College students nationwide will admit to spending more than their fair share of time on popular instant messaging programs, online public journals and personal profiling websites. Each service, usually free and entertaining, but highly time-consuming, certainly makes keeping in touch with old friends and making new ones a lot easier. Among these free online tools is thefacebook.com launched in Feb. 2004 and was designed specifically for college students.
“Thefacebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges and universities,” said Chris Hughes, co-founder of thefacebook.com.
“Thefacebook is a website that is a resource for both information and communication, but at the same time, is fun to use.”
Thefacebook gives its users the ability to browse the profiles of other members from their universities and gives them the option to “poke”, message or add other members to their lists of friends. Another popular feature of the website is the ability for any user to join or start groups based on topics of interest. Thefacebook also gives users the ability to search schools nationwide for old friends. On average each day, 10,000 to 15,000 college students join thefacebook. Currently, there are approximately 1,500,000 members of thefacebook.com nationwide from the University of Alabama to Yale, including many students from USF.
“It’s a good way to get acquainted with your fellow students,” said Kellen Goodell, freshman, who has been a member of thefacebook since September. “Every once in a while I’ll find someone that I used to know that moved away during high school, or they’ll find me.”
Freshman Lara Hershbein has been using thefacebook.com since November.
“It’s a great way to meet new people without being too forward, and it really makes keeping old friends easie,.” she said. “I’ve found tons of people from middle school, high school, within my classes and even people from elementary school. It’s actually rather interesting to see who actually remembers you.”
Hershbein feels that thefacebook is a safe way to meet new people.
“Since it’s a restricted site, I feel more of a sense of security of my information.” she said.
“We want students to have control over what information they would like to provide to their peers: screen names, favorite movies, classes and friends.” said Hughes. “We hope users will use the site to find information on their peers, to make connections with friends and acquaintances and to communicate with one another.”
Sophomore Luis Arroyo has been a member of thefacebook.com since October. Arroyo admits that thefacebook.com’s features keep him returning to the site several times a day. He said that the constantly growing variety of groups that members can join within USF’s thefacebook community makes the portal addicting.
“I go on a few times a day to see if there are any new (groups to join).” he said. “There are so many things you can do on the site that you need more than one day to do it.” he said.
“At our ages, if you are not having fun, it is not worth doing,” said freshman Booby lewis, member of thefacebook since Nov. “I think (thefacebook) is a tool that can be fun to use. So many of my other friends only joined so that they could try to talk to pretty girls, but I wanted to try and find a few friends with common interests. In college, everyone comes from practically everywhere, and they all have different hobbies. But with thefacebook.com, it is easy to find people with similar interests.”
Thefacebook also gives college students the opportunity to reunite with long lost friends from years ago. Amber Joy McRae, a junior who has been using thefacebook since October, knows this to be true.
“A girl that was my best friend in elementary school moved away when we were in 6th grade and I hadn’t talked to her since.” McRae said. “She found me on here and befriended me. It was really awesome to see what she looks like now and see a brief glimpse into her life.”
As thefacebook.com continues to grow in popularity, Chris Hughes says that thefacebook itself will continue to grow.
“Plans for thefacebook in the near future are three-pronged.” said Hughes. “We’ll continue to expand to as many schools as possible. Alongside general expansion, we’ll review and update the features that we have and add new ones. Finally, we’re partnering the site with another project (at www.wirehog.com) which has already happened for students at Stanford and Harvard.”
As more and more students are coming to find, thefacebook.com has proven to be a reliable program of online communities designed for college students. Those students who are active members encourage every student to get involved.
“Most members should take advantage of the opportunities that thefacebook.com presents,” Lewis said. “As long as thefacebook.com is fun and I am meeting a bunch of cool friends, I am going to keep checking it out.”
Hughes believes thefacebook’s purpose is the reason that students such as Lewis continue to make good use of the website.
“It’s a reference tool and a means for communication,” he said. “I think that combination, and the fact that it’s fun, keeps people coming back.”