The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Features September 15, 2006

The New Face of Facebook

It seems as though every time I log onto my Facebook account, a new feature has been added. Since August of this year, Facebook has created the Development Platform and features including the Profile Badge, My Notes, Election 2006, and the status feature. But the latest gimmick — the News Feed — has been of late, very controversial.

The News Feed allows us to read a column, much like a newspaper, which gives us a play-by-play update of our friends’ recent activities on This feature informs members when their friends have updated their profiles, added pictures, written on walls, joined groups, confirmed invitations to events, changed their status, changed their relationship status and more.

Some of these features can be overwhelming and seem unnecessary, distracting from the website’s original intention. An endeavor that started as a way to look up classmates and form social connections in cyberspace has suddenly started to flirt with voyeurism and resemble unpopular features of such similar sites as MySpace and the now-defunct Friendster.

With these changes, Facebook has become the new Us Weekly of college campuses nationwide.  Instead of news that Kate Hudson might be after Owen Wilson, we learn that Jane Smith and Richard Roe are no longer in a relationship.

A friend of mine recently told me that the only reason she uses Facebook is because she knows other people will look at it.  While many students may use Facebook for this reason, some would prefer to keep their addictive Facebook habits buried in the back of the closet. 

“You want to be that guy in the bushes.  You want to see and not be seen,” said sophomore Oren Shalov. 

The new News Feed raises concerns of privacy.  Your recent activity can be tracked and exposed to all Facebook users, increasing the site’s potential of becoming a prime breeding ground for Internet predators. With the September announcement that Facebook will soon be open to any one who wishes to join, these concerns are particularly relevant. Are we, as users, beginning to feel constricted, surrounded by ongoing surveillance?

“I don’t like Facebook.  I think it’s too much like Big Brother,” said first-year Ben Dorfan.

Although today’s degree of public accessibility can be frightening, some benefits can be found in the new format of our beloved website. Think about it — you can now spend half the time on Facebook but soak up twice the gossip. 

But is Facebook gossip really all that interesting anymore?

The new features immediately sparked protests by Facebook users around the country. Many students have founded Facebook groups expressing their dislike of the new format.  The largest of these groups is called “Students Against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook),” boasting 733,202 members as of  Thursday night. The group’s mission statement proclaims, “You went a bit too far this time, Facebook…News Feed is just too creepy, too stalker-esque and a feature that has to go.” 

To Facebook’s credit, protests by users have not been ignored.   In response to the uproar, Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his staff immediately began working to develop privacy controls for the news feed and mini-feed features. A new privacy page now exists for the News Feed, giving students some control over which actions are published in their own profile’s Mini-Feed and in the News Feeds of their friends’ homepage. Facebook has also taken the initiative to keep certain activities private, including whose information you browse, whom you have “defriended” and whose “friend requests” you refuse to accept. Some actions, however, still remain broadcast without a privacy setting to opt-out.

Still, many welcome these new privacy options; students are glad to regain some control over what activity is recorded on the website. 

“I don’t think that the News Feed is infringing on anybody’s rights, but the overexposure of Facebook activity makes you look like you’re on Facebook all the time, which isn’t cool,” junior Lisa Maley said.

 For those concerned with their image as Facebook users, possessing the option of withholding an announcement of their updates comes as a relief.  While this may come as a surprise, it can be embarrassing for our peers to learn just how much time some of us spend on Facebook.

Some may find the continuous stream of information flat out irritating. During exam week, how concerned will you be that your middle school friend split with his or her significant other or cyber-penned incoherent comments on the wall of someone you don’t know? 

Facebook has just gotten too damn cluttered.  The fancy version is the epitome of too much information.

The site we previously browsed to procrastinate and relax is now generating more stress than our academics. A student who wishes to remain anonymous said, “I can’t join Facebook.  If I did and I saw that anyone wrote anything even mildly flirtatious on my boyfriend’s wall, I would go crazy.” 

The News Feed is generating a lot of unnecessary worry. Gone are the good old days when Facebook merely alerted us of birthdays and wall posts.  But it should be said that the benefit — expedient gossip, for one, has its advantages for the tidbit-hungry.

But do we all want to be featured in the Us Weekly of our college campuses?  The website has turned into a grossly voyeuristic phenomenon.  As Facebook itself would say, it’s complicated.


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