By Kimberly Prather, Student Reporter
In the Brown Library, row of eight computers meant for studying instead all feature the same Web site – Facebook.
Students are checking on friends’ statuses, the latest posts and updated profiles at one of the most popular social networking sites for the average college student today.
With more than 69 million active users worldwide, one would have to wonder what is the addicting agent that is in Facebook and what are the hidden dangers that lie beneath the initial good.
On Feb. 4, 2004, the phenomenon that is Facebook was launched, changing the world for young adults everywhere.
Originally meant as a harmless tool to connect students with one another all over the world, the Web site has now reached out to millions everywhere and might be secretly doing more harm than good.
Initially meant for only Harvard University students, the Web site quickly expanded to all Ivy League schools, and then to any enrolled university student. On Sept. 2, 2005, the fixation expanded to high school students, then to specific networks and finally to anyone age 13 years or older by Sept. 11, 2006.
The free-access Web site allows users to join networks, such as a school, place of employment or geographic region, to easily connect and interact with other people who share the same interests. Its original set up of just meet-and-greet facts included features like the Profile, Wall, Pokes, Photos and Status Update.
Facebook is now a lot more intricate and becoming more like the MySpace world, which was and still is criticized by its bold open access to anyone and subsequent lack of privacy.
According to MSNBC.com, MySpace recently was the focus of several newsreports stating, “Teenagers have found ways around the restrictions set by MySpace and have been the target of online predators. Stricter methods for enforcing age admission will be enforced in the future.”
However, users tend to like the fact that Facebook is expanding its borders. Deidre Montgomery, junior business management
major from Irving, got on Facebook when it initially came out.
“I am on Facebook more now than before because of all the new applications to play with; my purpose has changed from when Facebook first came out, but I am also more cautious with these new applications,” Montgomery said.
Over time, Facebook has added many new features that bring the profiles closer to the MySpace arrangement. On Sept. 6, 2006, Facebook launched News Feed, which caused huge dissatisfaction with Facebook users everywhere.
The News Feed appears on every user’s homepage and highlights information, including profile changes, upcoming events and birthdays related to the user’s friends.
“With all the new applications, especially News Feed, more is being revealed about people, and people can see intricate details and specifics; this is dangerous,” Montgomery said.
Privacy started to become more an issue with the release
of News Feed as the comfort of a private social utility went out the window.
Dr. Susan Lewis, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication, conducted a study that examined the reaction regarding the News Feed in the first 36 hours, all surrounding feelings of misunderstanding, anger and violence,” Lewis said.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, on a Facebook blog entitled “An open letter from Mark Zuckerberg,” users complained that the News Feed was too cluttered and full of undesired information, while others were concerned that the News Feed made it too easy for other people to track down individual activities that some may have wanted to keep private.
“Facebook users were not considering [the fact that] everything was already being recorded, documented and saved. Information is not temporary; it is permanent,” Lewis said. “The social utility that claims privacy is in fact very public.”
Zuckerberg issued an apology for the Web site’s failure to include appropriate customizable privacy features.
However, some users think customizable privacy settings are not the answer to all the problems and concerns regarding Facebook.
Users wishing to delete their profiles could not do so completely because the information they had entered into the Web site and on their profiles still existed on the Web site’s servers. Users could only “deactivate” their accounts, and this had some users concerned, especially those who wished to permanently remove their accounts.
Facebook, as of Feb. 29, 2008, changed its account policies, allowing users to contact Facebook administrators directly to request that their accounts be permanently deleted from the Web site, according to the Privacy and Security statement on Facebook.
Misrepresentation seems to be the biggest problem behind Facebook. Users sometimes want to erase a past mistake that is now permanent and available to the world’s scrutiny or employers’ searches.
Shelana Poindexter, associate director of athletics for compliance and senior woman administrator, is on Facebook and sometimes sees mistakes that students make.
“Some students don’t realize that employers can see whatever you put on your page,” Poindexter said. “Facebook is a fun 21st century invention, but at the same time students need to be smart about what they put out there for everyone, faculty, staff and future employers to see.”
Other problems could occur with applications like pictures and video.
Nene Hynson, junior exercise major from Sulphur Spring, said her social club, Delta Theta, strives to promote good behavior by reminding its members about Facebook’s availability; so pictures or other posted items should be in good taste.
Sherrita Gardner, freshman broadcast journalism major from Dallas, emphasized the video aspect as being a dangerous ingredient for trouble.
“One of my friends posted a video that received the wrong kind of attention. It made her look bad to peers and faculty because being a student at ACU, we are just supposed to uphold better standards,” Gardner said.
Chris Peterson, spokesperson for Facebook, denies any information ever being sent out to third-party seekers. Despite all the criticism, Facebook fans still remain in the millions because of the addicting “drug” implanted in the Web site.
“It has now become a part of my everyday routine,” said Larone Donahue, junior marketing major from Arlington. “I can check up on people that I cannot easily keep in contact with, and that is the addicting agent – knowledge.”