The Public Relations Papers

Because sometimes you just don't have a choice.

07 September, 2006

Facebook Firestorm

A matter of hours is all it seems to have taken for the popular networking website Facebook.com to fall from the top of the collegiate mountain, to a valley of scorn, outrage and stalker paranoia.

In an effort to update its appearance and functionality, the website added a feature called “News Feed,” which allows users to take notice of what their friends and acquaintances are doing. Shortly after the new feature was added, users poured into virtual streets in protest, quickly creating anti-News Feed groups and signing online petitions to urge Facebook.com to revert back to the previous format. Those who disagree with News Feed argue that it has put their privacy into jeopardy and that members are now targets for online stalkers.

According to a story on Foxnews.com, Facebook.com creator Mark Zuckerberg said that, “Stalking isn't cool; but being able to know what's going on in your friends' lives is."

Though I am somewhat amazed at how many people are up in arms about this trivial issue, I am not at all surprised that they are. I mean, people knowing that Suzie Student and Bobby Teenager broke up yesterday could be devastating for the former couple.

The truth of the matter is that once you join a social networking site, you essentially sign over every shed of social privacy you though you had. The whole point of a social networking site is to see what others are doing and vise versa. If you want you thoughts kept to yourself and hidden from the public eye, keep a diary. Or start a blog no one will read (see above URL.)

As far as public relations goes in this situation, I see this as having positive potential for Facebook.com. The website is getting barraged with free publicity on all fronts, and most students would rather quit school than cancel their cherished Facebook accounts. I believe that the additional publicity coninciding with fall classes beginning will result in a membership spike. I suspect that Facebook.com will eventually put a limit on News Feed, and the adolescent firestorm will blow over as quickly as it came about.

So suck it up and quit complaining. This is essentially what you signed up for: to see and be seen. Don’t be so narcissistic. If someone really wanted to stalk you, they could find a way to do so without relying on News Feed, or even Facebook.com for that matter.

"Nothing you do is being broadcast; rather, it is being shared with people who care about what you do — your friends," Zuckerberg said.

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