Alchemical Thoughts

Questions and answers about adopting Facebook

Posted on: January 8, 2008

I came across this via Stephen's Lighthouse blog. Stephen is pointing to a post in ReadWriteWeb entitled "15 Questions for an Early Facebook User." I thought those would be interesting questions to ask some of the students who are using here on campus. Since I have a Facebook account, I figured it would not be a bad idea to use the questions as a prompt to look at how I use Facebook. So, here are the questions, with my answers.

BASICS

When did you first become a Facebook user? I think it has been close to a year. I came in right before they opened it to everyone, back when you needed to have a college e-mail address. I used my UHD e-mail to register at the time.

What are your typical activities on Facebook? I don't do a whole lot on it. When I got it, I did it mostly because a few of my students were on it. One of the things I did then was import the resource blog I had set up around that time into Facebook so as to make it more accessible. Over time, a few of my high school classmates found me, or I found them, I don't quite remember what came first, so now I check on it once in a blue moon to see what they may be up to. However, with all the new applications pretty much cluttering the system, I am using it less and less.

What is the social impact of Facebook? For the college students, I am sure it is a great social tool to find each other and to stay in touch. Probably pretty good for stalking if people are not smart about what information they do put online. I am sure it is probably helpful for some alumni as well, though I don't think it is as much as it is made out to be in the media.

How did it change the way you keep in touch with your friends? It made it a bit easier to stay in touch with some friends. However, since it seems they mostly just play around with the little apps., I am not particularly enthusiastic about that form of keeping in touch. I could do without the spam in my inbox every time Jane or Harry adds the zombie app. or the beer app.

FUNCTIONALITY

What Facebook features you could not live without? Hmm, tricky question since I am getting to the point that I could pretty much do without Facebook overall. I do like the fact you can import a  blog. Photos, which seems to be popular for a lot of people, I am only lukewarm. I keep mine on Flickr already (and there is a link on my main blogs to my Flickr). The basic profile is a nice way to have a basic presentation, but it is not anything that could not be done someplace else.

What features do you wish Facebook had? Actually, the question should be what features do I wish they would remove. There is a lot of clutter these days. I wish they would stop allowing every wahoo who can make a widget put it on Facebook.

What do you think of the Facebook user interface? It was nice and clean back before they opened it to application developers. In fact, that was a reason I favored opening a profile on Facebook over MySpace. While FB has not gotten as bad as MySpace, it is heading in that direction.

How did the Facebook platform change enhance your usage of Facebook? It didn't. If anything, the recent changes have made me use FB less.

Do you have a lot of applications installed? I have the following applications installed:

  • GoodReads for books. I added it since I have an account on GR. However, its interface with FB is clunky at times, like a lot of outside applications from services like GoodReads. I am pretty happy using GR, but I don't particularly care a lot about it on Facebook. I may or not remove it, but for now it works ok to showcase books I am reading.
  • Causes. I have this because one of my friends invited me to it. Under Causes, I have one serious and one fun cause. The serious one is for March of Dimes. The fun one is the Foundation for the Protection of Swedish Underwear Models (hey, what healthy, red blooded male does not like to ogle pretty women?). I was invited to both by different friends.
  • The New York Times quiz. Again, got invited by someone to add this. I like trivia, so this seemed ok. However, since I don't go in to do the quiz daily, or even on a regular basis, not really worth having it. I don't think the friend that invited me to it has used it since either.
  • FunWall. Again, invited. Because apparently FB's own wall is not good enough, so there are a bunch of other wall applications to add. I also had the SuperWall at one point, but I removed it. I may remove FunWall, though it seems all my friends use it for videos and so on.
  • X Me. It's one of those applications to send virtual hugs, etc. Again, invited by someone. I don't particularly use it.
  • Circle of Friends. Invited to this as well. Seems a bit redundant to me. I mean, we are on Facebook already, and there are groups in FB for our high school. Do we really need another circle or cluster?
  • Flixster for movies. Only reason I added it was because I have an account on Flixster, to which I got an invite from one of my students. I like movies, though I am not a movie buff by any stretch.

As you can see, I have added apps. mostly because others invited. One of the problems/nuisances of apps. is that a friend uses it, then uses it to poke/hug/send beer/etc., and if you don't have the app. yourself, you can't see the virtual action. So, you end up adding the app. just to see the item you were sent. I don't care about apps. personally, so they then sit on my profile. Problem then also is that every time someone does something with an app. to someone else, you find out about it on your feed in FB and on your e-mail. I think you can turn off the notifications for the e-mail, but it is still annoying. In brief, applications in FB are becoming more of a nuisance than a cute way to stay in touch. I did have a few others added, which I have removed. The ones above may be removed as well over time.

How about your friends? My friends have all of the above, and bunch of others. I don't really pay attention to who has what.

PRIVACY

Do you trust Facebook with your personal information? Are you kidding me? I would not trust them with anything serious pretty much. What I have posted on my profile is mostly publicly available. I mean, you can find out my employment status at UT Tyler by going to the campus site, so that is not some secret. However, I would certainly not give them personal e-mail or a phone number. You'd have to be a bonehead to put it significant personal data on a place like FB.

What have you seen that people have shared that you found out of line? Mostly photos, some videos. Videos are usually clips for humor or TV shows (in other words, not stuff they made themselves, but that they are passing on). Other than that, the occasional so-and-so went to a party or is dating. My friends overall have been pretty minimalistic when it comes to photos. In other words, I have not seen the soft porn that a lot of people see, but I do know some photos would be better kept private (or just out of FB and offline altogether).

What sort of things would you hesitate to share? See my reply above about personal information. Things like my home address and my personal phone number. If it is already publicly available (my work information for instance. I am a state employee, so that is public anyways), that is ok. If it is very personal, no, I would not put it in. This is a no brainer.

ADVERTISING / SHOPPING

What do you think of Facebook advertising? Well, they have to make a living somehow. I barely notice the ads. Compared to other sites, the ads on the side are not too intrusive. However, the sponsored items on my feed in FB are now becoming an annoyance.

Would you purchase books, movies, or music if you saw that your friends bought them? Nope. That whole dynamic would not really work on me overall. Sure, if a friend actually recommended something to me directly, I would consider it. But not because it came up in a feed in FB.

What if you knew that they were getting commission every time you bought something? I still would not be influenced. I do not buy too many things online anyways, so I would not be very helpful to anyone trying to make a commission that way. However, depending on the product, if I were looking to buy something online, I would try to buy via their way to help them out. But this would be very rare.

THE LONG TERM IMPACT

Would you still use Facebook after you graduate? This is not applicable. I went into FB as a staff member of a campus. I still have it active after leaving Houston for Tyler. I even changed my primary network. However, not sure how much longer I will hold on to it.
Would you be comfortable using Facebook to connect with your co-workers? Sure. I don't think it would be a problem. Unlike a lot of people, I pretty much keep a pretty professional profile in FB. The Swedish models joke aside, my profile is squeaky clean compared to other people. If my coworkers see it, it is no big deal.

Where will Facebook be in 5 years? If they don't quit cluttering it, probably headed down the proverbial drain. I don't think they will go bust in 5 years, but the growth may likely slow down as people look for less clutter. The MySpace crowd might come to like it, who knows. I know it is possible I won't be in FB in five years. Heck, if I can find a nice place for a professional profile that my students can access that is fairly clean and develops visibility and gains traction, FB will be history for me.

So, what can be concluded from this, if anything? Well, I am on the older side of Facebook's demographic for one, but that is pretty obvious. However, given the number of professionals and college alumni who have gotten into FB after it opened the doors, as opposed to when they were in college, I think it is something interesting to ponder. Anyways, some of these questions might be interesting to ask of a student now.

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