Please explain Facebook to me and others

Okay… not every one at once.

1) What is it in very general terms?

2) What is it used for?

3) How does it differ from other online tools?

4) Do you use it and for what?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Tyler says:

    As far as I can gather from my students and others:
    1) It is a social networking sight, essentially. It is in the same category as MySpace and others of that sort, though it originally started with an emphasis on college students, so I think the reason it is “Facebook” is that it was like books of pictures that some colleges and university give to freshman to help them learn one another.
    2) It is used for social networking, blogging, posting pictures, creating annoyingly over-loaded webpages.
    3) It really mostly differs in its original intended audience; but since MySpace has begun to take ads, many more people have migrated to Facebook.
    4) No.

  2. Servus Dei says:

    Facebook is generally a site where a person establishes a profile and links up with other people online, basically as an online social network. You can write to people on their profile “walls”, send them private messages or public links, pics or videos. You can also join groups of people in support of a cause or to just have a group for some particular idea, person or thing. It doesn’t really have a great use, in my opinion, though you are able to talk with many varieties of people through this website; some you may know and some you may not know. I use it to talk with friends from afar and family, and also it’s a way to talk with people you may see often but don’t have the time to really talk to, like coworkers.

  3. Andrew says:

    To be honest its more of a university/college thing. Some priests are on it.

    The work that this blog must take, probably wouldn’t allow you to go on facebook that often. If I were you, I wouldn’t go on it. Too much hassle. My two pennies (or cents as you Americans would say).

  4. paul long says:

    1) you make a profile, that tells a bit about you, then you have a little posting area where you post on yours and other peoples page. After you do this you can join groups about whatever you want (im in a pro-life and FSSP and ICKSP group and some more personal groups, like groups of friends.
    2)its really good for meeting up with people you know (you can look for your friends with a search thing, then you can look at what friends your friends have and see if you know them, or in groups you can meet up with other people… but thats a little sketchy. But you can then keep in contact with them by leaving a message on their page.
    3)its different then say MSN because its not live speaking, its just leavin a message on a page. So also its a really public tool. For the most part if i say anything to you, then everyone you know would be able to read it. Ummmm its probably more complete a tool then Myspace etc.
    4)I HATE FACEBOOK…. but i am a weak person, and it is good for getting in contact with people who i barely know but need to get a hold of for one reason or another.Also some different organizations have facebook that iwanted to keep track of. AND im currently far away from home so i use it to keep on top of the local gossip.

  5. Brian Crane says:

    The above have described Facebook. I would only add that it can very easily become a time-waster, and it only provides yet another means for folks to get in touch with you.

    I find that between email, cell phone, instant messaging, voice mail, etc., there are already enough ways for folks to contact me!

  6. Fr. Andrew says:

    1) What is it in very general terms?– nothing to add to previous com.

    2) What is it used for?– nothing to add to previous com.

    3) How does it differ from other online tools?
    -It is more private than MySpace. You can’t see someones full page unless you admit them as “friend.” (Like the Mines of Moria?) My perception is that it is less prone to vice/scandal than MySpace, though it has adds I haven’t seen to many scandalous ones and there is a campaign asking for modesty in advertisements. From the facebook blog it seems they take this seriously: “We are automatically moving complaints about nudity or pornography, and harassing or unwelcome contact to the top of our queue for Customer Support to address within 24 hours.”

    I don’t know their philosophical/ethical/moral background from which they guide their efforts or whether they are in danger of being bought out by others without those same principles.

    4) Do you use it and for what?
    -I’ve recently started using it at the advice of a Youth Minister and the prevalence of use amongst our college students. I also use it for some friends in general, a way to keep up some connections, keep people updated.

    Is it effective? I don’t know. This might come out wrong, but I believe it can be another technological substitution for real relationships. “Look I have 300 friends on facebook!” But are they really friends or attempts to build relationship in a fractured postmodern culture? Is it also just another avenue for exercise of rampant individualism?

    It makes sense as a poor man’s blog. I have photos, information, news of me that I want my friends to know about all at once, I’m not smart/proficient/erudite enough to blog and no one would really listen. Answer: facebook.

    My $0.50.

    Also, found this article from a technical view.

  7. Paul says:

    Originally, Facebook functioned largely as an online address book — you could see the “profile” of people at your school, as well as people you knew elsewhere who you marked as “Friends.” Most people had their phone numbers and the like on their profiles, so you didn’t have to worry about losing that information if your cell phone died. Now, Facebook has mutated into a multi-million dollar behemoth and membership is no longer limited to college students. Because anyone can have access to the network, most people have removed the bulk of their personal contact information from their profiles, thus removing the functionality that was most useful in the original product …

  8. Cody says:

    MySpace is full of perverts* pretending to be high school and college students, Facebook is full of perverts who are high school and college students.

    OK, maybe that’s a little too bleak an outlook. There are some faithful Christians on there, but considering the high school and college “hooking up” cultures, the numbers are small.

    *Pervert=anyone not practicing sex & chastity as God intended.

  9. Jamie says:

    I think that “what is it” has been well explained already, but I thought you might be interested to know that there is are two very large traditional Catholic communities on there – one SSPX and one Brompton Oratory.

  10. Jeff Pinyan says:

    1) What is it in very general terms?
    MySpace off the crack. Until relatively recently, there was not a lot of customization involved. That’s lessened recently, but at least you can’t make your Facebook page bright pink with purple letters, with atrocious emo music playing in the background, announcing your browser’s imminent crashing due to 1000 animated GIFs…


    2) What is it used for?
    “Social networking”. It’s a relatively simple way of getting back in contact with old friends, and for finding new friends (whether local or not) with similar interests as yourself.

    3) How does it differ from other online tools?
    It’s awfully simple, really. It takes care of a lot of cross-indexing for you. It’s universal in the sense that if you’ve seen one Facebook page, you’ll know how to navigate anybody’s.

    4) Do you use it and for what?
    I use it primarily to check up on my friends and to have a centralized place (at least for the people who have accounts) to know my whereabouts and doings.

  11. Michael Beaupré says:

    1) A social networking site

    2) It’s used for many things – from planning parish events, political campaigns, meeting old friends, … There is a lot of information on the Extraordinary Rite too!

    3) I find it easier to connect with people and plan events

    4) Yes, mainly to plan meetings with friends and to find out about local Catholic events.

    ++ I really like the group “Fans of Roman Chasubles and Other Traditional Mass Vestments”

    +++ our friend Fr. Tim Finigan from the hermeneutic of continuity has facebook too!

  12. Maria says:

    I am in college and joined Facebook over Christmas break freshman year when it was only college, because I missed my college pals, and since it’s by real (or obviously fake; we have a “The Latin Mass” at my school) name, it’s easier than e-mail. I mostly use it to talk to people I already know, basically instead of e-mail; but some of the groups function like mini-forums, since they have discussion boards. (Fora?)

  13. White Hat Mike says:

    2) What is it used for?

    There is a little bit of social networking going on, but FaceBook (and especially MySpace) is superb for storing and propagating cross site scripting attacks (XSS) and cross site request forgery attacks (XSRF). Never view any social networking site while you have an authenticated session open with your online bank, eBay, etc… search Google for the stories of folks who were surfing MySpace while they had eBay open in another tab and later found out they bid several thousand dollars on some obscure eBay auctions.

  14. Timothy James says:

    Jeff Pinyan said:
    “1) What is it in very general terms?
    MySpace off the crack.”

    LOL thats actually a more accurate description than one might think. I think it pretty much captures the essence of facebook. Although as some have pointed it has gotten so many new features lately that it does look like it is on some form of drug, maybe not crack… The one piece of info that I want to add is that you will receive an email from facebook notifying you of every single little event that happens with your profile, ie: “You have received a new message!”
    “Someone has written on your wall!”
    “Someone tagged a picture of you!”
    “Someone mentioned you in a note!”
    “So and so has added you as a friend”
    Each and every one of these messages is a seperate email. I have not been able to figure out a way to turn off the emails so if you have a fairly active profile you will receive many emails everyday from them notifying you of very insignificant events.

  15. Rouxfus says:

    Come the Revolution, Facebook will be an efficient way to round up those of incorrect association and thought as candidates for re-indoctrination or elimination.

  16. Paul Stokell says:

    In spite of the recent efforts to make it look like the bloatware-ridden, virus-prone MySpace, Facebook remains a good way to do quick-and-dirty “networking” as an individual or as a member of a like-minded group. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “poor man’s blog,” but it is far easier and the “template” is far cleaner the MySpace, and can be kept that way by a few simple settings.
    Privacy be well-managed. I’ve found that a few of my former students have tried to junk up my inbox with requests to load an “app” (Be a Vampire! Be a Jedi!) ad nauseam, but that can be easily fixed.

    I’d recommend FB to those wanting to keep close contact to those you know are already using it, and to those who you find to be like-minded. Several Catholic “groups” exist, and a lot of students from Catholic schools make use of FB as well. (If you check it out, my profile’s here.)

  17. Facebook can also be used to organize groups, similar to yahoo groups. I am on Facebook because my brother started a sport club, Irish Hurling, and uses it for organization and networking with other GAA clubs. Since I have been on Facebook, I have caught up with some friends and family, where I found some very nice galleries of photos of my niece and nephew.

  18. Adam says:

    Timothy James said: “Each and every one of these messages is a seperate email. I have not been able to figure out a way to turn off the emails so if you have a fairly active profile you will receive many emails everyday from them notifying you of very insignificant events.”

    I just figured this out today. :-)

    On the top right side of Facebook, click on “account”

    You get four choices: Settings, Networks, Notification, Mobile. Click “Notification”

    You will find 20+ Facebook notifications that can be emailed to you. Just unclick any notification you do not want to receive. Or you can unclick all of them.


    I find Facebook more of a waste of time than anything. Had it for a month, check it every other day. Write messages now and then. Share pictures. It has strong potential for assisting with group-based social activities.

  19. Mara says:

    The best reason to be on facebook is that you will find people on it who you knew 10 years ago or so, then you can request to be their friend, or vice versa, but the BEST part is that, even though you haven’t talked to them in 10 (or more) years, if you DO ever see them again in person, it’s ok to say, “hi,” because, like, you’re facebook friends! so it’s official and not awkward!

  20. Chad says:

    Facebook started when I was an undergrad, and out of stubbornness I did not join up right away. It was nice because at the beginning, it was limited to college students.
    The interface is simple, and it is easy to set up groups, events, invitations, etc. The two main things I use it for are: 1) Joining completely ridiculous groups, like “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet”, and 2) Using the interface to promote our Campus Ministry Events, the latter being to more productive one of the two.

  21. Meg Q says:

    “1) What is it in very general terms?”
    Agree with responses above. I’ll add that I’ve seen articles by academics claiming that MySpace skews “lower-middle-class” (i.e., only high-school education) and Facebook skews “upper-middle-class” (at least some college education), though that’s hardly surprising at this point in time, considering it started as a literal electronic college facebook.

    2) What is it used for?
    Networking. Socializing. Web 2.0, baby!
    Also, more real-time for communicating than (siiiiigh) having to OPEN your mail program, type out that whole message, press the send button, and WAIT for the addressee to receive it. As long as you both have it open, which most kids do these days (almost all my husband’s nieces and nephews between 14 and 25 are on it).

    3) How does it differ from other online tools?
    Clean interface (almost exact opposite of MySpace). Site has allowed some “mini-apps” that you can plugin to your Facebook page – but to use them, you have to allow those app developers access to your info. As a privacy concern, kinda scary. Otherwise, much more locked-down than most sites out there, especially if you keep your id “private” and trade info to “friend” (it’s a verb) your friends offline.
    Also, has some fun and some really interesting groups on it. Some serious, some just silly. I belong to one, Texas Expats in Canada (not the exact name), where we grouse about being up here and missing college football, Mexican food, Thanksgiving in November, etc. Another one is “Unlike 99.9% of Facebook, I was born in the ’70’s”, which also includes a lot of born-in-the-’60’s people and has become a treasure trove of ’70’s and early ’80’s nostalgia and memorabilia, thousands of pictures and comments, great social archaelogy, people from Europe and Asia as well as all over the Americas.

    4) Do you use it and for what?
    Obviously, I joined it, about 2 months ago (after hearing about it for several years, before it was opened to “oldsters” like us). I agree with Mara’s comment – I’ve “friended” some folks from high school, which is nice, and also some “real-world” and “internet” friends. It’s kind of fun. But Adam’s right, too – at this point in time, for most grown-ups, it’s a bit of a time-waster. Not in a bad way. I think what it ultimately will “be” still remains to be seen – the users are driving it, within the provided framework, and that is the intent of the founders, which is why everyone’s so crazy about it. What will it become??? How much money should I put in??? Lots of good questions.

    For example, you (or a “minion”) could start a “What Does The Prayer Really Say?” Group – then, fans of your work and your site could write cool prayers and translation complaints on the Wall. WDTPRS people in different cities could make plans to go to Mass and then coffee together. They could also post pics like old vestments and altar ware, nice churches, and maybe Photoshops like Piero Marini saying a Solemn High Mass. ;^) Though I’m sure, being the group founder, you could make a few rules if, for example, you didn’t want certain words, or pics of Abp Marini in a compromising position at a high altar. That’s *kind of* how it works.

  22. Meg Q says:

    “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet”

    That’s a good one, too.

  23. All the above, yes. It is especially helpful if you meet with student groups (students still predominate on Facebook.) I recently gave a talk at St Andrews University; it was put up as an “event” on Facebook and so I saw quite a few of the faces attending even before I got up there. It is a useful tool for organising and advertising events.

    I agree with the comment comparing Facebook messages with email. There is a variety of ways of communicating – for a person, you can comment publicly on their “wall” or you can send a message privately. For a group or event, you can write on the “wall” or start a discussion thread.

    It also has a good photo storage facility which re-sizes the photos you upload. I find that they are the right sort of size for posting to my blog so it saves using up my free space on Picasa and saves me having to resize my photos.

    It’s another useful tool – you don’t have to spend much time on it. (Works pretty well on Windows Mobile too so you can check it in an odd free moment on the bus etc.) If you can run a high traffic blog, you can certainly keep your Facebook activity under control quite easily. Worth signing up, I’d say. I look forward to “adding” you as a friend.

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