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Facebook Pushes "People, Places and Things"

The social-networking giant changes its search bar to reference—unintentionally or no—a popular 12-Step slogan.

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Facebook members in recovery might "unlike" the
search wording change. Photo via

By Hunter R. Slaton

06/15/12

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Although it doesn’t appear anywhere in official AA or NA literature, one admonishment you’ll often hear at 12-Step meetings is to avoid “people, places and things” that might trigger a desire to drink or use. Just yesterday, Facebook inadvertantly got itself mixed up in the recovery conversation when it changed its search bar to read, “Search for people, places and things.” (Take a look for yourself.) Facebook said this was just a wording change, and didn’t represent any update to its search functionality—to say nothing of some coded reference to a newly and zealously sober Mark Zuckerberg. Nevertheless, the new phrasing raised some eyebrows. Says Beau from Brooklyn, “It's a great phrase—maybe a little ironic seeing it there after sitting through so many AA meetings featuring tales of woe and other spinouts that presumably began with a search for a person, place or thing on Facebook.”

But in fact, the effect that the new wording might actually have could turn out to be positive, a subtle daily incursion of “program-speak” into the wider world, such as a school crossing-guard’s sign—HALT—reminding those in recovery not to get too “hungry, angry, lonely or tired” during their day. And, as some have suggested, the wording change could be a step towards providing search-based ads—so if you do relapse as a result of Facebooking “my old dealer,” “where I used to drink under that bridge abutment in high school” or “cocaine mirror,” Beau theorizes that the social-networking titan might soon be able to serve up ads for “the right rehab.”

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