This week, Facebook debuted its latest innovations: a self-updating catalog of friends' activities dubbed the "news feed," and a record of personal activity on each user's profile called the "mini feed." Now, every time a student adds or deletes an activity or interest from his profile, every time he adds a new photo, or changes his relationship status, or joins a new group, or adds a new friend, or RSVPs to an event, the change is broadcast to everyone in his network of friends.
Along with an unprecedented level of connectedness, these new features have brought an equally unprecedented level of outrage from users. Students have angrily joined the myriad anti-feed groups that have popped up all over the global network. One group, "Students Against Facebook News Feed (The Official Petition to Facebook)," accumulated over 700,000 members its first 48 hours of existence. That makes disapproval of the new feeds perhaps the most overwhelming consensus among college students ever.
So why the uproar? Why the instant, passionate repulsion? "News feed is just a little too creepy," states the manifesto of the group to which nearly 1 in 8 of the site's registered users subscribe, "too stalker-esque."
It is interesting that it has taken this long for students to grow wary about what information they willingly make accessible on Facebook. In a Wednesday blog entry, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out that the site's privacy rules have not been altered. "This is information people used to dig for on a daily basis," he wrote "...None of your information is visible to anyone who couldn't see it before the changes."
He's right. As the director of Bowdoin's Career Planning Center recently reminded us, our Facebook profiles are (and always have been) easily accessible to employers, parents, and college administrators.
We agree that the news feed and the mini feed represent excessive, even gluttonous information trafficking on the part of Facebook developers, and we urge Facebook to remove these two features.
But as embarrassed as you may be when the news feed informs your friends of your recent break-up, you will be substantially more embarrassed when you are denied a job because a would-be employer saw that you subscribe to a group called "Alcoholics Forever" and have tagged photos of you funneling jungle juice.
That's the kind of "Facebook stalking" that should most concern students. And it has been going on for far longer than the news feed has existed.
The editorial represents the view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of Bobby Guerette, Beth Kowitt, and Steve Kolowich.