All Up in Your Face(book)

I am a proud member of the Freshmen Class of Facebook.

In those early days, back in 2004 and 2005, the site was new and exclusive (it required a .edu address to sign up) and cool. And the first day I stalked an on-campus crush using the “people search,” I knew it was going to change my life forever.

One small step for me, one giant leap backward for all of womankind.

There were, of course, other things to do on Facebook, even in its inaugural form. But the real thrill was the way in which it completely changed the dating game.

B.F. (Before Facebook), Google was the only way to pre-screen potential dates. It was useful if the guy happened to be a convicted felon and his mug shot popped up after an image search, but a clean record was just one of many requirements I had when looking for a future soulmate. I needed more.

Facebook to the rescue.

Before people began tightening up their privacy settings to block the likes of me, I suddenly had access to every piece of information one could ever hope to know about another. Did Luke list his mother as one of the people he most admires? Does Julius like to read? Did Max count “anime” among his many interests?

All were serious questions. If I was going to spend three hours doing—and re-doing—my hair and make-up for a date, I wanted to confirm that the guy wasn’t in possession of posters featuring Japanese cartoon characters. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

But while I was off in my own little world screening dates, Mark Zuckerberg was busy fine-tuning a site that could meet everyone’s needs—both personally and professionally.

Kim Cory, Sales & Marketing Director for University Village Apartments, near the Ohio State University campus, says her community created a Facebook page five years ago as a platform for residents to voice their opinions and concerns. Others, I’m sure, simply use it to cyber-stalk attractive neighbors.

Cory says the opinions residents post on Facebook differ from those commonly found on apartment ratings sites, which enable both bashing and “hyperbolic flattery” of communities through anonymous posts.

Such ratings sites often handcuff owners and property managers who struggle to respond appropriately to unknown residents and sometimes find themselves more concerned about the authenticity of the complaints and the complainers. The Recommendations feature allows residents to freely express the positives about living at University Village that Facebook page visitors won’t find on posts or comments.

The page has hardly been a vehicle for informing students about things such as rent due dates or rules reminders—a type of one-way communication Cory says stifles online engagement and diminishes any potential relationship building that can be accomplished through social media.

And what, I ask, is the purpose of social media if not to jump-start relationships?

For information of creating a community Facebook page, check out Paul Bergeron’s article, “Giving Residents a Voice in Social Media,” in the February issue of units, which mailed Feb. 8. The e-version of the magazine is available here.