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What’s happened to the Facebook that we used to know and love?

By Christine Maersch


Published: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010

I’m sitting in class, trying to pay attention, but that seems virtually impossible. Why? It’s not because the material is boring, or lack of sleep. It’s simply because some jerk who sat next to me with his laptop is busy creeping around on Facebook. This fellow literally spent the entire hour and fifteen minute class on this web site, occasionally making eye contact with the professor, and methodically nodding his head every 10 minutes.

Now, I’m sure his parents are proud of their son for attending college, but something tells me they would be less than thrilled to know that he spends class looking at his boys’ drunken pictures, and pictures of that really hot girl he doesn’t have the balls to talk to. So, after being thoroughly annoyed for a full class, I started to wonder: Why do people care so much about Facebook? I’ll admit I use it, and enjoy it, and probably have spent quite a bit of time on it during my three and a half years here at UNCG – but why? And more importantly, why are my parents on it?

When I first came to college in 2006, Facebook was a brand-spanking-new thing to me. It took me a good bit of time to figure it out, since it was a little outside my comfort zone of MySpace. But, once I did figure it out, it was great and I was hooked. It killed time and kept me in touch with my friends that I have moved several states away from.

Barbara Walwrath, 26, joined for similar reasons. “I joined Facebook back when I was a sophomore at Penn State, so about 2006. I did it because all my friends were doing it,” she laughed.

“I joined when I was at Guilford College in 2006, because MySpace wouldn’t let me upload more than 40 photos,” explained Greensboro photographer Vada Bostian, 33. “But it was never a big deal until recently.”

I started receiving “friend requests” this year from people in grades lower than me who I didn’t even know when I was in high school; I thought this was only for people with a college email address? I was wrong. Prior to 2005, high schools as well as colleges were only allowed to be part of the web site if the school system agreed and was registered as an available network. In 2006, it became open to the entire public above the age of 13 that had a valid email address, according to Facebook history, which is essentially only available via Wikipedia.

It wasn’t until 2009 that I received the most startling request: it was my father. Now, he had always threatened to join Facebook, since he does have an employee email address from a local university, but he never followed through, until now. I know I’m not alone on this: More and more of my friends, are “friend-ing” their parents, and deleting as many incriminating pictures of them doing keg-stands, and drunkenly kissing “that guy” at a club. And for many of us, it’s very frustrating.

“It sucks, because you can’t deny their request – because they are going to know you didn’t accept them, and then they will start to wonder why,” said Aubrey Lockard, 22, a junior here at UNCG.

I slowly started to notice that more and more of the women I work with (who are mostly mothers and wives) were also hopping on the Facebook bandwagon, as well as my aunts and uncles – which didn’t bother me, since I had already confirmed my father, not only as a “friend,” but declared him as my father in my information section.

It wasn’t until I noticed that my younger (and I mean younger) cousins had pages that I became very confused and asked “WTF is going on here, Facebook?” First my parents, then my coworkers, and now my cousins who are about 11-14 years old! Do they really need to be on a public networking site?

“I don’t even think high school students are mature enough for some of the content they can stumble upon on Facebook, let alone younger kids,” said Walwrath. “If these young kids are on the site, there should be a specific way to monitor what they are and aren’t allowed to access.”

Bostian, who is a mother, feels similar to Walwrath. “I know some 20-something-year-olds who are less mature than my 7 year old,” she chuckled. “When and if I allow my daughter to access the site I will only do so when she is aware of the consequences of broadcasting your personal business for the entire world to see.”

It is this risk that we all are taking now by frequently accessing public networking sites like Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook. “My coworkers and I were just talking about this,” said Walwrath. “We had just heard about the incident with actress Jane Adams, and how her waiter was fired after Twitter-ing about what a bad tipper she was. It made us laugh a little, but really realize what a risk it is putting our business on the Internet for all to see.”

Facebook is still thriving on our campus here at UNCG; just look around any computer lab, or classroom you’re in, and it is obvious. We as college students love to stay connected to people we meet, people we want to meet, and capture images of nights that we may not remember; and apparently so do all other generations. But with the increasing use of Facebook by all of these generations, we not only run the risk of embarrassing ourselves in front of our friends and possible future employers, but now, we run the risk of embarrassing ourselves right before our parents’ eyes.

So, the next time you go to upload your pictures from last night’s amazing “kegger” or girls’ night out, just remember that maybe your mother, or kid cousin, who you begrudgingly “friend-ed,” could be showing your grandmother just what you’ve been up to while away at school.

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