Facing up to Facebook, for young and old

John
John Gushue
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If Facebook were a human being, it would have Velcro on its shoes. The social networking platform celebrates only its fifth birthday in February, but has already been through a lot. There've been growing pains (a volcanic eruption of applications), adolescent indiscretions (check out those barf-till-you drop party pics, y'all!), a grow-up-fast ethic (recruiting 120 million members, mostly in the last couple of years) and a surprising maturity (yes, your elders are on Facebook).

Yet Facebook is really still a kid at heart, or at least appeals to the kids in us all. It may be raking in $700-million-plus per year in ad revenue - those members make for a sweet number of eyeballs - but it's less of an obvious business than something that's fun to use.

Surf's up - If Facebook were a human being, it would have Velcro on its shoes. The social networking platform celebrates only its fifth birthday in February, but has already been through a lot. There've been growing pains (a volcanic eruption of applications), adolescent indiscretions (check out those barf-till-you drop party pics, y'all!), a grow-up-fast ethic (recruiting 120 million members, mostly in the last couple of years) and a surprising maturity (yes, your elders are on Facebook).

Yet Facebook is really still a kid at heart, or at least appeals to the kids in us all. It may be raking in $700-million-plus per year in ad revenue - those members make for a sweet number of eyeballs - but it's less of an obvious business than something that's fun to use.

You can use it for serious purposes, of course. Professionals use it to keep in contact with each other, political groups use it to organize, activists meet online, artists and musicians update the audiences on upcoming work ... the list goes on.

Enjoyable usage

But really, it boils down to this: few people would use Facebook if they didn't enjoy it. It's still part of my daily routine, even if I can no longer play Scrabulous on it. (Yes, there's the official version of Scrabble, but it's no fun at all.)

Of course, you have to watch yourself. Maybe you heard last month about the poor Australian dude who got nailed because he claimed a sick day - even though his Facebook status the day before said, "I'm still trashed. SICKIE WOO!"

It's a great tale - except that it's fictional. Sure, news of the incident spread around the world like wildfire, with versions featuring an e-mail exchange in which a manager busts Kyle Doyle, the hungover claimant, with a screengrab of the purported Facebook status. (Doyle does exist, and his employer says the hoax was a frame-job against its employee.)

I imagine the incident got passed around the Internet (I got another e-mail about it just this weekend) because it's more than plausible. What Facebook user hasn't seen something that you know someone else will regret, sooner or later?

Decrees drawn

Maybe that's why some employers are drawing lines between the workplace and Facebook, deciding that the two shouldn't mix. The College of the North Atlantic made a decree of its workers (but not its students) earlier this month, in part to protect bandwidth.

That sounds like a killjoy, but it's also understandable. As a journalist, Facebook has been invaluable to me and my colleagues on several occasions. That said, most of us know Facebook is, by and large, the stuff of coffee and lunch breaks - if we bother to log on at work at all.

As Facebook gets older, and continues to evolve, don't be surprised if its applications become a little more conventional ... or even dull. Hopefully, though, it'll still have Converse on as it grows into its business suits.

Elsewhere this week:

User Name Check

usernamecheck.com/

Let's say you have a favourite username that you use on a few sites, for e-mail, YouTube, maybe even a blog. But is your username used anywhere else? Or is a cool name available on applications and services, ranging from Twitter to Etsy to Vimeo? You can check your username within more than 60 different sites, all at once. Given that it's pinging services around the world, it's pretty fast.

Hype Machine

hypem.com/

Keep up with bands and singers who are getting online buzz and shout-outs in the magazines, but whose actual music has escaped you to date. Hype Machine takes feeds from music blogs, and goes an extra step by making the music available at a click. Entries are searchable by artist and song title.

Famous Foursomes

www.sporcle.com/games/famousfour somes.php

From the Beatles to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to the cardinal directions (you know, north, south, etc. etc.), plenty of things come in foursomes. With this quiz, you're up against the clock as you try to complete them all. An excellent way to tune up your brain while you enjoy a snack.

John Gushue is a news writer for CBCNews.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: johngushue.typepad.com.

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Beatles

Geographic location: St. John's

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