Poke. Poke back. Poke. Poke back. Welcome to the world of Thefacebook, the online community of the University of Miami, where flirting with that cute person that sits next to you in your English class is only one click away.
What started as a modest collection of students at UM forming small webs of shared connections has ballooned into a profile site rivaling the number of registered users as the newly started Napster free music service on campus in just under two months, with no publicity but word of mouth. The site has grown so big that even Pat Whitely, vice-president for Student Affairs and some of her staff have joined the growing trend.
For the thousands of UM students with a profile on it, the hardest thing about getting other students to join Thefacebook is explaining just what the site is all about. One has to explain why so many people have spent countless hours that should have been devote to schoolwork searching page after page of students to find the next cute person, or to start the next big group.
According to the opening page of the site, Thefacebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges and universities.
“It’s such an easy way to contact people and find out what’s going on on campus and find out what there is to do on the weekends,” says Jacky Beato, senior, who was responsible for contacting the site’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and asking him to add UM to the growing list of schools represented through their own Thefacebook branch. “I wanted it on campus because it’s a good way to connect students at UM in your classes and outside your typical situations, mostly just for communication and fun.”
Students agree with Beato. Since the site has become so large, it’s easy to find someone who shares a common interest or is in one of the same class to chat with or get notes from.
“I’m on Thefacebook to meet people with common interests and classes that I wouldn’t have necessarily otherwise talked to or have met in person,” Kevin Stillwell, freshman, says.
Regardless of what it’s being used for, there is no doubt the online addiction it has caused. Walking through the library, computer labs and even offices on campus, one will always find many students searching their social net, checking their Facebook messages or poking a random stranger.
“Sometimes you think you’re going on to ‘confirm’ a friend request and the next thing you know it’s an hour later because you’ve been looking at all the new people you’re connected to,” Francine Madeira, senior, says. “You just can’t manage to get off.”
Despite Thefacebook’s good attributes of bringing an entire school together through one site and making it easy to communicate and organize student events daily, there is a down side to the site: stalking.
“There are creepy people that take your screen name off of Thefacebook, who are not even listed as your friend, who then IM you and more or less start stalker like behaviors toward you,” says Ryan Langel, sophomore, who recently had a bad experience with another person on the site. “It’s not safe cause you feel comfortable thinking that the only ones who see you are the ones that are connected to you through friends, but that is not the case.”
UM’s dependence on Thefacebook was most present recently when the site crashed, causing rumors of the closure of Thefacebook because of a lawsuits its creators are facing in Connecticut. To say students were distraught would be an understatement.
Students were frantically trying to remember how they made friends before the site’s introduction and how they would get in touch with the members of the groups they were a part of like “I’m on Facebook to get laid” and “I heart the OC.”
Christopher Vasquez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.