Facebook Messenger just introduced video calling. Since Messenger is supposed to be a full-fledged communication platform, this feels a little overdue. But overdue doesn’t mean welcome: now our Facebook friends have the ability to cold video call us whenever chat is turned on.
The built-in Facebook friend contact list makes Messenger video chats a potentially fraught tool. You don’t have to start a chat conversation first to call somebody, which means I could be going about my daily life and suddenly be confronted with a video call from an acquaintance or ex or professional nemesis or my great-uncle. And yeah, I don’t have to accept the call, but then I have to deal with Uncle Dick knowing that I deaded him on the internet. I don’t want to live with that guilt!
I’m also just not quite sure I want to accept video calls out of the blue. I like video calling as much as the next person. I’ve moved living quarters a lot over the past few years, and FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Skype have all provided valuable, fun opportunities to kick it with friends who don’t live in the same place.
Of course, I could just filter my chat list to only include people who I’d also like to video chat with at a moment’s notice. I already often toggle my chat settings so that just my close friends can see me online. But there’s no way to distinguish between people I’m down with getting messages from and people I’m down to have impromptu face-to-face conversations with, and the assumption that those two groups overlap neatly is kind of bizarre.
There are plenty of people — the majority, if I’m being honest — that I’ve become Facebook friends with who I do not really want to give an extremely easy way to video call me whenever I’m online to chat. So this could also give rise to a new form of painful encounter on social media: The Messenger call drop.
No matter how many Pusheen stickers are exchanged, Facebook friendship does not always line up with video calling friendship, and this feature fails to distinguish between the two. This just came out today so obviously there aren’t social norms around how to use it, but for the sake of the sanity of those of us who have mild to moderate anxiety about unplanned video communications, I hope we can agree to pretend this feature does not exist.