On One Hand

September 14, 2006

Facebook Changes its Image

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:00 am
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Written for The Campus Press, unpublished

Facebook Changes its Image
Matt Pizzuti
Staff Writer

Facebook.com’s new “News Feed” feature became a major conversation topic across campus last week when on Tuesday the website began notifying students logging on to their profiles of whatever their friends have done on facebook recently. But on Friday facebook responded with an apology and offered new privacy settings that make some of the News Feed features optional.

“The day it came out, more than half of the conversations that took place started with ‘did you see the new facebook?’” said Nick Stockwell, a sophomore theatre major.

The News Feed broadcast information such as friends’ new pictures, profile changes, and updates in relationship status, including breakups.

Stockwell said the news feed also told friends when someone left a group, which many would rather be able to do unnoticed. “A friend of mine was like, ‘dude, you left my group!’” Stockwell said. He continued, “it would show you what people write on other peoples’ walls. It was really eerie to me.”

Facebook offered a disclaimer the day the news feed started, Stockwell explained, but “the button to accept the new features just said ‘awesome!’ and it didn’t let you say no.”

Stockwell said that, though students talked about news feed jokingly, “it seemed like a genuine thing. People were really concerned.” Stockwell’s friends nicknamed facebook “stalkerbook,” he said.

On its first day in action, News Feed provoked facebookers to start and join the facebook group “Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook).” The group had over 7 thousand members by 4 pm.

When facebookers joined the new group, their friends could read about it on their News Feeds, and group membership increased exponentially. By 4:15 that day another 1 thousand members had joined the group, and membership was in the hundreds of thousands a day later. On Friday the group had over 740 thousand members from across the world.

The news feed prompted such a response from facebook users that operators posted a response and apology on Friday. Titled “An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg,” the letter promised better privacy controls.

“’We really messed this one up’ was the perfect starting sentence if you want people to read and pay attention,” Stockwell said of the apology posted on Friday.

Stockwell said that students should like the news feed better now that privacy settings make some of its features optional, and he’s happy to ne notified when his friends add new pictures to their profiles. But the new feature prompted conversations among others about why facebook is even necessary to students who don’t want their information known.

“I think that society is becoming very impersonal,” said Nathan Cooper, a senior theatre performance major who doesn’t use facebook. “There’s no connection with people anymore. It’s all some kind of cyberspace connection.”

He said he’s proud to never have started a profile on facebook, admitting that a friend started one his name but explaining that he “doesn’t even know its password.”

Cooper went on to talk aboud his objections to the site, saying, “Human interaction is very important to becoming a real person. The things people write to each other on facebook are completely pointless.”

Junior psychology major Jamie Sohan said the news feed pointed out the absurdity of facebook.

“The new facebook shows how often people are on facebook because you pull it up and see exactly when they were on,” she said, saying sometimes the news feed would report friends being on several times a day. “Too many people facebook stalk.”

Sohan said she joined just to keep in touch with people from high school, and that she’s “not obsessive about it.”

Stockwell also said he uses facebook to keep in contact with friends who went to other colleges, because it’s quicker than email.

But Cooper didn’t see any such value in the massive connection network. He said he doesn’t want to be reached by people he doesn’t know, and criticized facebook’s exhibitionism.

“There’s all these titty pictures on facebook,” Cooper said. “It’s a dating service with titty pictures.”

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