Rethinking Facebook

I was a sophomore at Oakland University when I first heard of Facebook. I think it was 2003.

I distinctly remember the first time I was made aware of the (then) new social networking site. I was at a party and one of my friends, a Scottish soccer player, was telling me all about it.

It sounded like a really cool site.

I went back to my dorm room later on that night and tried to find it so I could sign up. Unfortunately, my friend’s thick accent had led me down the wrong path.
Apparently there was no such site as

A few days later, though, Facebook exploded on our campus and it was impossible to avoid it. I’ve been an active user ever since.

Facebook is part of most of our lives now. It helps us maintain relationships, share photos and make sure our friends know what we are thinking from moment to moment.
But with the explosion of social networking as a way for companies and news services to share information and media, it’s important for us to rethink how we are using Facebook.

Sure, Facebook is a great tool for sharing links and getting headlines into newsfeeds of thousands, but it’s important to remember that it can also be an unparalleled tool for keeping track of and making new contacts.

As a sports reporter at the A2 Journal in Ann Arbor, my beat includes covering all the high school athletes in the area. But in addition to keeping everyone up to date on the current high school sports stars, it’s also important for me to keep my finger on the high school standouts who head off to college to play sports.

In the past, this normally meant calling coaches or athletic directors to try to get phone numbers for current and former players. This could be a very time-consuming effort that often led to dead ends and stories that were killed before they even had a chance to become anything. But now, Facebook allows me to directly contact any athlete that has an account (and almost all of them do).

Recently I created an alternate personal Facebook account for myself. This one has no videos of my son, no embarrassing photos from college and none of my real friends commenting on things.

This profile is simply “Mike Larson, A2 Journal Sports Reporter.” From this account, I have added high school athletes from my coverage area as friends (I realize this could be a slippery slope, but I am convinced it can be done in a very professional manner). In addition to adding current high school athletes, I have also added many former athletes who are now playing in college.

So now, I have a database of athletes that can be reached with a simple Facebook message.

In addition, I can use this Facebook profile to do so much more.
I can post a status like, “The Pioneer-Huron game is this Friday, any score predictions?” And people will comment on it, allowing me to do an impromptu poll, which might turn into a really cool blog post.

I can also tag individual athletes in my postings. For example, we upload the front page of our sports section to Scribd, and I can share it on Facebook, and in the description say something like, “Check out the sports section, top stories include Skyline hockey and Greenhills basketball. There’s also a great photo of @Jordan Woods” (The “@” will tag the person in the post, and make the story show up on their wall). It’s cool because it gets the link out to another huge group of people, and it is kind of a badge of honor for whoever gets singled out.

Facebook can be used for so many things these days, it’s important for us to all realize its full potential.

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