Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stalker Central

For those too old and not in the know, there's a younger online social networking alternative to called I heard about last year while attending the University of St. Andrews and was told it was a must have to stay in the loop socially among classmates.

One of the weirdest aspects of Generation Y for older Americans is the rampant voyeurism whereby young people will do and say anything to get noticed, because you never know, a talent agent might be digitally snooping around your profile. That's why you'll find compromising pics and videos uploaded willingly and enthusiastically by Myspacers and Facebookians.

But finally Facebook has tested how much information they can release of their customers and it has led to a revolt. Via The Nation's Notion blog:
On September 5, Facebook-- the social networking site made up of 9 million users, mostly college students, who post and share personal information in online profiles-- unveiled a major change.

A new feature called "News Feed" instantaneously broadcasts virtually every move a Facebook user makes to his online "friends." For example, now, when a user logs on, he will immediately see that "Tim changed his relationship status to 'It's Complicated'" or "Sarah removed Kelly Clarkson from her 'Favorite Music'" or "Randy posted a comment on Jean's wall: 'U rock my world.'" Each alteration to one's profile is even time-stamped, so others can know if "Jenny removed Bill as a friend" while she was supposed to be in her 11 am chemistry class.

Generation Y had previously been shockingly devil-may-care in its attitude towards privacy, but News Feed seems to be the last straw. Within hours of the change, dozens of online protest groups were launched, ironically, some say, on Facebook itself. One group, "Students Against Facebook News Feed," already has more than half a million members, and several other groups boast thousands each. Students are calling News Feed "creepy" and "stalker-ish" and demanding that the feature be promptly removed; others are vowing to spend "A Day Without Facebook" next week, and some have removed their profiles altogether (not an easy thing to do-- ask any college student how vital Facebook has become to campus life).
This is scary when you think about it, especially when people know you've demoted them as a friend. Oh, the awkward silences and social tensions.

But on the other hand, all Facebook has done is make it easy to see the changes your friends have made to their profile. You could do this anyway by reviewing your friends' profiles every so often although it would be time consuming. Ironically, by merely consolidating these updates in one space, may have finally shown young adults how important privacy is in a U.S. marked by government wire-taps and the steady erosion of our civil liberties.

It's a good lesson for apathetic college students, however disastrous it may be to