In the last few weeks we have written a few times about the popularity of social networking sites. Membership at both Facebook and MySpace continues to grow rapidly. As a Facebook member since its inception, I have always heard the argument from a number of skeptical peers that it is "stalkerish." I never felt this way and vehemently defended Facebook as a good way to keep track of friends. No real private information has ever been divulged and you only give out what information you want.
On Tuesday, Facebook released two new tools called News Feed and Mini Feed. At first look I thought "I’m done, get me off this thing" much like a little kid on an amusement ride. These new tools essentially tell you exactly what every one of your friends has done on Facebook recently. A stalker’s heaven right? I don’t need to know what an ex-girlfriend posted on a friend’s wall at 3:20AM last night, nor do I want all of my female acquaintances to know that I am suddenly "In a Relationship." These were my first reactions, and many of Facebook’s users have a similar opinion. In the last day or so membership in groups like "The New Facebook Sucks" and "Facebook or Stalker Paradise" has skyrocketed to well over 200,000 in a little more than a day.
However, my opinion has changed. What information does Facebook provide that wasn’t already there? None. What privacy settings have been changed? None. Facebook has just provided a way for its users to find the information they are already looking for quickly. That’s what Facebook is used for: keeping track of friends and seeing how their lives change. The tools just make it easier. And if you don’t want certain information to be sent to your friends via the news feed, you can easily change your privacy settings so that it isn’t. I do feel that Facebook should integrate some settings to make the tool optional but the root of what Facebook is hasn’t changed at all. I expect Facebook usage and membership to continue to grow. Some people may like the new features, others may not, only one thing is certain: once a Facebook stalker, always a Facebook stalker"¦.