Do you find yourself unable to go through a day without at least checking your Facebook once, just to see if you have a notification highlighted by a red field around white lettering?
Your tendency to be controlled by Facebook and instinctively type its url into your browser window may be more than self-indulgence and need for social communication. The site has cleverly used music to improve its notification system, making your brain ‘perk up’ at the intonations the sound-based notification provides. So even if you are not attracted to the visual elements of red-on-white, hoping to see a lot of responses or friend requests, the auditory presentation of Facebook may get you.
Back at Facebook’s inception, the programmers trained you with a very basic sound. When hearing sound, you are rewarded by checking your computer and finding a former friend/lover has messaged you, friend requested you or liked one of your statuses. The basis of the action-reward system was this clever little noise:
Simple enough. Every decent chat-based system offers this psychological training component. It is just like click-training a dog or ticking to a cat to get her to come take a treat: we at our base are animals, and we respond to rewarding stimuli.
But Facebook has grown so bold and clever with its technique, that it has now built the notes from a standard Western scale in its communiqué with your brain. Here is the new Facebook notification sound:
At the base, you can hear a few more dings. So what’s the big deal? You probably just checked your Facebook to see if someone actually messaged you, or perhaps if you have your computer volume up, your wife/husband/significant other came peaking about, trying to see who was messaging you so furiously.
As astutely pointed out by AngrySoups, the musical chord produced by the Midi Facebook noise is the grandiose, warming and loved F7 musical chord:
To play F7, you have to include four specific notes:
First, you have to play F.
Then, you should add a clean A.
Then, we add in nature’s note, the C. The C scale is all natural, with no preservatives or Monsanto trickery.
Then to wrap things up, there is the strong E, tickling with F’s harmonics to give the sweet sensation of F7.
That is right. FACE of Facebook is more than just a sound, it is scientifically researched to spell at the four first letters of the company and make you hooked to religiously checking the site’s homepage, again and again.
The amount of research that went into making this a reality is almost frightening.
A man named Everett Katigbak, the early Facebook brand designer and co-founder of the Facebook Analog Research Laboratory elaborates on the subject:
I designed most of the audio currently in the product today. There are a few major components that make up the audio identity. First, is the base chord which is an Fmaj7 chord. For you music nerds out there, yes, these notes actually spell out “FACE”. There are a few reasons I went with this chord
- the obvious FACE spelling. serendipitous discovery while playing with notes.
- the Fmaj7 is a jazz chord. it’s less formal, improvisational, and has a positive feel to it.
- it contains a few interesting intervals within the chord that have certain connotations, and these form the modules for other notifications.
the intervals are: 2 major thirds, F-A, and C-E. The major third trill is what is used on old school telephones. There were several iterations on this, but the first instance where the chord was used, was as the video calling inbound ringtone. It is the base arpeggio in two pulses: F-A-C-E, F-A-C-E. We went with the two pulses because this resembles a majority of international ring variations.
major third trill ringtone
It also contains a minor 3rd interval, A-C. Descending, this interval is the same used in the common doorbell (ding-dong), which conceptually reminded me of when a friend would show up at your house. It is also the quintessential “DIINNNNEERRR” or “LAASSSIIIEEE” call out, which again, is a very nostalgic pattern.
Timmy calls out with a C-A minor 3rd interval in the opening to lassie
There were variations where the descending doorbell interval was superimposed on top of the ascending Fmaj7 arpeggio. The audio suite was designed to be a modular system, where the components can be used for more lightweight notifications, such as comments, likes, etc…