The Facebook Makeover

Facebook.com is widely regarded as one of the most useful and innovative tools available to college students today. The Web site enables students from all over the country to connect to other people their age, both from their schools and others. It also allows students to stay in touch with friends who live or are attending school far away.

Less than two weeks ago, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg added two new features to the Web site, the “News Feed” and “Mini Feed.” These features give instant updates about the status and Facebook activities of one’s friends. Some see all of this new information as pushing the limit between general interest and invasion of privacy.

“Facebook was a great way to just keep in touch with friends and meet people in your school,” said sophomore Benjamin Ruoff. “Now it’s a great way to ensure that people know all about your life. It’s just too much.”

Ruoff is not alone in his opinion. In a survey conducted by The Torch of 98 St. John’s students, about 27 percent said that they disliked the new Facebook, while almost 40 percent used the term “strongly dislike.” Only about seven percent said that they liked the changes.

One of the major issues that developed as a result of the “News Feed” and “Mini Feed” is how freely one’s information is passed out. Each Facebook member has a “Mini Feed” box on their profile. Therefore, each profile update or message left by a Facebook member is visible to every one of his or her friends.

That free-flowing wealth of personal information is the root of the controversy, because Facebook “friends” are not exactly the same as friends in the real world. While the core of most Facebook users’ friend lists are close on and offline, the vast majority of that list consists of people added just after being introduced. These “friends” could be classmates, simple acquaintances, or total strangers who happened to have similar interests.

Only a few days after the changes took effect, a multitude of groups appeared in protest of the “News Feed” and “Mini Feed” features. Of these many anti-New Facebook groups, one of the larger global groups, the self-described “Official Petition” to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, quickly grew to nearly half a million members.

Zuckerberg responded to questions about the changes in the format of Facebook.com in a recent press conference. When asked about the reasoning behind the additions, he said, “People generally use Facebook to get a sense of what’s going on with the people around them… Up until last week, people had to browse around the site and read through people’s profiles to get a sense of all this, but with these new products we can surface a lot of that information for people.”

Facebook co-founder and spokesperson Chris Hughes also discussed the privacy issues during the conference.
“We realized pretty quickly that we messed up in not offering essential privacy controls when we released the new features in the beginning,” Hughes said.

Both founders stated that although the new features are here to stay, the addition of stricter privacy controls is currently in progress.

While the reaction to the “News Feed” and “Mini-Feed” seems to be overwhelmingly negative, some St. John’s students have been able to see past the obvious faults and see humor in the wealth of undesired information.

“At first, I was confused by the new features,” said sophomore Chris Imparato, “but I eventually found it to be a mildly amusing tool to find out more about your Facebook ‘friends.'”