Click click. Double click. Search. Enter. BAM. Within seconds, the website Facebook.com can give you several matches for the name you have typed in. You can search most colleges in this country and find almost any college student or alumnus.
Registered facebookers type in a profile that gives their major, high school, home town, information about themselves and even a picture or themselves. The facebooker's friends can even "sign their wall" with messages to the person — they can write anything they want. This has become quite the phenomenon on college campuses.
To tag or not to tag? A new feature on Facebook.com is the album feature. Users can make photo albums and "tag" their friends; tagging basically means identifying the other people in the picture. After you "tag" the other user, there is a feature on the other user's profile that reads, "View more photos of _".
Is it addictive? YES. You can link to people through classes, clubs, music, any common interest. One can spend countless hours at the site, searching, reading and clicking away. You can view the profile of any student or alumnus identified with the same college, but you cannot view the profile of a person from another school who is not your "friend" — which I guess is supposed to deter stalking. But, really, how safe is Facebook?
Fun and games or a stalker's paradise? If one were to put a picture, his or her address, even his or her classes up, any person from the same school could find them. Someone would have to be pretty absent-minded to post all of his or her personal information on the Internet. The website may seem like entertainment, but people could be seriously hurt due to putting too much information on the site.
When I came to SOAR, a police officer warned us about Facebook, saying it was one of the No. 1 stalking websites. This was enlightening to me since, like most other freshmen-to-be, I registered on Facebook once I got my school address. I was eager to join the website. I friended all my friends from high school, other friends I knew going to the UW and people I thought looked cool. Oh, the excitement I had every time someone friended me or signed my wall. But, since I was wise to Facebook's possible dangers, I didn't put my address or phone number on the site. However, some people do, and I am sure they are not aware of the potential damage.
The University of New Mexico banned Facebook. Did it have the right to? I don't think any university has the right to ban the site. Students should be able to log on whenever they please.
The problem isn't the site itself — the problem is the lack of education about it. If users are informed of its potential dangers, this alone could promote user safety. Banning the site would only rile up students and make them cry out that they are being denied the freedom to roam the World Wide Web. Therefore, universities across the country do not have the right to ban the site, but they do have the right to educate.
If used correctly, Facebook is very entertaining. But people must be careful not to put personal information on the site.
Skye Kalkstein (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freshman.