You've Been Facebooked!

There seems to be a fascination (American) with turning nouns into verbs, so now you can be "facebooked."
verb: The action of 1) looking someone up on the facebook website or 2) asking someone to be your friend on facebook.

That girl I met at the frat last night facebooked me this morning.

If you are a member of this particular online social computing community, you can also "poke" someone (a kind of gentle message without content), send an email-style message to them or leave a message on their "wall."

So what is thefacebook?

According to Mark Zuckerberg (founder):

"The idea for the website was motivated by a social need at Harvard to be able to identify people in other residential houses—Harvard is a fairly unfriendly place. While each residential house listed directories of their residents, I wanted one online directory where all students could be listed. And I’ve always enjoyed building things and puttering around with computer code, so I sat down and in about a week I had produced the basic workings of the site.

We had a launch plan to enter into other colleges based on where friends would be most likely to overlap, so the site spread organically based upon that model and now we operate on a broad spectrum of campuses. It doesn’t make sense to exclude anybody or any college from the resources that facebook offers. This is a product that should be fun and useful for all college students.

We don’t view the site as an online community—we bill it as a directory that is reinforcing a physical community. What exists on the site is a mirror image of what exists in real life.

To a certain extent, the website is unfortunate because it oversimplifies things. Everybody’s concept of having a friend is different. It can definitely blur the relationships that exist between people. But in the end, I think that thefacebook can only reinforce preexisting communities. We think we have been particularly successful in strengthening those relationships that exist between people who are only “fringe friends.”

It’s not unusual for us to receive an email from somebody saying, “I spend all of my time on your website and now I have less of a social life than I had before.” We would much rather have people meet people through the website and go out and party than stay at home on a Friday night reading other people’s profiles. And it’s surprising, but we have actually received far less complaints about stalking than we otherwise would have expected."

Quick Facts
- 12 million users (*MySpace has 54 million users)
- 300 million page views per 24-hour period - page views surpasses Google
Facebook comes in seventh in terms of overall traffic on the entire Web
- 70% of users use the site every day
- 85% use it once a week
- 93% visit monthly
- the site makes more than a million dollars a month in ad revenue
- since its start, a high school edition and a photo upload and tagging option was added

I joined facebook myself mostly to see what it was all about. I knew that my college-aged sons both used it. (It seemed like my younger son - a freshman in 2005 - met a hundred people at his school through facebook during orientation and the first weeks - plus all his high school friends at other schools that were added to his friends list - and then their friends who added him...)

I felt pretty sad at first because I had no one to add to my list. I started with my sons who "allowed" me to be their friends (you do have to approve someone's request to be added) though they made me promise never to put something on their wall.

Facebook is not really for mom and dad...
I sense that parents/adults play no real role in facebook, though alumni can create accounts for their alma mater (if you graduated before 1995 I would not expect to find any of your classmates there) and faculty can have a profile at their school. I really didn't like that my profile said "You have 0 friends at NJIT." Who would? So I had to facebook a few students that I thought would say OK to my request.

Then I started searching on students I had taught in my former K-12 days. Found a few and sent them a message. And that led to a few of their classmates finding me. Social networking...

Now I have 37 friends - which by facebook standards is pretty pathetic it seems. Of course, I only have 55 people on my AOL AIM buddy list (also considered pathetic) so 37 seems about right.

It has been interesting to hear from former students. More interesting to see them, as everyone posts pictures which you can view if you are a friend.

I have shown the site to a few real-life/ in-the-flesh friends and colleagues and the most common comments are:

- Yeah. So what's the point? [Remember, most of my friends are old.]

- Why does everyone seem to have an alcoholic drink in their hand in all the pictures? [sad but true]

- Many more females. [Overall on facebook - I'm not sure. They definitely are more likely to add me as a friend than former male students. Just as they have always been more likely to come back to visit, spot you at a Yankees game and say hello, mail you a letter, IM you etc. Nothing new about that.]

- Wouldn't it scare you if you had a daughter and she was posting pictures, her dorm room #, email address and other info online? [Yes}

- Doesn't it scare you that your sons are doing that? [To a degree - but maintaining a common double standard, not much.]

- Don't you think employers will check this kind of site when screening clients? [I've heard about that. I doubt it's widespread but employers can get access through students, faculty and alumni from an applicant's school. I saw a posting that said " is who you portray you are, but Facebook is who you really are.” Last fall, North Carolina State University disciplined several students for underage drinking after a resident assistant found party photos of them on Facebook. A few days after students rushed the football field following a Penn State win over Ohio State, campus police found pictures of the incident containing identifiable students on Facebook. Northern Kentucky and the University of Kentucky both have disciplined students they’d seen drinking in pictures posted on Facebook. Campus police at George Washington University use Facebook to find underage drinkers. Employers and the career center at the University of Kansas use Facebook to evaluate students being considered for KU jobs.

- What about identity theft? [As with any sitaution where you reveal personal information, facebook could open you up to id theft by giving someone enough information to attempt to create a fake account.]

- You can't seriously think that these people actually have 345 "friends"? [Well, not the way we may have once defined friend. I'm pretty confident that someone who has 345 friends on facebook and 150 buddies on AIM realizes that they are not friends in the same way as their 6 really close friends that they see face-to-face regularly.]

That last point has been borne out by research on the Millennial Generation.

I'm going to send a few messages to students in my facebook friends list and ask them to comment here on this blog about my facebook observations. We'll see if they are more likely to comment than my "adult" colleagues who were sent this blog's link prior to my March 10 presentation.

I also just facebooked Mark Zuckerberg. He has 323 friends already, but hey, you can always use a friend, right?


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