Before this year, college students could only define themselves on thefacebook.com by a single lonely profile. But now students can express themselves by joining groups ranging from the serious to the ridiculous, the real to the phony, and the mundane to the vaguely disturbing.
Since thefacebook.com revealed its new group feature, the networking website’s members have created more than 1,000 groups, ranging from “Anti-Popped Collar Club” to “The Zoo.” Blocking groups can define themselves, campus bands can promote themselves, and now, as the Undergraduate Council Presidential elections approach, candidates can broadcast their message.
Matthew R. Greenfield ’08, an active member of the “Matt Glazer and Clay Capp for UC” facebook group, says the group is “a great outlet” for the candidates.
“It has allowed the campaign...to organize itself andå its support publicly,” Greenfield writes in an e-mail. “It has provided a new means through which to advertise.” The other tickets—Teo P. Nicolais ’06-Samita A. Mannapperuma ’06 and Tracy T. Moore II ’06-Ian W. Nichols ’06—also have facebook groups dedicated to their campaigns.
As the would-be presidents look to the internet to gather votes, campus bands like Chester French have created groups to keep fans informed and gain new ones.
“Hanging posters and handing out flyers around campus is expensive and time consuming,” Justin G. Hurwitz ’07, the keyboard player for the group, writes in an e-mail. “We still promote through those more traditional methods, but we also take advantage of facebook to efficiently reach nearly a thousand fans who are part of the group.
“We receive messages all the time from fans who found our website and listened to our music as a result of seeing our facebook group,” he writes.
Many existing campus groups have turned to the facebook as a means of keeping the club together—the reason, facebook creator Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06 says, why the site added the feature.
“They were designed to be an online counterpart to student groups, down to specifying officers, having space for announcements and allowing groups to have meeting spaces and official websites,” says Zuckerberg, who is also the site’s webmaster. “It’s really nice to see people enjoying the feature the way we designed it, because that means we did something right and we’re helping people out.”
But many groups on the facebook have less serious aims—or none at all.
Blocking groups, upperclassman houses, and freshman dorms and entryways have also found the facebook’s groups to be a way to keep in touch.
“My blocking group is pretty close-knit, but at the same time we have fairly disparate interests and activities—the group is a way of highlighting our connection,” says Abe Othman ’07.
Gregory J. Balliro ’08, one of the intramural representatives for Straus, started “Da Straus House IMs” group. He said he uses the site to post schedules, messages from the representatives, a link to the main IM webpage, and info on other House IM athletes. “It definitely helps get people out to the games,” he writes in an e-mail. “Most importantly, it is a place where Da Straus House IMs can flaunt our victories and make excuses for our few and far between failures.”
A browse through the groups on the website reveals groups of all kinds, representing students’ diverse (and bizarre) interests.
“While Harvard students are freezing their buns off, Stanford students are getting a tan,” says Brian S. Gillis ’07, founder of Students for the Relocation of Harvard to California. “Our plan is to relocate every teacher, building, and student from Harvard to some location in California.”
Gillis’ group has 883 members and counting. The latest controversy on the boards? Where exactly in California to relocate the university.
In a parody, Adam M. Guren ’08 also created Students for the Relocation of Harvard University to the Alternate Universe Where Kerry Won. “I was depressed about the election,” writes Guren, who is also a Crimson comper. “I was also curious about what would happen—how the group would spread or if it would.” Guren’s group went from 15 members to 193 in a matter of weeks. For Guren, the group wasn’t so much a political statement as a “joke for other students who were depressed about the election and were not sure what to do.”
The members of Red Sox Nation shared all the intense moments of the championship season on the group’s message board.
“I started Red Sox Nation when my roommate said she was in the Yankee Empire [group] and they had something like 100 members. I mean, I knew we could top that,” says Teresa A. Hsiao ’07, founder of the group, which now has 688 members. “At first it was more for venting and frustration and a common space for long-suffering Red Sox fans.” Now, she says, fans of all intensities enjoy the site.
The proliferation of groups has given rise to groups like Harvard Students Who Love Facebook Groups to a new kind of facebook figure: the facebook group whore.
“Most of [the groups I’m in] I was invited to, since I have a pretty big group of friends, and a lot of them started different groups,” Jennifer R. Popack ’08, a member of 25 groups, writes in an e-mail. “I don’t think that there are many ‘real groups’ that I joined that have any real significance, they’re more just because I know the jokes behind them, and that makes them amusing.”
Whether groups on the facebook exist to get serious business done or to really get nothing significant accomplished at all, students are hooked.
“It’s nice to see that so many people care so much,” says Hsiao. “But then again, it’s just a facebook group.”