Facebook or MySpace or both - it's all about communication
A college student, in his dorm room cleaning up, notices the America Online (AOL) Instant Messenger icon bouncing on his computer screen, indicating he has a message. In the span of five seconds, both his suitemate and his friend abroad in London have messaged him, and he sits down to respond.
A young woman walking down the street hears her cell phone beep. She's not receiving a phone call, but an instant message, sent to her home computer and then forwarded to her phone, from which she can send a reply.
A college alum checks his e-mail account one morning and has four new messages from Facebook: two friend requests and two notifications that people have written on his wall, a public message board. Facebook, similar to Myspace, is an Internet communication database where one can make an online profile for others to view. The alum then logs on to Facebook to accept his friend requests, and sees he has a new Facebook message. In the span of one night, five people have contacted this man, neither in person nor on the telephone.
Young people have embraced Internet technology to keep in touch with their friends down the street and on the other side of the world. Internet sites such as Facebook and MySpace target the young people, who have a need to communicate, whether to make plans for the night or to ask someone for class notes.
Jordan Bonamo, a recent graduate of Boston University, was the last of his friends to make a Facebook profile. "I thought it was kind of creepy that other people were able to look at you whenever they wanted," said Jordan. "I didn't really understand it." However, after two years in college hearing his friends talk about the personal profile web site for college students, Jordan joined in his senior year.
"I thought it was becoming such a part of our generation, our culture, that not being in it would leave me out a lot more," he explained.
Having been on Facebook for almost a year now, he is thinking of making a MySpace profile. "MySpace offers more customization. You can put up wallpaper [a design technique to customize your own space], upload songs and video," he says. "You can find more ways to express yourself. It's all about showing the Internet population who you are by showing what you like."
Unlike Jordan, Islander Catie Coogan, a graduate student at James Madison University in Virginia, "refuses" to join MySpace. Why? "Because it allows anyone in the world to see your profile," she says. "Facebook at least allows you to only show your profile to people you're friends with."
Content with her Facebook profile, she sees no reason to use both Facebook and MySpace. She has also used the privacy settings that Facebook offers, choosing to only allow the people she has named "friends" to view her profile.
"People put more information than they probably realize on these things," says Catie. "Someone could easily stalk you."
Recent Ithaca College graduate and Vineyard native Natasha Snowden knows how important Facebook privacy is. Captain of her field hockey team last year, she and the rest of the student-athlete community found out that Facebook could be used by anyone with a school e-mail address, which includes staff. Natasha received an e-mail from her coach, telling her and the rest of the team to remove all pictures on the site.
"I blocked all the people from my school because the athletic director and other staff were going around looking for drinking pictures," said Natasha. Like Catie, her privacy settings only allow her friends to see her profile.
Laura Stone of West Tisbury, a current student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, has found she likes both web sites. Currently a member of both, she uses them for different reasons.
"Facebook keeps you updated with what is going on at school and with your school friends," she says. "With MySpace, you can design it yourself, and you can stay in touch with friends that you have lost touch with."
Unlike Catie and Natasha, she says privacy is not an issue on the web sites. "Facebook is pretty well protected [you need a college e-mail to make a profile] and I find it amusing some of the people that friends request me on MySpace. I haven't had any creepy people yet."
In addition to aiding communication, "Facebooking" or going on MySpace are outlets for procrastination. Kelly St. Laurent of Nashua, N.H., a 2005 graduate of Providence College, spends time on Facebook when there's nothing to do.
"When I'm bored, I find myself looking at pictures that people have tagged, or commenting on someone's wall," says Kelly. With new features added frequently, one can spend some time on Facebook looking up old friends, or looking through the last photo album made by someone from class.
To keep up with the growing number of users, both sites are continuously updated. For example, Facebook has an entirely new look since this past Monday, September 4, that records every action made by the user in a list, from sent messages and friend requests, to a change in one's relationship status.