When Mark Zuckerberg first started Facebook back in February 2004, it was a tool to help connect students at Harvard. Now, it has exploded to include over 2,000 universities in nine countries – and that’s not including high schools, companies or local networks.
Facebook has become as synonymous with the college experience as drinking beer and developing terrible eating habits. It has become the ultimate time-waster, as any procrastinating student who has spent hours browsing the newly-updated profiles of friends (and we use the term “friends” loosely) instead of studying can attest to – and although most loathe admitting it, it was a fun way to kill time.
What made Facebook so popular, and arguably as fun as it was, was the groups feature (it was good to know there were other people whose lives were changed by R. Kelly’s “Trapped In The Closet”) and writing random one-liners on people’s walls. But then, things started changing, and more additional features were slipped into the site, allowing students to reveal more and more personal details.
Friend details, then status updates, then ‘notes,’ and now, the dreaded news feed. As of print time, it’s barely been a day since it’s been introduced, and it’s already achieved notoriety around the nation’s campuses, whether because of its tediousness, completely unfamiliar format, or the fact that most people are simply uncomfortable with the idea, now made reality, of everyone they know watching everything they do. The hundreds of groups that have popped up protesting the changes, one of which now boasts over 500,000 members, reflect this sentiment dramatically.
Facebook has always been the butt of jokes that refer to it as a stalker’s paradise. Terms such as “Facebook-stalking” and “Stalkerbook” are familiar ways to describe this sentiment. However, the news feed feature gives eerie credence to these claims. Facebook seems to have one-upped itself, going beyond what any of us thought or wished for into the territory of near scary absurdity. Half the fun of Facebook was searching around, checking for new photos and witty wall posts. Now, that is gone, and replacing it will be the fun of playing the role of Big Brother and stalking your friends, while they in turn stalk you, as soon as you hit the main page. Somehow, that just doesn’t seem right.