Monday, April 21, 2008

Facebook abuse

I've been waiting to hear a story like this one. It completely supports my hypothesis that more than anything, sites like Facebook are stalking mechanisms.

So, a friend of my co-worker Jim has an ex girlfriend he can't quite get rid of. I'm talking a year after they've been broken up she's still constantly contacting him to hang out. Anyway, through what one could assume was an exercise in online stalking, said ex recently discovered that Jim's friend is seeing someone new.

Now, most (normal) people I know would accept this fact and move on. Those who are captivated by the ease of online stalking clearly behave otherwise. The ex used Facebook to send rather nasty messages to Jim's friend's new lady. Seriously?!

My friend Eddie Radshaw contends that Facebook doesn't create stalkers like the ex in question; rather, it empowers them. He reasons that this girl probably also stalks in real-world terms. I'm not so sure I agree with him. Sending an evil Facebook message seems rather innocuous compared with showing up at someone's apartment uninvited, for example.

So does Facebook create stalkers, or does it simply make stalking easier for existing stalkers? As a non-stalker, I'm not so sure. I'm inclined to think that perhaps it does a bit of both...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Too much information?

For the record, Technorella really isn't a sappy girl. In fact, she might be the anti-sappy girl.

But sometimes she has a soft spot - as indicated by the following reaction to a Facebook update.

Long ago - when I was in college, and for a couple of years after - I dated one of the nicest, best guys I've ever known. But it just wasn't right and I ended up breaking his heart pretty badly. We don't talk much; I like to stay friends with exes, but it just didn't work out that way with this one. We're Facebook friends and that's about it.

Sooo... I was just checking out Facebook, and looking at my recently updated friend profiles. And this ex - we'll call him Fred - had an update that said: "Almost 6 years to the day since an earthquake woke me up in the middle of the night."

He lives in Chicago now - and the profile refers to last night's Midwestern quake. It also refers to a mini-earthquake that happened when we were together in undergrad in Vermont.

It was just the smallest thing... but I'm not sure anyone else would have had the same reaction to his profile update as I did. I was there with him for the Vermont earthquake... and it made me think about our relationship for the first time in a long time. Part of me wonders if he knew I'd read it... part of me thinks it was just a passing comment. Either way, I guess this is the first time a Facebook interaction with someone who used to be in my life kind of got to me in a real way. Not to sound too sappy or anything...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What are Social Networks, Really?

I've been perusing the news over the last few days to find something interesting and blog-worthy... but nothing has really grabbed me.

So, I went to Google and typed in "social networking" simply to see what popped up first. I thought this might help generate a blog topic idea. Anyway, the first thing I saw was a Wikipedia definition... check it out:
"A social network service uses software to build online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most services are primarily web based and provide a collection of various ways for users to interact, such as chat, messaging, email, video, voice chat, file sharing, blogging, discussion groups, and so on.
Social networking has revolutionized the way we communicate and share information with one another in today's society. Various social networking websites are being used by millions of people everyday on a regular basis and it now seems that social networking is a part of everyday life."
Since Technorella is completely obsessed with the way online social networking sites (mainly Facebook) have influenced the way people communicate, it perhaps goes without saying that what I find most interesting is that inherent in the Wikipedia definition is the implication that social networks "have revolutionized the way we communicate and share information." If Wikipedia says so, it must be true, right?
I find it interesting how much social networking sites are taken for granted as a communications mechanism. They didn't even really exist five years ago, and now they're considered mainstream and integral to our social interactions. Oh, how time flies in the online world...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Does not being on Facebook mean you're a social outcast?

"Jim" from my office and I have been reviewing resumes of soon-to-be college grads to join our team this summer. One of Jim's favorite techniques (being a few years younger than me and a Facebook expert) is checking out the candidates' profiles on Facebook. Naturally.

Anyway, thanks to people coming their senses and making their information private, there's not a lot to learn about these kids on Facebook (aside from if they're cute enough to meet Jim's standards). But, a few of the candidates actually weren't on Facebook at all. According to Jim, this made them suspect.

With the younger generation, it seems that an absence from online social networks sets off alarm bells. And I can kind of understand Jim's perspective; if everyone that age is Facebooking right and left, what kind of person doesn't participate? Sure, my friends aren't all on Facebook - but the site didn't even exist until I left college. We communicated via IM and, yes, landline phones when I was doing my undergrad. Facebook is such a given, on the other hand, with people several years my junior that it's hard to think of someone opting out.

Again, it comes back to the role Facebook, and social networking sites, play in our day-to-day lives. In this instance, choosing not to participate on some level is apparently a professional deal-breaker. At least, it is when someone like Jim is making the decisions...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

She's Baaaacccckkkk!

So, a few days ago, Technorella blogged about her roommate's abrupt departure from Facebook. Turns out, it didn't last long... she wrote a message on my wall yesterday saying she was bored in class (she's a law student) and decided to reactivate her profile.

Here's what's interesting: it took her all of two seconds to re-join Facebook. They were beyond happy to have her back and made the process as simple as possible. I guess Facebook knows that quitting is hard. And it's not so easy to leave the online social sphere.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sending shockwaves through my social network

This is why I am too old for Facebook (yes, Technorella just turned 28). So, the other day I rather innocently updated my Facebook profile. I changed my picture, edited some of my "favorites," accepted new friends, and removed my "dating status" from my profile.

The rationale behind said dating status change was not anything significant; I'd accepted a couple of friends from work and didn't want to be broadcasting that kind of information to my co-workers.

But, no sooner than I'd deleted it from my profile than I received a series of Facebook messages (and text messages) about it. My friends wanted to know: was I still single?

Seriously. I'm not trying to be a grinch, but I'm just not that calculating of a person. I wasn't trying to say ANYTHING by deleting my dating status. My goal was to say less, not more.

So... apparently I need to be more careful with my Facebook profile. I guess the smallest moves online can have massive consequences...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bold move...

Wow. So, last night I went to dinner to celebrate my birthday. Somehow we got to talking about social networking - focusing on the lack of personal privacy thanks to sites like Facebook.

Long story short, when we got home, my roommate made the bold (and relatively novel) decision to completely eliminate her Facebook profile. Just like that, she's gone from the online social networking world.

Her reasons? She simply didn't feel like she wanted the whole world to know her business. Most of her Facebook "friends" were completely superfluous from her "real world." She was tired of being subject to online stalking. Nothing major prompted this decision, mind you. Really, she just didn't see the value of it anymore.

As much as I rant about the validity of Facebook "friendships," I have to admit - I'm TOTALLY not ready to give it up. Maybe I'm becoming an addict, or maybe I find it a fun distraction from time-to-time. Either way, for me, it's kind of like once you start, you can't stop. Apparently my roommate felt otherwise about her weak social ties...