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Do you Facebook? by Jordan Heath-Rawlings You know an internet fad has become something more when you get a friend request from your mom. With two million profiles, Canada sports the second-highest per capita Facebook membership in the world and accounts for 10 percent of its users. Before everyone’s favourite social network becomes soooo last decade, here’s a look at what all the fuss is about.

Groups  Fancy yourself a pastafarian? There are nearly 300 groups devoted to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Whatever your interest, there’s guaranteed to be a corresponding Facebook group.

Personal Information A note warning users that Facebook is data-mining the network circulated widely in the spring, but Facebook says it is not selling user information, and that it has no plans to start. There’s a lot of it up there for the taking, though—users commonly list personal info such as home address, phone number, sexual preference, as well as favourite music, movies and books.

Public Privacy  In June, Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, felt it necessary to publicly warn young people of the dangers of posting exploits to networking sites like Facebook, citing the tale of a young woman who lost out on a job because of Jell-O fight footage posted online.

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Advertising  When, earlier this year, a Toronto radio station offered a $7,000 prize for the listener who was able to convince the most people to join a Facebook group named “Help (listener name) win $7,000 from 102.1 The Edge,” invitations were reaching users in London, Russia and Thailand. Not a bad return for a $7,000 advertising campaign.

Applications  Facebook recently started allowing the use of applications designed by third parties, resulting in an explosion of miniprograms added to users’ profile pages. They range from the inane (food fight) to the super addictive (Scrabble), to the philanthropic, such as Causes, which allows users to invite friends to join campaigns to support nonprofits and to donate.

Sources  Last May, when the media heard a 15-yearold boy had been shot at his school, newspaper and radio journalists surfed Facebook groups mentioning the name of his school—C.W. Jeffreys—to identify Jordan Manners, who was already being memorialized by friends online. Journalists now commonly use Facebook for research and to find sources.

Events  For social organizing, Facebook is the best thing since the internet. Anti-SPP rallies and Critical Mass join birthday parties and book launches on Facebook, and anyone can join.

Polls  The poll of the day sits in the sidebar of every user’s homepage, with questions ranging from the innocuous (“Boxers or briefs?”) to the blatantly sponsored: “How do you bundle your cell phone, internet and cable packages?” While it costs users as little as $6 to create a poll question, for “sponsored polls,” companies pay a certain rate per individual response—the higher the rate, the more people will see the poll.

September/October 2007  THIS MAGAZINE 




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