Faces in the Crowd

By Dan Buono, News Staff

‘ It used to be done behind closed doors. Now, students are shameless, even doing it in the middle of class:’ They check Facebook, search Facebook and endlessly tweak their statuses, staying in perpetual contact with friends and sometimes family.

‘ ‘Facebook has become a form of social currency,’ said communication studies professor Walter Carl. ‘It’s another way of doing identity work. It forces people to be more public in certain aspects of their lives in a way.” ‘

‘ Earlier this month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that more people worldwide are trading in this universal currency. He posted to the site’s blog that the network had reached an all-time high of 150 million users ‘- up 10 million users from numbers he had posted just a couple of weeks earlier. While 150 million people only comprise about two percent of the world’s current population, according to the CIA’s website, Facebook has outdone other social networking sites, like MySpace and Friendster, though they had a head start.

‘ While other sites have been relegated to legitimate use by bands and novice networkers ‘- or debunked altogether, in the instance of Friendster ‘- Facebook has practically become mandatory for networking with students and adults alike. It’s an address book, a phone book and an events calendar’ ‘- one-stop shopping for all things social.

‘ ‘ Despite the site’s popularity, some students are still holding out.

‘ ‘I just saw it as a liability,’ said Joanna West, a senior communication studies major. Although she said she’s felt the effects of leaving the site, she still stands by her decision.

‘ West had Facebook at one point, but a temporary break turned into one that’s lasted years. ‘

‘ ‘I deleted it when I started a co-op in politics,’ West said. ‘My boss would go on Facebook and look at profiles and check friends of friends to see how the employees represented the company.’

‘ Students who remove themselves from Facebook often have to answer a series of questions from their peers. Unlike the social statement that might accompany deleting a personal profile on other sites like MySpace, leaving Facebook, some said, puts a person at a social disadvantage since the site is so populated. And its set of tools ‘- from tracking group events to tracking acquaintances ‘- are so useful.

‘ It’s hard for other students to fathom their peers’ absence on the site, Carl said.

‘ ‘The fact that students are not [on Facebook] brings into question if they even exist,’ Carl said.

‘ West may be in the collegiate minority, but there are others, too.

‘ Kirk Wilbur, a senior international affairs major, said the reason he does not have one is partly because it’s a safety mechanism.

‘ ‘If I’m out on an adventure and meet some creeper and he tells me to friend him, I don’t have to worry about ever seeing him again,’ Wilbur said.

‘ Whether they had a Facebook or not, the students and Carl agreed on one thing:’ The site is the easiest and most efficient way to stay in touch with people.

‘ ‘It’s hard because it’s a main networking source these days,’ West said.

‘ West said one of the foremost disadvantages in her decision to leave Facebook has been finding out about upcoming events. ‘

‘ ‘I never know if there are senior events or parties because it’s all on Facebook,’ West said.

‘ Meanwhile, Annie Scully, a freshman political science major, said her Facebook account makes her feel connected, though there is a downside. ‘ ‘

‘ ‘I should probably delete my Facebook because I’m on it all the time,’ she said.’ ‘ ‘

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‘ Scully said she learns about upcoming events and gets general information from her friends in person, so leaving Facebook would be possible’ ‘ ‘

‘ Though the site does offer a great way to communicate, Wilbur said he likes the old-fashioned way of communication.

‘ Wilbur said the site has become impersonal and only forms Internet-based connections, instead of forging friendships in reality.

‘ ‘It’s a lot more fun talking to friends in person or seeing them rather than writing on a wall,’ Wilbur said. ‘

‘ The website has become a new identity aspect to a college’s community, Carl said.’ Friends connect with friends over the Internet without ever having to leave their houses or speak to one another.’ ‘ ‘

‘ ‘It’s a type of intimacy, not a deep intimacy, but an intimacy on the surface,’ Carl said

‘ Now that most students have Facebook accounts, it’s increasingly difficult to find those who don’t. Still, Wilbur said he’s not giving in to the social networking site anytime soon. ‘

‘ ‘I’d rather spend my time doing other stuff, like having adventures,’ Wilbur said.

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