Facebook mail: commenting on your photos makes you female

Over the last few days, Facebook quite clearly seemed to be upgrading its email notification components. This is what I concluded from the email from @facebookmail.com I found in my own mailbox: Because of some personal circumstances, I happened to post more often to my Facebook account than I usually would have, and more importantly received more comments. Comments are sent to my Gmail account as per my chosen Facebook settings. What I found, however, was that not all comments were being forwarded, and some of those that were appeared in the mailbox up to about 15 min after they showed up in the Facebook user interface.

Some performance glitch, I thought. But today the email notifications became somewhat creative. Here is a screenshot of the notifications of today that contain the text “also commented on” (I have covered up last names to protect my friends’ privacy):

Screenshot: Facebook notifications with gender confusion
Screenshot: Facebook notifications with gender confusion

There are two types of notifications: For comments on status updates and for comments on photos. Each can be done by the original poster (of the status update or the photo) or, more often, by someone else. To see the problem better, here are the update notes for comments on one’s own photos and status updates:

  • Ned also commented on her photo
  • Ned also commented on his status
  • Michael also commented on his status
  • Mike also commented on her photo
  • Jason also commented on his status

When I first saw this, I wondered on whose photo Ned had also commented on.

I haven’t follow Facebook’s UI choices in-depth, but Facebook used to use the singular “they” in their notifications, even if  the user’s (self-described) sex or gender was known. So what we can suppose happening here is that they’re reducing the use of singular “they”, and producing some glitches in the process. I checked: both Mike and Ned indicate their sex as male in their Facebook profile. So Facebook is currently reassigning a female gender to posters who comment on their own photos. What I don’t know is if women get reassigned to male.

The issue only shows up in email, that I could see. On the Facebook, Ned is male:

Status update note in the Facebook user interface
Status update note in the Facebook user interface

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