The History of Facebook: A Student’s Perspective

18 10 2007

Social Network’s will never be everything to everyone.

As readers of this blog do or don’t know, I am a recent graduate of NYU’s undergrad business school. I had a Facebook account since May 2004, and I resisted as long as I could. At first I was a member of rebels that would make snide remarks toward the sheep that spent hours a day stalking cute boys and gals from class. Much like my battle against everything AOL in my teens, it was futile. Surely but shortly our ranks began to dwindle. Then one night I decided to check out what the fuss was all about, logged on, and never looked back; however, I still employed a rule that I would never actively friend people to make myself appear popular.

The world I entered was clean and effective. I am extremely interested in interface design and the gaudy, distasteful profiles on Xanga and Myspace kept me far away. Facebook was different. It was a place to hang out with people that mattered to me: REAL friends, long lost friends, and that cute girl from Econ. In our walled garden with the college students only sign prominently displayed, we felt free. We all posted real information, pictures from the weekend’s debauchery, our entire class schedules, phone numbers, birth dates, etc. In retrospect it was probably a stupid thing to do, but who really cared since only our peers had access.

The first dilution of the user base occurred in September of 2005 when the doors were opened to high school students. After an initial uproar we gave in, and said what the hell, they are students too and college students could keep in touch with siblings and younger acquaintances. However, rumors start to surface about companies hiring students to conduct background checks on potential employees. The open world began to crumble. A number of people stripped down personal info, and made their profile private: For Friend’s Eyes Only. However, even after the censoring wave subsided, there was still a level of distrust permeating the network as most of one’s friends were acquaintances at best… Would they betray you?

As the months turned into years Facebook became ever more integrated into our lives. Entire relationships could be consummated and destroyed based on a few wallposts. Checking out the parties your friends were attending became a Friday night routine. Then it came. One day we logged on and everything we did was revealed in a tabloid-like fashion on the News Feed. Boyfriends now had to explain late night ‘pokes’ from the opposite sex, and changes in relationship status spread like wildfire. Again, we revolted. However, lacking the constitution of our parents college generation we rolled over again as a few privacy concession were made.

We adapted to this new transparent world, but nothing could have prepared us for the biggest betrayal yet. Facebook opened its doors to everyone as they sought out fresh pastures to increase traffic. Soon afterward I began fielding invitations from professional friends. This was the end of innocence. My profile pic was quickly swapped out for a far more conservative one, EVERYTHING became private, and I had to edit various unsolicited wall posts from inebriated friends. Wait a minute, this profile looked familiar… Oh yeah, it looks just like my profile on Linked In. My two worlds collided. Facebook, once upon a time, meant something. Now much like GM, which stretched itself thin trying to appeal to everyone the brand is diluted beyond recognition.

Facebook is now likened to being at a bar with your friends, with your parents sitting in the booth to your right and your coworkers to the your left.

It just isn’t much fun.




8 responses

19 10 2007
friends » The History of Facebook: A Student’s Perspective

[…] the rest of this great post here […]

11 11 2007

You say you fought the AOL wars, as I did. In that case you should know that online spaces will always be “diluted.” I spent years moving between dial-up BBSes as each started small and exclusive, only to be overrun by wide-eyed noobs. ‘Twas ever thus.

14 11 2007
Ki Toy Johnson

Hello webmaster…Thanks for the nice read, keep up the interesting posts..what a nice Wednesday

15 11 2007
Christopher Herot

Provocative post. How would you prefer Facebook to have acted? Since you have now graduated, would you prefer that Facebook stay restricted to students and kick you off? If you think they should “grandfather” your membership and let you stay, how long will it be before the next cohort of students ask what all those “old people” are doing there?

If you are so lucky as to get old (consider the alternative), I suspect other people will point out your advanced age long before you think you have changed.

15 11 2007
Seni Thomas


Please read my posts on OpenSocial and micro-communities, or on why all media must fragment.

24 12 2007
David Berkowitz

Seni, this is a great read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my blog.

25 12 2007

Great one. Yep, this issue is because they did line-extend. In their case and with the timing, it worked out. Now with Beacon and full-on marketing it’s another issue.

Yes, all media will fragment…but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion on divergence (round 2 book club was all about this, I’ll point you to some fascinating convos if you want. you’d love ’em)

21 01 2008

A little late to this, but it’s still a fascinating take.

I suspect that any site geared to college students will change in value once the user is out of school.

Some new sites (Pulse) have tried to allow users to differentiate between friends, family and work friends, but that quickly goes out the window the second a work friend claims you as a social friend. I mean it’s not like you can say “wait, no– I don’t really like you enough to consider you a friend.”

Private networks might be another option, but they’re only as good as the people in them, meaning they’ll require frequent updates to maintain their usefulness.

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