These past two weeks, students put a collective foot down. We were wronged, and we weren’t going to stand by and let it continue without a fight. We were offended, we wanted change, and we did something about it.
Hundreds of thousands of us joined protest groups, signed online petitions and even created blogs chronicling our struggle against tyranny. 744,352 of us joined in the fight, at last count.
What was the egregious offense? Facebook changed its format.
Facebook, a wildly popular college networking Web site, had the audacity to introduce a “news feed” – basically, an easier way to track our friends’ updates to their profiles. And we were outraged.
The change happened the morning of Sept. 5. By that night, “Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook)” was created and collecting members. By Sept. 10, less than a week later, college students across the nation organized a “day without Facebook” planned for Sept. 12. Web sites such as www.boycottfb.com sprung to life. And nearly a million of us – possibly more, if you consider the many other anti-Facebook groups that didn’t gather so much national attention – joined forces.
This isn’t the only movement on Facebook in the past week attracting college students in record-breaking numbers. How about Brody Ruckus?
He was a Georgia Tech college student who created a group titled “If this group reaches 100,000, my girlfriend will have a threesome.” The group was created on Sept. 5. By Sept. 11, over 300,000 college students had joined. Ruckus’ account and group were later deleted by Facebook staff, but not before 350,000 students had mobilized so Ruckus could have his threesome. Now some are saying that Ruckus and his group were a scam – but that doesn’t matter. We believed it, and we supported him.
Why is it that in a matter of days, things like threesomes and news feeds can convince us to act, to vote, to show support for something that we believe in, but voter registration drives can’t make us care about voting in upcoming elections, even if they stand outside each and every one of our classes?
I enjoy Facebook just as much as everyone else, but let’s not pretend we’re on there for noble reasons. It’s a silly way to pass the time and not much more, so let’s not treat it as something worthy of our protest efforts.
We are, after all, inheriting the future, but we don’t seem to care enough about it to shape it in any way. In 2004, 47 percent of citizens ages 18 to 24 voted, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Over half of us didn’t. And some of that half are college students who are going to class, doing homework and supporting Threesome Man on Facebook.
What will it take to get that number up to 50 percent? 75 percent? How can we redirect our collective attention from the networking sites of Facebook and MySpace to real-life networking with social issues that will someday directly affect our lives?
The statistics for voting in the University of Colorado Student Union elections are even sadder. In Fall 2005, only 739 CU students voted, according to the UCSU website. That’s roughly 2.5 percent of the student body. Turnout in the spring was a little better – 2783 students – but that’s still only 10 percent of the 28,624 students attending CU.
Somewhere along the line, it seems that our priorities as college students got a little confused. We don’t care about our president, our governor or the people who directly decide how our student fees will be spent, but we care if Facebook updates us daily on our friends’ activities and if poor, deprived Ruckus gets his threesome. Is this really what our generation wants to be known for actively supporting?