Facebook has introduced a new feature allowing users to request prayers – an update that has been roundly mocked and skewered by critics, who say Facebook has far larger issues to focus on.
Users can use the tool to request mass prayers for anything from a job interview to personal health. After a user creates their post, others can click a button reading, “I prayed.” The feature began being tested in the US in December.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many faith and spirituality communities using our services to connect, so we’re starting to explore new tools to support them,” a statement from a Facebook spokesperson reads.
Facebook’s ‘prayer tool’ was met with scepticism and mockery on social media, where many critics blasted the company for focusing on the new feature over numerous other issues, such as concerns over misinformation and censorship.
Religious leaders have responded in mixed fashion to the feature, according to a report from the Associated Press (AP). Some praised the new tool as an innovative way to promote faith and connect religious communities, while others dismissed it as meaningless compared to in-person gatherings, and also expressed privacy concerns.
Facebook already uses personal information from users to better target ads, though it claims “prayer posts” will not be used in these algorithms.
“Is it wise to post everything about everyone for the whole world to see?” Father Bob Stec, pastor of St. Ambrose Catholic Parish in Brunswick, Ohio, told AP. “On a good day, we would all be reflective and make wise choices. When we are under stress or distress or in a difficult moment, it’s almost too easy to reach out on Facebook to everyone.”