Facebook.com’s recent decision to combine the high school and college online networks – prompted by the reception of “a ton of requests for high school students and college students to be able to friend one another,” according to Chris Hughes, a spokesperson for the website – has Cornell students voicing their criticisms of what they see as high schoolers invading their turf.
“Honestly? A high school version of facebook? That is absurd! You guys don’t even have enough friends to warrant a daily planner, let alone a whole intricately crafted system,” proclaims Down With High School Facebook, one of a handful of Cornell facebook.com groups dedicated to the renunciation of high school students’ inclusion on the social networking site.
The website is quick to point out, though, that the ball is still in the college students’ court.
“It’s important to remember that this change does not mean that college students’ profiles can now be seen by high schoolers – only that if college kids want to make their profiles available to certain high schoolers that they know, that is now possible,” Hughes said.
For high school students, the assimilation of the two sites has been viewed in a much more favorable light.
“I am very glad that high school and college facebook have joined. I like facebook because it allows me to see what others are up to and keep in touch with others. So, I’m very glad that I can become facebook friends with college-age friends I don’t necessarily see everyday because they’ve gone away,” said Matthew Aks, a junior at Scarsdale High School, a public school in Westchester, N.Y.
While college students have been relatively unrestrained in their use of the site, many high schools have taken steps to limit students’ access to the network, citing safety and privacy concerns.
At Ithaca High School, according to librarian Nan Bell, the district has banned the use of websites including facebook.com, LiveJournal and Myspace on all district computers. Bell said that he “noticed kids were sending personal information … and that was very unsafe.”
Many of these websites are also inaccessible from Horace Greeley, a high school in Chappaqua, N.Y., according to principal Andrew Selesnick.
“[Students] are easily lulled into a sense that it’s more private than it is. It’s not something that, for example, they want their high school principal looking at,” Selesnick added.
Though Selesnick said that he had not had “an experience where [students have] done anything that’s worthy of disciplinary action,” high school students have expressed some degree of trepidation in the potential for facebook.com to work against them.
“I am not aware of the administration taking disciplinary action against students based on incriminating photos or statements posted on facebook,” Aks said in reference to his high school administration. “However, perhaps it’s only a matter of time, because many students have posted photographs of themselves drinking or doing drugs,” he said.
Several recent incidents might also prompt college students to use more discretion in posting pictures or statements on the facebook.com. According to a Harvard Crimson article from December, a student at Fischer College was expelled last year for posting incriminating statements on his profile.
A spokesman for the CU Police said, “I don’t believe that we use it to check parties.”
Outside of the legal realm, there have been reports of firms using facebook.com to screen potential job candidates. While Hughes said that “the likelihood of a potential employer having access to an undergraduate’s profile is very low,” several students said that they had modified their profiles for this reason.
“With all of the stories I’ve been hearing about companies looking into potential employees’ facebook profiles, I felt the need to change my settings so that only people that I’m friends with can see my profile,” said Andy Tuchman ’09.
At Harvard, the Office of Career Services sent emails to the student body last November encouraging students to “carefully consider the amount of information they choose to post on [the website].”
These concerns might be exacerbated by the combination of the two networks, which, according to some, undermines the security of the website. While college students require a .edu email address to gain admission to the website, high school students, who do not have standard school addresses, can register for the site with their personal email. In the past, facebook.com has distinguished itself from sites like Myspace by requiring specific email addresses for confirmation.
Even though the network is no longer “seal-tight,” Hughes contends that facebook.com has “built the network so that it remains more insulated and connected to day-to-day social networks than a large, anonymous site like MySpace is.” For high schools, he added, the website has “constructed an authentication system” to help verify the identities of those who register for membership.
Despite the many changes affecting facebook.com, students have said they are reluctant to give it up.
“I still check my facebook all the time, even though the kids I baby-sit for keep writing on my wall,” said Robin Kornet ’08.
Archived article by Rob Fishman
Sun Staff Writer