Student Affairs and the Latest Version of Facebook

by Ed Cabellon on October 10, 2011 · 4 comments

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The last few weeks have been crazy ones in the Social Media sphere with Facebook’s latest round of changes.  As expected, many of my online connections voiced their thoughts and perspectives, many not liking what Facebook has done.  While each of you use Facebook slightly differently, it is important to go through all these changes yourselves so you understand how it may or may impact your approach to the world’s largest social network.  The first part of this post is education and the second are my thoughts on implications :-)

 1.  Facebook Ticker
With Facebook’s News Feed now only showing your “top stories” based on an algorithm called EdgeRank, Ticker will scroll all other activity from your connections as well as your own (e.g. Likes, comments, uploads, app activity, some status updates, etc.)  If you find the Ticker distracting, there are many ways to get rid of it.

2.  Lists & Smart Lists
I’ve been a huge proponent of  Facebook Lists for a while now, and if you heeded my advice, this new feature should not come as much of a surprise.  With the launch of Google Plus and its “Circles” feature, it was only a matter of time before Facebook rolled this targeted sharing option as part of its user interface.  By creating lists and updating the “Smart Lists” that Facebook gives, you may now share anything to anyone or any list.

3.  Top Stories “Blue Bar”
Its up to you to customize your news feed by clicking the top left corner of a status update when you want to see more updates of its kind at the top of your feed.  You can do this with any Facebook Update from Friends, Groups, or Pages.  Simply “liking” a post won’t necessarily bring it to the top.  You will also notice that photos are larger in your feed now, to quickly capture your attention.  It is “Facebook” after all :-)

4.  The Subscribe and Unsubscribe Options for “Friends”:

You may have noticed that you now have the option to be someone’s “Friend” or simply “Subscribe” to their public posts. Frequently, I go through my friend list and “unfriend” people I haven’t had regular contact with, but now, if I wanted to , I could subscribe to their public posts by checking off that option (this assumes they have turned their “subscription” options on.)  If it feels familiar for some of you, it should… it is Twitter on Facebook.

5.  Say hello to Timeline:

According to Facebook, “Timeline is the story of you.”  It is currently being pushed out to the over 800 million Facebook users.  Once it is complete, it will change the way you use Facebook.  Simply put, it is Facebook’s largest user interface (UI) change since 2005.  The “story of you” is a beautifully designed, digital representation of you.  Beginning at birth, it incoporates ALL of your Facebook data into one long, easy to use stream.  It can be nostalgic to look back on some of the events of your “Facebook” life over the last seven years, but where it gets “scary” is how they add pictures and life events to the Timeline, pre-2005.  For example, my wife and I were married in July of 2001 and I have a Facebook Album labeled “Wedding Pictures, July 2001.”  Well in my Timeline under “2001”, there was my wedding album.  It also added the birth of my two kids, my college and graduate school commencements… really, anything that I gave Facebook was added to Timeline.  It was amazing and overwhelming all at the same time.  I’ve been saying for the last 18 months that Facebook is no longer a reflection of your personal life, but a reflection of your entire life… well now its happened.  What you need to decide is, will this change make you use Facebook or will these changes make you leave for another online network like Google Plus?

Implications for Student Affairs / Higher Education:

1.  Digital Identity Education:  Now, more than ever, Student Affairs professionals need to be engaging students in conversations regarding their digital identity.  Imagine, as a student, having Timeline activated and seeing how Facebook sees their online life.  Are they happy with pictures, status updates, and life events being shown?  The release of Timeline is a great opportunity to engage in these important conversations because most students often don’t think about the implications of living their lives online.  Until this topic is added to the college curriculum, it is up to us to start and maintain these conversations.

2.  Thinking Your Own Facebook Account and Digital Identity:  Before having these conversations with our students, its important for Higher Education Administrators and Faculty to take stock in what their own online identity looks like, beginning with Facebook.  Its important to do a few things right now:
– Review your current Privacy Settings to see if they are still accurate
– Go through your current “friends” to see if you still want remain connected online.  There is no shame in “unfriending” or “unliking”, its good for your Facebook soul :-)
– Go over your current Lists to make sure they are still accurate.  If you haven’t created Lists yet, you need to in order to maximize the current Privacy Settings, as well as, having options of who to share updates with.
– Go through all the Apps you have connected to Facebook and update their privacy settings by clicking on the “edit” link. (You’ll be shocked as to how much information you give to these!)
– Go through your “Security” tab and enable “Login Notifications” for an extra layer of security on your Facebook Account.
– Visit the “Account Settings” tab and at the bottom, download a copy of all your Facebook data, just in case you want to leave Facebook all together.

3.  Facebook Fan Pages:  While I don’t see much changing with Facebook Groups, I do see the implied change on the horizon for your Facebook Fan Pages.  Eventually, they will also have Timeline for Fan Pages, telling the story of your organization, department, or business.  Two thoughts on this. First, by understanding and becoming more proficient in your own Timeline, you will be more prepared to handle this coming transition.  Second, successful Fan Pages will need to move beyond the participation level (number of fans, likes, impressions, etc.) to the engagement level (conversations via comments, mentions, etc.) in order to stand out in the “Timeline” era of Facebook.

4.  Student Affairs / Higher Education Professionals Need to Become Better Story Tellers:  What is the one thing that Timeline does well?  It tells a GREAT story, positive or negative.  What will your story be and how will it compare to others?  If you continue to use Facebook personally to stay connected and/or professionally to build online communities, it is something to consider.  Generally, I don’t think Student Affairs folks tell their department stories well enough and in the digital age, this needs to change, in order to remain visible and competitive for shrinking resources.

What do you think are some implications of the new Facebook? Will this keep people on or push them away?  Do you like Timeline, why or why not?

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