Facebook: The invasion into everyday life

Socializing. Late night procrastination. Homework. Facebook isn’t just for posting YouTube videos on friends’ walls and commenting on photos from last weekend anymore. It’s the place where CHS students post all kinds of information about themselves and manage aspects of their busy, event-filled lives.

In more recent years, Facebook has become more and more enmeshed in the everyday lives of CHS students. Students rely on Facebook to find out about events, school activities, and, in some cases, even complete homework

Although many students see this as a positive development, others question whether Facebook has become just a little too important.

“Facebook is programmed to use the information provided by its users to help them connect with others as well as provide advertisements about things they may be interested in,” Senior Marquise Griffin said. “Sure that sounds great initially, however, it also encourages users to invest more of their persona and identity online than in real life. To me, that’s not healthy.”

Private information online

High school students increasingly post private information on their Facebook profiles, with many unaware of the potential consequences.

Dawn.

It’s not uncommon to come across a photo on Facebook and wonder, “What were they thinking.”

Professor of Journalism at Kent State University Mark Goodman believes that students tend to post too much information about themselves online for all the world to see.

“Information that traditionally would have been considered private is no longer,” Goodman said. “Students, by revealing aspects of their lives on their social networking pages and elsewhere, give information about their activities and interests that would only have been known by their closest friends in the past. Now anyone with an internet connect can know all about them.”

Even though many students have strict privacy settings on their Facebook accounts, Goodman does not believe that this is enough.

“[Facebook profiles are] not secure at all,” Goodman said. “Anyone who believes only their ‘friends’ will see what they post on a social networking site is living in a dream world. It only takes one friend cutting and pasting (or doing a screen capture) and forwarding that information on to others for the information to become viral and accessible to millions around the world. Anyone who posts anything cannot prevent that.”

A thought lurking in the back of many CHS seniors’ minds is what would happen if a college admissions officer were to stumble upon incriminating photos posted on Facebook.

The question as to whether or not colleges actually look at applicants’ Facebook profiles is still up for debate.

Julie Shimabukuro, Director of Admissions at Washington University in St. Louis, confirms that they “do not look at students’ Facebook accounts as part of the admissions process.”

However, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, 10% of admissions officers look at social-networking sites to evaluate applicants.

Of the colleges who used online resources to further evaluate applicants, 38% said that their views of the applicants were “negatively affected” and 25% said that their views of the applicants were improved.

CHS College Counselor Carolyn Blair believes that CHS students need to consider what they put on their Facebook profiles, both for schools and even for future jobs.

Blair believes that because colleges have their own pages on Facebook, they can be used to view profiles with fewer privacy restructuons.

Additionally, although Blair believes that finances would be a deterrent for colleges hoping to use Facebook as an admissions tool, that there are other less official ways that a student’s Facebook could come under consideration. As the young, Facebook-using generation grows old enough to actually have positions in the admissions offices, these officers could easily have mutual Facebook friends with applicants and see their profiles.

“Colleges don’t have to be out there looking for things to get information on Facebook that’s out there,” Blair said. “It’s a public domain, so both for college applications, as well as later for employment, you have to be smart about what you have out there online.”

Students are also legally liable for what they post on Facebooks, even if it’s posted from home.

“If a student libels someone or invades someone’s privacy, for example, that student is legally responsible for the consequences of their actions and could be sued for what he or she posted,” Goodman said.

Many CHS seniors change their names temporarily through the college process to avoid college admissions officers finding their profile. Senior Jessica Merrick, or “Jss Merc,” as she is called on her Facebook profile, created a false name on Facebook more for fun than to avoid prying college admissions officers.

“I don’t think my Facebook should be used as part of the admissions process,” Merrick said. “Even though I don’t really have anything to “hide,” but I also think it’s a senior tradition.”

In fact, Merrick thinks that using Facebook profiles wouldn’t actually be a good indicator for colleges in the admissions process.

“I don’t think my Facebook should reflect if I’m a ‘good fit’ for the school,” Merrick said.

A quixotic task

CHS students who don’t want to join Facebook find staying off the social networking site to be a nearly impossible task.

As Facebook becomes more essential to everyday life at CHS, more students find it impossible to avoid the site and the conveniences it offers.

During the process of writing this article, it was nearly impossible to find a CHS student who wasn’t on Facebook at all. Finally, Senior Marquise Griffin agreed to be interviewed about his choice to stay off Facebook. However, by the week of the interview, Griffin had finally relented and joined Facebook after previously refusing to join for the entirety of his time at CHS.

“I finally (and unenthusiastically) decided to join Facebook in order to stay connected with my extracurriculars and so I could be reached for important events or meetings,” Griffin said. “Apparently, in almost all of my clubs, I was the only one solely dependent on my email and cell phone as my means of being notified about important things.”

Events for CHS activities such as the Politics Club, Community Service Club, and even plans for Homecoming festivities have all turned to Facebook to spread the news about upcoming events and meetings.

Without a Facebook account, it can become nearly impossible to participate in any CHS activities at all. Otherwise, a student might never find out that the day of a meeting has changed or know where their class is building their Homecoming float that weekend.

Since joining Facebook, Griffin has noticed that keeping up with his extracurricular activities has become easier, but worries about the extent to which Facebook has become tied to his life after joining just weeks ago.

“I understand the advantage it provides in terms of staying connected with others, but I do not like how Facebook facilitates largely impersonal, electronic interaction, which is inherently addictive due to all of the things one can do on Facebook,” Griffin said. “It is well known that because of the ease and convenience by which people can connect with others as well as advertise themselves, people are increasingly spending more time on Facebook versus committing their time to more productive venues.”

Griffin is also worried about the ways in which Facebook or other parties could potentially use the information he puts on Facebook.

These concerns are, apparently, justified. In 2005, two MIT students did a study on Facebook privacy.

The students were able to download information from over 70,000 Facebook users using an automated script, thus proving that “private” information on Facebook is indirectly accessible even to those outside the corporation. They determined that information people place on Facebook, even privately, is not completely safe.

The study also found that a vast majority of people had never read the Privacy Policy or Terms of Service, thus insuring that most Facebook users don’t know what Facebook can or can’t do with the data they post online.

As Griffin continues to use Facebook to aid his participation in school activities, he plans to tread cautiously and not post what he believes to be too much information about himself.

“From my perspective, it seems that through activities such as “status updates” or “what’s on your mind?” users voluntarily give up their privacy until there comes a point where everything a person does, says, or thinks is advertised over Facebook,” Griffin said. “When all of that is posted online, it’s permanent. Is it really a good idea to have everything you do or say be on indefinite display for the world to see?”

Facebook fosters environmentally-friendly, interactive assignments

CHS students may not be allowed to use Facebook at school, but students in CHS science teacher Chuck Collis’s AP Environmental Science classes access some of their schoolwork on Facebook.

Collis created a Facebook page entitled “CHS APES” separate from his own account.

Each week, he posts approximately five to six articles about current events related to environmental sciences. Students are required to post a “substantive” comment on one article each week.

After a less-than-successful attempt at a similar system on Twitter last year, Collis turned to Facebook because it is a much more commonly used social networking website among students at CHS. With that switch made, Collis noticed that the students were much more receptive.

“I had hoped that it would turn out something like this on Twitter last year, but quickly I saw that it wasn’t working,” Collis said. “I think that almost nobody ever read any of the things that I posted. So, it wasn’t a method that I ever used for collecting assignments.”

This year, however, Collis has been impressed by the success of the system this year and the participation on Facebook. In particular, he like the interactivity that Facebook allows in comparison to a typical written assignment that might be turned in otherwise.

“Referencing other students’ comments, I think, is always good,” Collis said. “I like it when they turn into discussions, rather than just a recitation of what has been learned.”

Additionally, in a tie-in to the overall theme of environmental awareness in AP Environmental Science, Collis is excited about the idea of doing these assignments completely electronically without having to waste any paper.

“I think that it gives them more diversity about what they can choose to read,” Collis said. “I mean, I certainly wouldn’t photocopy six articles and hand them out in a weekly packet and say, ‘Choose one out of these to read.’ It would be a fantastic waste of paper.”

Collis also feels that, although these assignments are being done on a website that CHS students normally reserve for joking wall posts or commenting on photos from weekend festivities, the system doesn’t interfere with the social lives of the students.

“I never really thought about it because, while Facebook is a social medium, I don’t feel like I’m jumping into my students’ social lives,” Collis said. “This is just a vehicle for getting them a variety of articles that they can read.”