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Remember Me

  • May 26, 2010
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Social Networking has, for the most part, become a part of our everyday lives.  It's still in its infancy, though.  For most of us sites like Friendster and Myspace got us started in Social Networking, while other sites such as Amazon have adapted to becomeing more social networking like in a time that it's a big thing.  Yet when it comes to social networking no website stands out more than Facebook.  This is for several reasons.  Facebook has become a social networking standard.  It keeps growing and it keeps expanding too.  It's also brought into question just what privacy means to people and, to some extent... what Privacy actually is. 

In 2005, a guy in a college dorm named Mark Zuckerberg created a website he called Facebook.  This was shortly after a place like Myspace was already incredibly popular and snatching headlines.  At first when Facebook was established it was a way for the student body of his college to keep tabs on everyone.  To figure out what was going on around campus.  Shortly after that the site expanded to being open to primarily college students.  Upon first joining Facebook in 2005 my first thought was more along the lines of, "What's the big deal?"  It seemed exactly the same as Myspace back then.  Albeit it was a little neater and I didn't have to worry about someone putting so much crap on their page that it would freeze my computer.  At first it was easy to dismiss Facebook.  After all, in 2005 it didn't have all the same features it has now.  Now Facebook is a huge global phenomenon.  With over 500 million members, Facebook is easily one of the fastest ways to connect to the world outside of your core friends that you'd see in real life.

In 2006, Facebook's first big expansion was that it started allowing High School students to join.  This move, like so many others Facebook would make in the future, caused controversy.  For example, there were college students whining that it was their hangout spot (oddly enough THAT seems like a whining high school student's complaint) and that they had no business being there.  Looking back on it now, that just seems silly that there were ever any complaints at all.  Other complaints surfaced when the site opened up to allow everyone to join.  Facebook was suddenly more public than it had ever been.  And in his early 20's Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire.  He went from someone making a website in a dorm, to being CEO of a giant social networking corporation.  Facebook is now one of the most visited and busiest websites on the internet.  Most of you here have a Facebook profile.  And I bet if given the time and energy, I could find most of you.  And ALL of you could probably find me without problems.

The process of signing up has changed from when I first joined in 2005, but I have an idea.  When you first join, Facebook waste no time in getting you connected with other friends.  When you register an email you can go right into things and figure out who else actually has a facebook page.  Because it goes into your email and suggests people based on this.  Those who already have a Facebook will come up instantly.  Afterwards you can invite other people in your box and then you can actually start browsing the site looking for people.

Of course, looking for people is no fun if you don't fill your profile with such things as maybe your hometown... perhaps even some of your favorite books, movies and musicians.  Facebook can go a little far in asking you what you want to place on your profile, however.  Listing off your favorite books and even your hometown is fine... but the site also has an option for you to display your phone number, your AIM ID or MSN Messenger ID (along with any other messengers)... and even your home address.  The last of this all seems like it's asking for a bit much.  Facebook has always been running into criticisms involving privacy.  When you register, for example, your account is public by default.  This wouldn't be such a problem if Facebook didn't insist on making the navigation through your privacy settings so tedious and annoying.  It's not horrible, but considering how easy it is to do everything else on Facebook, it's strange that the privacy settings, of all things, actually requires work on your part.  And much of what you find in them are pretty vague.  You can, at least, preview your profile from an outside view.  That doesn't make it any less annoying when trying to go about your privacy settings.

According to Zuckerberg, the point of Facebook is to be more open anyway.  And Facebook has always been pushing for that.  In 2007 Facebook introduced the News Feed option.  At first it got a lot of people protesting.  At the time, however, Facebook only had ten million members and a good portion of them were upset that now just about every action they did was broadcast to their friends.  In spite of everything, not seeing your friends status updates now seems like something you couldn't live without.  The News Feed, in spite of a lukewarm reception, became something many users appreciated because they now no longer had to go to each friend's profile individually.  Likewise, users are able to choose which updates show up on their newsfeed... and if you do something that you don't want people to see, you can remove it.  The News Feed actually didn't turn out to be so bad at all.  "What people want isn't complete privacy," Zuckerberg told TIME Magazine, "It's that they want control over what they share and what they don't."  And Zuckerberg is right.  There are some people who will hold nothing back on Facebook.  They'll post as many pictures as they can find.  Put anything in their status update.

When people post on their wall or something on the news feed comes up, you're able to "Like" that person's status activity.  This is really awesome to give your friends some recognition, but for the most part it can be annoying if it's someone who has a lot of friends.  The moment you comment on someone's status or "Like" it, you will get a notification any time someone else comments on said status or likes it.  This is fine when there aren't that many people.  But when someone has say... 1,000 friends it can be annoying that you simply "Liked" someone's status but then you have to hear what 200 other people are saying about it.

There are also many many MANY different pages on Facebook for anything.  There are standard likes such as liking "Video Games" or liking a specific movie or celebrity.  To the strange pages such as, "I Bet This Pickle Can Get More Fans Than Nickelback" (oh it's a real page) to the downright bizarre.  Groups that are, more or less, simple statements such as, "People Who Sleep Because They Go to Bed Late for No Reason."  This is all crazy stuff.  And there are literally millions of these pages with anywhere from hundreds to millions of people liking them.  And they all operate as your own profile does, only someone has to monitor them and update them regularly.

There are also plenty of applications on Facebook that will get your profile information to work.  Things such as figuring out which crazy author you are, or what color your soul is.  Usually little stupid quizzes that are there for the sake of fun.  There are other more daring applications as well.  Not to mention games... such as Mafia Wars or (ugh...) Farmville.  And people take these games quite seriously.

And everything you do on ALL of these things can be displayed on your own profile page.

It begs the question just whether or not we've ever truly experienced privacy before Facebook.  What I mean by that is before it's not like you had the option to tell the world anything and everything.  Privacy was... well... a default thing.  It wasn't that your life was private... it was actually that you just couldn't get it out there.  Facebook has definitely changed that the line between what's appropriate to share and what isn't becomes blurred to some users.  And yes, businesses and such will now take time to look at your Facebook profile to see what it is you've done.  So will the police.  Underage and you're caught in a photo with a beer in your hand?  That's enough for the police to charge you with underage drinking.  Likewise, you could probably lose your job or lose consideration for a job thanks to things you put on Facebook (or the internet as a whole... if they find it).  It's not that people don't like their privacy, it's that those of us who were prone to being open in the first place, just never had that expressive outlet without, you know, being famous.  And yes, people can post a little too much on Facebook now, and things are a little too open for certain people.

The expansion of Facebook has made it's way into changing the internet as a whole.  Go to just about any webpage now and you have the option of connecting to Facebook or sharing certain things on Facebook.  Many websites let you connect with Facebook and log in that way as opposed to logging in with a different username at so many different sites.  You can connect with your Facebook profile and do it that way.  This means on some websites you don't even have to go through the hassle of registering.  Not when you can just use Facebook Connect.  You should all know what Facebook Connect is. uses it too. 

It goes even further, though.  Everyone, of course, knows about "liking" something.  This has also expanded to several different websites.  Go to a website like the IMDB and go to any movie and you can choose to "Like" said movie and it'll show up on your page telling all your friends you like it.  You can "Like" a whole website, if you so choose.  And, of course, you can share what you find.  Almost every website, every youtube video gives you the option to share what you've found with others and it somehow pops up on your page.  You no longer have to go through the hassle of embedding videos from youtube.  You can simply choose to share it now.  The same is also true of certain news stories from websites and even when you leave comments on a webpage.  Some of you have no doubt noticed that when you leave a comment or review on Lunch you're given to option to put it on your Facebook page as well (assuming you're connected).  

How well does this work for Facebook?  Very well.  Thanks to this word about many things can travel fast.  Let's take a simple example.  Many of you have probably seen people post status updates like, "Facebook will start charging," or joining groups that say something like "Facebook will start charging you ten dollars beginning in ___________"  The blank is left for you to insert a month or a date.  It should be pretty obvious it's a hoax, but people believe it constantly.  Facebook doesn't have to charge members in order to generate revenue.  Because even their ads are designed to cater toward... well... you.  Facebook does what's called "suggestions."  It uses your profile information, your likes and your friends (yes, your friends) to decipher just what it should advertise to you.  I, for example am a big gamer, a big Stephen King fan and a big movie fan.  I decided to like Video Games.  Suddenly my page was flooded with advertisements for video games.  I decided to like Stephen King and now I get ads for his books, or group suggestions for his books.  Oh, but it goes deeper.  If a certain number of friends "like" somethig the website just might suggest that YOU like it too.  Because if you and your friends share similar interests... then perhaps you just might like what they like too.  In short, Facebook charging you would be a bit risky for their revenue if suddenly people stopped coming to the site because they started charging.  The same rumor pops up on Myspace all the time (and I'm guessing Twitter, but I don't tweet).  Facebook works out because it happens to go beyond just Facebook.  When you can go to different websites and log in with what is essentially a universal ID (your Facebook profile) and when you can put ANYTHING on your Facebook page from ANY website, then it's easy to see just how Facebook became such a huge juggernaut.  Very few websites can do it.  And when they do, they can't do it the way Facebook does. 

This is another reason why it's so easy to be interconnected.  For some Facebook is a shortcut.  Not to get to knowing friends, but in terms of connecting with the rest of the interweb without having to explore it extensively.  Why search for a specific Youtube video your friend told you about when you can easily find it posted on their profile?  It's easily one of the best things about Facebook.  Just that there's so much you can do with it. 

This does cause some controversy, however because it brings about the question just what exactly your profile information is being used for.  Creating personalized ads isn't really so new.  Google does the same thing, creating ads that cater toward what you might've searched for in the past.  With Facebook, however, it means that what you've posted on your page is being used... but not exactly with your permission.  As I've said before, Facebook has had a lot of controversy concerning privacy.  Not just because you run into people who post a little too much about themselves, but because there have been times when Facebook has gone too far in using your profile information for the sake of getting advertisements catered toward you.  Sometimes the applications you use will also pass along some of the info in your profile to advertisers. 

If there's anything about Facebook that might urk me, it would be that there's no really definitive blogging feature on the site.  You can post "notes" that will be hidden in the corner of your profile page.  And unless you decided to tag a billion people (who aren't even in it) no one will read it.  Your friends can't really subscribe to your notes like they would a blog either.  You simply have to hope that they pick it up from your news feed or something.  It's just not as user-friendly as the blog feature on sites such as Blogger, Livejournal or even Myspace.  With all the incredible things Facebook can do... giving you an easy to use blog is surprisingly, not one of them.  It seems to be making steps in that direction, at least.

Likewise, Facebook isn't free from Spam or Viruses or anything like that.  It's not uncommon to get friend requests from fake profiles or for a friend's account to start sending you bizarre Spam such as an invite to receive a free iPad (or Macbook, Wii, Laptop--whatever!).  It happens.  Facebook is not immune to the horrors of the internet.  You're gonna get the good and the bad. 

The last thing about Facebook that's interesting is the chat mechanism.  Thanks to this little thing you can chat with friends who happen to be logged onto Facebook at the same time as you.  The problem is that it's as basic as it gets.  There are also some issues with it.  Sometimes your friends will get an IM from you but won't be online (because they didn't log out but perhaps closed the webpage and are browsing around elsewhere... or YOUR Facebook account doesn't realize they've logged out).  It's a great way to connect and talk to people who may not be directly around you... but unfortunately IM programs such as AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, Google Chat are far far better about this than Facebook ever will be.  And with programs such as Trillian able to connect to your Facebook account, it's just a lot easier to use one of these applications than it is to use the Facebook chat directly on Facebook itself. 

In the end Facebook is actually not so bad because of how it can be utilized.  It's much more expansive than most social networking sites.  Yes, you'll find people who have an absurd number of friends (and if you join you're apt to get many a friend request by people you either don't know or had one conversation with a long time ago) and you can sit there saying, "No one REALLY has THAT many friends," but at the very least it is nice to connect with other people.  Of course, you still have to be careful with people who do things like create false profiles, post pictures of people that aren't them, etc, but it comes with the territory of any social networking site.  At least Facebook goes beyond simply Facebook.  Even if you don't enjoy connecting with people, you can still get something out of it thanks to the things they share.  There's something for just about everyone.  You just have to be careful about what you put up there.  It's your profile, your privacy and you're in control.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to check on my own Facebook status. 

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January 12, 2012
You do have to be careful on Facebook !
February 27, 2011
I used to have a face book account until some one hacked into it. They did a thing called scrapbooking and was using my profile to get into my other accounts and charge things. Including my paypal and bank accounts.
November 03, 2010
Wonderful review! I totally agree with you on the lack of a good blogging feature.
June 02, 2010
Wow, good thorough review!
May 31, 2010
Wow, this is a truly epic overview of Facebook. I'm a little stunned that you were able to find so much to say and to keep it all engaging. Terrific job, other Sean. LOL!
May 31, 2010
awesome write up on FACEBOOK, Sean! I have to admit I am not really into this internet social thing (amazon and are my only two experiences) but I doubt if I'll ever jump into this bandwagon as of yet. Interesting analysis as always!
June 01, 2010
May 27, 2010
Aw, the fun of social network sites. Great review, Sean! :) Facebook is fun because that's where you and I can chat. I haven't been over there in ages. I'll have to do some checking in soon.
May 28, 2010
LOL! I know! All the updates to our community are auto-sent to my twitter and Facebook pages. It's so funny! People ask me about books that I haven't read, and I have to let them know that it's others posting updates here, not me! :-P
May 29, 2010
Yeah, it took me a moment before I realized it was automatic.  I'd be like, "Awe... I just missed her!"  Then I posted a review and it was immediately on Facebook.  Then I thought... "Oh... well, I guess that's convenient!"
June 01, 2010
(laughs) Well, I'm glad we got to catch each other recently and chat these past couple of days. It's been fun! :)
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About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Facebook is a social networking website launched on February 4, 2004. The free-access website is privately owned and operated by Facebook, Inc. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with other people. People can also add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profile to notify friends about themselves. The website's name refers to the paper facebooks depicting members of a campus community that some US colleges and preparatory schools give to incoming students, faculty, and staff as a way to get to know other people on campus.
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