Advertising sophomore Sarah Gonzalez didn’t mean to become addicted. When she first tried it with some friends, she “thought it’d be really stupid, but then we really liked it a lot.”
Some students are able to control their use of it, like education freshman Allison Lavoie. She uses it only occasionally, as a “thing to do” after some friends told her about it. But Gonzalez is hooked, along with tens of thousands of other students at MSU alone, checking it at least once or twice a day. You guessed it, thefacebook.com.
[fblogo] “The fact that there is a wealth of information about your friends and peers consolidated into one site is pretty amazing and can easily become addictive,” Chris Hughes, co-founder and spokesperson of thefacebook.com said via e-mail.
The site, for the few still virginal to it, is a networking database for college students. Once one creates a free account, he or she can upload a picture, add friends to a list, “poke” people, join and create specific interest groups, search for old high school friends and generally waste tons of study hours perusing the site’s databases. “Facebook me,” has become a household phrase for college students similar to “Call me” of years past. Meet someone at a party but you have to leave early? Simply give them your name and a sly “Facebook me” as you’re out the door.
The Web site was born out of an idea of the traditional, boring college facebooks with terrible photos. Instead of the boring books of yesterday, thefacebook.com is interactive and fun, as you can track how many facebook-friend degrees of separation are between you and the hottie from chemistry.
Mark Zuckerberg had the idea last winter for “a universal online database with an interactive social networking interface.” Working with four friends, including Hughes, thefacebook.com was first opened to Harvard students, but now includes hundreds of universities across the country, with more joining all the time. “[We] wanted students to have control over what information they would like to provide to their peers – screennames, favorite movies, classes and friends.”
[fbprofile] “I think students are using the site as an everyday information resource, searching the database for one of their friends’ screennames or cell phone numbers. There’s also the relationship angle – I think students are more comfortable contacting one another through the messaging feature on the site because it doesn’t have the connotation of an e-mail,” said Zuckerberg.
Receiving an email from someone you barely know could make you wonder what on earth they want, but a message or poke on thefacebook is no more serious a communication than a nod or a smile as you pass in the hallway. But can this sort of communication really create friends?
For Gonzalez, it did. Through thefacebook, she connected with several people on her floor. One such friend even entered her dorm while she was interviewed over the phone.
“I see a lot of them a lot,” she said of her long list of friends on thefacebook.com. Many of them are from her high school and now attend MSU. “Several I see on a daily basis,” she said. Others are people from around her dorm. There are a few, she admits, that are strictly “facebook friends” from high school, ones she doesn’t often communicate with.
“Facebook friends” may prove that the site has improved communication for college students, even to the point where it’s easy to find that old friend that got away. Gonzalez was able to find friends from her early childhood. She moved from Oklahoma to Michigan when she was 10 and a friend she had in second grade contacted her through thefacebook. Gonzalez has also found a few others, looking up names from a yearbook on the site. By messaging them back and forth, thefacebook has allowed Gonzalez to reconnect with those from her past who may have otherwise remained pictures in an elementary school yearbook.
Cell phones and instant messaging have made us easier to reach, and now with thefacebook, it is easier for us to be found – by people we may or may not want to find us. As relationships become more and more dependent on these newer communication tools, it’s possible we’ll eventually grow sick and tired of people from our past locating us, or perhaps we’ll prefer the constant virtual companionship. One thing is clear: with 234 MSU students currently members of the “Facebook Is More Addicting Than Crack” group, no one is showing any signs of wanting to give up this online guilty pleasure anytime soon.

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