Do you know what the “seen zone” is?
The “seen zone” is a way for virtual gatherings to approximate face-to-face gatherings.
Facebook has a feature on their messenger app that allows people to see if messages have been sent, received, and read. Simply by looking at the small circle under your message on the right side of the screen will tell you this. An empty circle means the message is sending, a clear blue circle with a checkmark means that the message has been sent to the Facebook server, a filled-in blue circle means the message has been delivered to the intended recipient, and a circle with a tiny profile pic means that your message has been seen by the intended recipient(s).
Maybe you haven’t even noticed these small circles but they do teach us an important lesson about gathering and community.
What is a simple and helpful tool takes on special meaning among certain demographics. Because, you see, what happens after a message has been seen is also important. If the message has been seen but there is no immediate reply forthcoming the sender is now in what is called the “seen zone.” Depending on the seriousness of the conversation this can either fill you with joy — ala “They saw my message” — to anger — ala “Why haven’t they replied yet?”
While this may be annoying — sometimes after all you want to remain anonymous — it is a way for virtual conversations to imitate face-to-face conversations more closely. After all, keeping a message in the “seen zone” is akin to not talking to someone in a face-to-face gathering. In either case, the social implications can be huge.
What aspects of virtual interaction make you feel more comfortable? Less comfortable? What make you feel like gathering has happened?