Facebook About-Face
September 09, 2006, 05:22 AM
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So, by this time, almost everyone not living under a rock has heard about the Facebook.com debacle that has been raging for the past three days. To summarize:

Facebook is a social networking site, much like myspace.com only less gaudy, which is available to anyone with a school related email address. The vast majority of its users are college students, and few people over the age of 23 have even heard of it – unless they are the users’ parents. Most users spend a large amount of time monitoring their friends’ profiles, updating their own profile and many complain that the Facebook is addictive.

Two days ago, Facebook decided to go stalker on us and provide an front-and-center “News Feed” that tracked almost every move any of our friends made (it’s uncommon for a user to have fewer than 100 friends, so this makes for a loooong feed). On the feed were included pedantic things like “Johnny has changed his relationship status from ‘single’ to ‘it’s complicated’” next to a clipart broken heart, and “Julia has removed ‘The Killers’ from her favorite music list”.

Facebook users rose up in protest, many forming groups (which users can easily join) with titles like “We Hate The New Facebook” and “News Feed Is Creepy.” Others simply refused to update their profile, leave any messages for friends or even log on until the feed was gone. They wanted more privacy.

Today, three days into the fray, the creator of the Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, published an open letter to all users apologizing for the “goof” and providing opt-out privileges in users’ privacy settings. All is supposedly now right with the Facebook world.

On the other hand, News Feed had its benefits. For one thing, I discovered early on that with a little manipulation one could turn it into a great publicity machine. For example, on the first day of the feed, I joined a user group called “Stop Illegal Immigration!” Now, pre-feed, a little link would have shown up under my “Groups” list featuring the name of the group, in a row alongside the other ten or so group that have my membership. In all probability, nobody would have noticed its appearance.

But with News Feed, my joining this group (a group which has, interestingly enough, over 2,100 student members) was broadcast to all of my hundred or so friends. When they logged on, it said right there “Athena has joined the “Stop Illegal Immigration!’ group” on their front page. It was better even that leaving up an IM away message! It was GREAT! I joined a group supporting Tancredo, I joined a group about Michelle Malkin…I was on a roll. And everyone was forced to pay attention, or log off.

They even introduced a new feature that allows users to list their favorite political candidates. If I were to support Kinky Friedman in his gubernatorial run, I could elect to have a banner on my profile saying, in effect, “Athena supports Kinky.” This too, would have been broadcast on the News Feed. My friends could then click on Kinky’s name while viewing my profile, and be taken to a Facebook page profiling Kinky’s platform.

That’s mostly changed now. They aren’t forced to see my affiliations anymore; they can opt out. And in the end, I suppose it is better not to have everyone’s business cluttering up my profile space. Also, I admit, profile-stalking to the News Feed degree is a little tacky. But today I adjusted my privacy settings to allow broadcasts of all my political activities.

Maybe next we’ll even start a VDARE.COM group!