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Defining a Generation: Facebook Graph Search

By Alexandra Brown

facebook16n-2-webFacebook. One word, that for myself and my peers, has morphed into an integral part of our lives and become its own verb.

Once a site restricted to kids with college emails, the site today is 170 million users strong and growing. The Facebook my generation started on looked completely different from the Facebook of today and had only a fraction of the features. I wish I could give a picture side-by-side comparison of the differences.

With immense popularity, Facebook didn’t fail to deliver on the controversy that tends to follow. From a few updates here and there to layout changes, people were quick to speak out about their gripes. In fact, I remember the first time a major controversy stirred about a layout change and one of my close friends wrote on my wall, “the new profile scares me. it just took me 5 minutes to figure out how to post on your ‘wall’…“. But today’s biggest controversies usually circle back to the issue of privacy, and yesterday’s announcement of Graph Search was no exception.

The new feature is a search engine that allows users to turn the personal information shared on Facebook into a powerful searchable database. The tool gives users the ability to easily search across the network and their friends’ information, and according to company officials, it has the potential to transform the way people use Facebook.

The hope is to allow users to customize their search within their specific network. Want to meet up with a few local friends for a jam session? Simply search “friends who play music” and your growing list of friends will be narrowed down to those who meet the criteria, so you can easily connect with friends after work to rock out. But that’s just one example – friends can search for those based on interests, location and more.

To ward off cries (I can already hear them) of distraught over privacy issues, company reps have tailored the tool so users can only search for what is already publicly shared on Facebook. But this time users can’t opt out of the latest upgrade. Rather, they have to change the privacy settings on each individual piece of content shared.

I myself can’t fathom trying to hunt down my shared posts to alter the privacy settings (many are buried deep in my Timeline dated back to 2006). But if you’re going to use a free service and public forum, you have to keep in mind the information may be just that: public. An embarrassing photo or incriminating status is completely in control of you, the user.

The tool is only further going to help tailor your network to meet your specific wants, desires and needs, transforming the social media platform we know and love into a more personalized experience. And isn’t that what social media is all about…engagement, interaction, motivation, power, a voice – sharing your life?

I’ve already signed up to try the beta version to see what this new feature is all about, and you can too here. Facebook has and continues to define our generation and society. Given the past history with updates to Facebook, this one is sure to be a debate  for the record books. Where do you stand?

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