When a student from Penn State asked freshman Ashley Clark to be his friend on Thefacebook.com, she accepted and thought nothing odd of it. Strangers often “friend” each other on Thefacebook, so Clark was not fazed by this random friend invitation.
Soon the young man began sending Clark messages through Thefacebook and instant messages online. Clark acted cordially to the stranger even though his frequent Facebook messages and instant messages seemed strange, she said.
Clark’s cordiality turned sour when the young man plugged her address and his into MapQuest.com, a popular Web site for directions. What was once casual conversation with a stranger became stalker-like infatuation.
“He figured out that I was only 26 minutes away from him,” Clark said. “He was like, ‘We can totally meet!'”
Thefacebook is a popular online community for college students that helps connect students within and between schools. Through profiles containing basic contact information, interests and a picture of the person, students can search and request to be friends with any member of Thefacebook community.
Some Temple students have learned to watch their friends on Thefacebook carefully.
Freshman Mary Champion used to include her cellphone number on her profile, but after receiving calls from a stranger, Champion thought twice about making personal information available to the public.
“[The number is] there if like one of your friends from your class can call you and ask you a question but when someone calls and asks you what you’re doing tonight, that’s not cool,” Champion said.
Members can also join or create their own interest groups. Late Night Booty Calls, a popular Facebook group at Temple, has nearly 1,000 members. While many consider belonging to the group a joke, some actually do pursue fellow members for sexual satisfaction.
“This one guy IM’ed me, and he basically asked if I had time to hook up, like right now,” said Clark, a member of Late Night Booty Calls. “I’m like, ‘It’s just a joke,’ it’s not really serious.'”
Chris Hughes, co-founder of Thefacebook, said members of can change their privacy settings so that not everyone at their school can view their profile.
“We’re confident that our members are intelligent enough not to give out any personal information that they don’t want to be public,” Hughes said.
Users should only include information on their profiles that they are comfortable with making public, according to Hughes.
“Our users are pretty savvy, they know that information can be used to negative ends, just as it can be used to positive ones,” he said. “Some people don’t like to put their names in their local phone books, just like some users of Thefacebook change their privacy settings so not everyone at their school can see them.”
For some, including their contact information on Thefacebook creates a romantic link to others. Protected by the screen of a computer, users are liberated to flirt with confidence and ease.
For one upperclassman, Thefacebook serves as a guide to finding freshmen boys.
“The second I saw it, I wanted to find hot freshmen. I’m not gonna roam the dorms … but I’ll say I look at the freshmen,” said Gaby Dolceamore, a junior history major.
She admits to stalking people she’s met in classes and parties on Thefacebook.
“There’s this guy in my class that was like, totally hot. It wasn’t easy but I found him. There wasn’t a picture and I didn’t really know his name but I figured it out. I was checking his away messages, stuff like that.”
Charlie Welker, a junior majoring in architecture, doesn’t find Thefacebook useful as a dating service.
“A couple of my friends see the girls on [Thefacebook] and they start talking to them, and then they IM them and say, ‘Hey what’s up, you look attractive,'” Welker said. “They set up a meeting place, my friends go there and if the girl’s not attractive they just walk right past them and go home.”
Users should beware that the weekend is prime time for late night and unasked for Facebook encounters, Welker said. Drunken phone calls abound, creating humorous conversation with an intoxicated guy or girl.
“My buddy gets calls all the time and then messes with them and hangs up,” Eric said. “That’s when a lot of weird things happen on Thefacebook: Late at night and on weekends.”
Even more frightening than stalkers and creepy love-interests are those who are Facebook-obsessed. Very few will admit their addiction, but groups on Thefacebook such as “Facebook Anonymous” offer outlets for those struggling with balancing time spent on and off the site.
“I’m genuinely obsessed, I have a problem,” Clark said. “I can’t help it – I need it!”
Sammy Davis can be reached at S.Davis@temple.edu.