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Changes to Popular Facebook Web site Rankle Students

Seems the honeymoon is over.

In the past few years, college students have rushed to sites where they’ve been able to make new friends and reconnect with old ones across the world. But recently, issues with the massively popular site have fueled fears that there can be too much of a good thing.

On Sept. 5, Facebook users logged on to find a new way the site’s creators hoped to help them stay connected to their friends.

The News Feed, found on the opening page after logging onto the site, showed every move one of your “friends” made.

It was hardly a cause to celebrate.

After more than two years as the largest networking site for college students, Facebook, which boasts nearly 10 million users, is finally seeing signs of wear.

Marlon J. Ivy, a student at Mississippi State University, logged on one day to find all his friends’ information right at his fingertips for his perusing.

He didn’t like it at all.

“I was like ‘what’s going on?’” says the senior communications student. “I understand the concept of keeping everybody connected, but I don’t want a full page of ‘John sent a note to Sally.’”

When he first heard of the site two years ago, Ivy thought it was a college-dating site. He says many students used and to meet others at the beginning of his college career. He joined Facebook in early 2005 as a way to keep in touch with classmates. If he missed an assignment, he figured this would be the best way to find out what the assignment was.

“Most people check their Facebook more than they do their mail,” Ivy says.

Veronica Marche’ Miller, a graduate of Howard University, was also shocked about the News Feed. But it was nothing compared to what happened when she logged on to her account. She discovered a profile, other than hers, full of her personal pictures.

Miller, 23, was checking her university-issued e-mail when she came across one with the subject line “Welcome to MySpace.” She found the e-mail odd, since she’d been a Myspace member for some time. The e-mail thanked her for signing up and contained a link leading to “her” profile. When she clicked, it took her to a page she’d never seen before.

And it said “Welcome Becky.”

“At first, it scared me, but I was amused by it,” says Miller, a freelance producer for NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered.

She left it alone.

When she checked back a week later, “Becky” had posted family photos, including her dad and brother. The problem, Miller says, was that the family did not belong to “Becky.”

“It was pictures of me with my dad, with my brother and my friends,” she says.

Miller contacted MySpace. The profile was down days later, but not before she reached out to her imposter. The message was one question: “So, do you pose as people on a regular basis?” The response is unfit for print.

“She call me everything but a child of God and told me to go mind my business,” Miller says.

Miller’s information, including the university-issued address, is online for her friends to see on the Facebook site.

Several groups emerged quickly amidst the uproar surrounding the Facebook News Feed, including Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook). The group, created to let Facebook users voice their discontent to the site’s creators, currently has more than 673,000 members. The online petition the group posted to abolish the News Feed had 110,443 by Sept. 28

Ivy says his usage of the site had already begun to wane before the controversial News Feed was added. He says it feels invasive, especially considering some of his friends are only friends on the site.

“I don’t like that I can see their notes,” he says. “I don’t know them like that.”

-Marlon A. Walker


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