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?

Jennifer Keegin October 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Love the way Timeline looks. Completely sad that my account was hacked a few years ago because I would have had data going back to 2006 or so when I first got on Facebook. Very depressing now to realize all that is “lost”.

I think the “story” that our Facebook pages tell will definitely be something for folks to think about, and may help offices/departments to actually use Facebook BETTER.

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Ed Cabellon October 11, 2011 at 10:18 am

Thanks for reading and commenting Jen! I agree and hope that our colleagues who use Facebook begin to have more broader discussions about digital identity with themselves and their students. We shall see :-)

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Jeff Lail October 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Ed,
I can’t say that I’m buying on Timeline. I don’t like the fact that it’s selecting what it thinks we want to put on Timeline and I also don’t like the meshing between timeline and things like Facebook Connect. One of my issues with Facebook has been and continues to be the merged identity that it seems to want users to maintain. While cosmetic changes to make it more like Google+ are helpful, many users have over 500 friends, and I can hardly see them going back and spending the time grouping these people according to content. The richness of Timeline will come to those who feel comfortable sharing large expanses of their life with a group that they may or may not be very connected with.
As I’ve shared in my presentations I’ve given on Facebook, I think the nature of Facebook has changed as they’ve continued to flaunt users interest in privacy and that the network has become a need less than a want. Zuckerberg said in his talk that he thought Timeline addressed that issue and I totally disagree. I think the need rather than want has been mostly due to privacy as well as a blending of networks that doesn’t happen anywhere else. In short, your mom and her friends are on Facebook – do you want to share with them in the same way you might with friends and colleagues? For most people, I think the answer is no.
After a quick review of the changes, I don’t think they’ve really changed anything for me. Facebook is still something I wish I could walk away from, but can’t because of work and keeping up with people’s birthdays.

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Ed Cabellon October 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

Jeff, thanks for your comments sir! Initially, I felt the same as you did. But as I’ve played with it, I really like the fact that you have control of what shows up. Yes, FB auto adds content upon activation, but its really simple to go through and take out things you don’t want on there. Is it time consuming? Yes. Are creating lists and setting privacy a pain the ass? Yes. But, if you want to use Facebook now, you have to do these things in order to maximize its total purpose. For some, this will cause them to leave FB all together and for others, they will roll the dice and let FB control their profile based on its algorithms.

The whole concept of “privacy” on Facebook still baffles me, as well as some FB’s other lexicon. When FB talks privacy, they mean two things, first: “access.” In other words, giving those connected to you on FB access to content you freely share. People have that control to give access to relevant content through Lists, but very few actually do. Second, “ownership”, where FB owns the content we put up there. Sure, we can now download a copy of all our FB content, but FB still retains the right to it as part of your agreement to their Terms of Service (TOS). Since no one really reads the FB’s TOS, its not surprising how emotionally connected they are with the privacy concept.

Oh, and my parents aren’t on FB (and I don’t think they ever will be honestly), but if they were, I can target share for them anyway so its not a big deal.

I agree that I have to stay on FB as well because of work and staying connected with family and friends around the world. the biggest change for me is Unfriending a ton of people to really focus who I want to share things with. Again, a time suck, but need to have it done.

Thanks again for commenting, always appreciate it from you!

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