything is communicated through clues and euphemisms and accidentally turning up at the same events as each other until one day you happen to have three kids and a mortgage.

Asking is cheating. Just as us coupled people have to find the exact right moment to casually drop in the fact we’re not single – too soon and it looks presumptuous, too late and they’ve bought you a monogrammed dressing gown – prospective amours are meant to find better ways of registering interest than simply asking.

Of course, we all know the reason Facebook has introduced the ask feature too. It’s not to help shy people and bored 16-year-olds find eternal love – it’s so they can pass the info on to advertisers. Which begs the question: what would they be trying to sell to me if they knew I had a boyfriend? Spa retreats? Engagement rings? Bicycles made for two?

The adverts on my current Facebook feed are for skin products, bread, Topshop and Foxy Bingo. I definitely liked three of those things when I was single, and the other one I’ve never let myself try for fear I would like it TOO MUCH. Meanwhile my boyfriend’s feed is flogging him cars, glucose monitors, broadband… and, curiously, Foxy Bingo. So maybe Facebook knows we’re compatible after all.