Scared students protest Facebook’s social dashboard, grappling with rules of attention economy

There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere in the last 24 hours of students’ negative reactions to Facebook’s new “feed” features.

Here’s a summary of what’s going on:

  • Hundreds of Facebook groups have been formed to protest the new features. The largest of these, Students Against Facebook News Feed, has over 225,000 members as of 9/6/06 11am PT, and is growing at a rate of about 20,000 members an hour. That’s a pretty big tribe of disgruntled users.
  • Several grassroots protests have also been started outside of, including the Users Against the “News Feed” and “Mini Feed” petition, which has almost 32,000 signatures as of 9/6/06 11am PT, A Day Without Facebook campaign, and
  • Fred Stutzman, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, writes, “This morning, millions of college students are thinking differently about their online identity.”
  • Michael Arrington, the editor of TechCrunch, writes, “Users who don’t participate will quickly find that they are falling out of the attention stream, and I suspect will quickly add themselves back in.”

These and other reactions to the new Facebook feed features elucidate a core tension developing on the web: In the attention economy of social networks, your behavior records are your currency.

Will you trade your privacy for others’ attention? It’s not a black and white question. You’ll make some things that you do public, but not all. When will you choose to make everything public? What life events or social conditions change the way you value privacy and attention online? Those are interesting questions.

Update: As of 2pm PT, the Students Against Facebook News Feed group on Facebook now has 300,000 members, adding 75,000 new members in the last 3 hours.

Update: As of 6pm PT, SAFNF now has 400,000 members, adding 100,000 new members in the last 4 hours.

Update: As of 11pm PT, SAFNF now has 500,000 members. That’s half a million people who’ve joined the protest in 2 days!

Update: As of 9/7/06 11pm PT, SAFNF now has 750,000 members. There are rumors that starting tomorrow there will be a new way to remove yourself from feeds.

Update: Facebook has indeed added new feed-specific privacy features. See the screenshot below:

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Leave a Reply

16 Responses to “Scared students protest Facebook’s social dashboard, grappling with rules of attention economy”

  1. Michael Haydel says:

    I just started a group called “Students *For* The New Facebook”.

    For one, as best I can tell, no one else has, which is surprising.

    Secondly, I actually think, as you note here, that current facebookers just don’t see how beneficial this can be on a site like Facebook.

    Of course, I was only able to invite 60 people (I’m in no way an avid facebooker), so no telling if it’ll spread.

    Maybe you can help get the word out.

  2. Steve says:

    Here is a live counter of the number of people who have joined the “Students against Facebook News Feed” group on Facebook….. 300,000 and climbing

  3. TechAddress says:

    Mark Zuckerberg: Founder of Facebook Responds, please read additional details at:

  4. Matthew Peschong says:

    I just started a website called that you should check out.

    I am willing to trade links with you and already added your site to my blogroll.

    If the link above doesn’t work try

  5. Inside Facebook » Blog Archive » Facebook numbers booming since Feeds launch - Tracking Facebook news, commentary, and analysis says:

    [...] When Facebook launched News Feeds and Mini Feeds over a month ago without giving users any advance notice, the user community pitched a fit over privacy concerns.  Lost in the noise perhaps, some analysts applauded the move at the time because they believed the changes actually made the site better for users.  Despite the possibility that feeds would cause page views to suffer in the short term, Mark Zuckerberg and the team firmly believed that the new features would “increase information flow” (as always) and increase page views dramatically. [...]

  6. Inside Facebook » Blog Archive » Facebook page views continue to skyrocket - The hottest Facebook apps and news! says:

    [...] It’s now been a couple of months since the infamous feeds launch at Facebook. At the time some lauded Facebook for building a feature that would save users time but decrease overall pageviews. However, it appears that users are finding feed content so valuable that they’re actually clicking through to more Facebook pages. Page views are now 2.5x what they were six months ago (though reach is almost 2x). [...]

  7. The Roars Continue… at Philly Style says:

    [...] want to make a statement, but damn. And that’s just not enough, people also felt the need to start websites about the damn thing. I don’t even think this many young people got amped up when [...]

  8. Inside Facebook » Facebook’s News Feed Knows What You Did Last Summer says:

    [...] Facebook turned on News Feeds for the first time in September 2006, many users were spooked by the privacy implications of a system that logs and broadcasts your activity to your friends. [...]

  9. Inside Facebook » 2007 » November » 21 says:

    [...] as many will remember from the days of yore (September 2006), similar privacy concerns were raised when Facebook turned on the News Feed itself for the first time. There was even a group [...]

  10. Beacon concerns, like News Feed concerns of a year ago, will fade at Wild Bill Info says:

    [...] as many will remember from the days of yore (September 2006), similar privacy concerns were raised when Facebook turned on the News Feed itself for the first time. There was even a group [...]

  11. Inside Facebook » First Look at Facebook News Feed Filters - Beta Launching Tonight says:

    [...] been nearly two years since Facebook’s News Feed launched. Tonight, Facebook is turning on the first major change to the News Feed user experience: News Feed [...]

  12. Inside Facebook » On Eve of Site Redesign, Facebook Users Protest says:

    [...] isn’t new to Facebook users. When Facebook launched the News Feed two years ago this week, over 750,000 users joined the Students Against Facebook News Feed [...]

  13. Inside Facebook » Two Years After Facebook Launches News Feed, Sociologists Describe “Ambient Awareness” says:

    [...] hundreds of thousands of users initially protested the News Feed due to perceived privacy concerns, they have since voted with their feet and stayed glued: Facebook has grown from 15 million active [...]

  14. Sociologists describe Facebook “Ambient Awareness” | Cow's Blog says:

    [...] be provided with a link to view our entire conversation. When the news feed launched two years ago, 750,000 students protested against its [...]

  15. Facebook Launching New Home Page Today, Taking the Live Stream Mainstream says:

    [...] launched the News Feed for the first time in September 2006, users initially responded in a roar of protest, only to stop shortly later after realizing the power of the News Feed to deliver valuable [...]

  16. How Are Facebook Users Responding to the “Real Time” Home Page Redesign? says:

    [...] years ago, Facebook users initially protested the launch of the News Feed, but then became glued to the site even more because of it. Last year, Facebook users fought for [...]

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