New Facebook Feature Could Out Students

Undergrads may wish to conceal sexual orientation from high school site users

Students may have woken up last Monday morning to pending facebook.com requests from that cheerful face from last year’s freshman musical—their high school’s freshman musical, that is.

Facebook.com removed the separation between high school and college facebook accounts Monday, allowing students in both groups to send each other friend requests and subsequently view each other’s profiles.

The integration of the two accounts raised concerns about privacy from students who prefer to share their college lives with their college friends.

The issue of high schoolers viewing their collegiate counterparts’ profiles is a concern for gay and lesbian students who may not be out to people from their high school, according to a Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Straight Alliance e-mail sent out over the group’s open list.

Mark B. Geyer ’06 wrote in an e-mail that he was outed when several high schoolers, who he had counseled at summer camp, saw his facebook profile.

While the high school-college facebook.com integration has resulted in wider knowledge of his sexuality, Geyer wrote that this has been positive.

“I realize that others may face substantially more hostility if they are out to everyone on Facebook,” he wrote.

Geyer added that a friend in high school had been struggling with sexuality and was relieved to discover that Geyer had gone through similar issues.

The integration has also raised concerns about students maintaining their reputation on the home front.

“I hate the integration,” Paul T. Mumma ’09 wrote, naturally, in a facebook message. “For one thing, now people in highschool [sic] will realize that, in fact, college did not make me any cooler.”

Some students also worry that their younger siblings will now be able to view pictures of them playing drinking games or engaging in other nefarious behavior.

“Regarding privacy concerns, users can now limit certain parts of their profiles so that they are inaccessible to certain users,” Facebook.com spokesman Chris R. Hughes ’06 wrote in an e-mail.

“If you’re a college student and you don’t want your sister in high school to see your photos, you can make them inaccessible to her,” he wrote.

Getting a facebook account has become a rite of passage for matriculating college students, a rite that many are not willing to share with high schoolers.

“There are some college kids who are pissed and want to keep the network to themselves,” Hughes told The Crimson in September, when Facebook opened its high school wing.

Now with the fusion of the two networks, some Harvard students said they are overtly outraged.

This rage has been channeled into the creation of a slew of facebook groups including “You’re still in high school. and you’re friending me? That’s awkward...now go away” and “Advocates for the return of Facebook to college-only exclusivity.”

The two groups have a combined membership of over 30 students.

“The more integration goes on,” Mumma wrote, “the more Facebook becomes some kind of creepy...phenomenon.”

—Staff writer Jillian M. Bunting can be reached at jbunting@fas.harvard.edu.