pull quote for inside colummn: Until now, Facebook's seclusion from the outside world protected those brave (and often debauched) souls whose stories of drunken hijinks and photos of ill-advised romantic encounters were protected from search engines like Google - and, hence, from anyone not registered with Facebook (e.g. Mom and Dad).
hed: Facebook changes: The grownups are coming!
I've got bad news, fellow Facebook users. Time to put away the photos of last weekend's bender and the lewd comments about your teachers. The grownups are coming over, and by the look of things, they're here to stay.
Over the next few weeks, Facebook, the wildly popular social networking Web site of choice for teenagers, college students and young professionals, will open its doors to the world, crashing many a cyber-party in the process.
Facebook, for those who don't know, is a Web site where users sign up to create free, fully customizable profiles complete with personal information, likes and dislikes, and (of course) photos of one's self and one's friends. It also allows users to network with friends and colleagues and to leave publicly viewable messages on other users' profiles. A profile's content is limited only by the Web site's terms of service and the user's bravery or audacity.
Until now, Facebook's seclusion from the outside world protected those brave (and often debauched) souls whose stories of drunken hijinks and photos of ill-advised romantic encounters were protected from search engines like Google - and, hence, from anyone not registered with Facebook (e.g. Mom and Dad). But this latest (and, for Facebook users, almost universally condemned) decision to make profiles accessible to the public suddenly rips down the curtain that previously hid the aforementioned material from the curious eyes of people keenly interested in the after-hours behavior of young people (e.g. potential employers).
Most Facebook users - including me, in case you're wondering - practice common sense in customizing their profiles. A typical user's page contains a generic, flattering photograph, a list of favorite movies and musicians, a handful of humorous quotations, and tame, unremarkable pictures submitted by user and friend alike.
But some users take pride in pushing the limits of the site's terms of service. Profanity is common. Lewd inside jokes are commonplace. Sexual innuendo is almost impossible to avoid. And if a camera ever found you on your worst behavior, then you can bet that everybody knows about it on Facebook.
And up until now, that was fine, because in both matter and mantra, the Web site was not so unlike Las Vegas - what happened on Facebook stayed on Facebook.
But not anymore. Parents, bosses and everyone else are soon to be privy to countless social outings and sarcastic, easily misinterpreted observations.
My relatively bland Facebook profile causes me no cause for concern, but just this week, several of my classmates applying for government jobs scrubbed their previously lascivious profiles of years of misbehavior. They may have avoided the watchful eye of Google, but they weren't willing to take the chance. I don't blame them.
More than likely, Facebook will survive this unpopular development. After all, even my aforementioned colleagues cleaned their profiles rather than scrapping them altogether. Its lost humor value aside, the Web site is incredibly useful for students, who can use it to communicate quickly with large groups of young people with similar interests from across the country.
Rooting for Barack Obama next year? Facebook can hook you up with about 336,000 others who are, too. Want to set up an easily joinable mailing list for your small, on-campus church group? Facebook can do that, too.
In the end, that's why I'll stay. Despite its unwelcome open-door policy, Facebook just makes college life easier.
Unfortunately for many a careless user, though, it soon will begin to make post-college job searches a lot tougher.
Will Bardwell is a third-year law student at the University of Mississippi and a Facebook member since 2005.