Facebook and jackasses

Steering clear of open parties may spare you embarrassment or worse

I recently realized that Chico State’s incoming students—at least the freshmen—are young enough to have grown up in a time in which social-networking sites seem like they always existed. An 18-year-old in today’s world grew up with Facebook.

Back when I was in college, several of my friends tried to turn me on to Friendster—an early entrant in the social-networking realm. Today, Friendster is some sort of gaming site based out of Malaysia with games involving lots of busty anime nymphs with blue and purple hair. In addition to playing games, Friendsters can make personal profiles. A drop-down menu under the heading of “I want to” has such options as “be in an open relationship” and “go out partying” and, for the less hedonistic, “perform a good deed.”

I never signed up for Friendster. But I did open a MySpace account shortly after graduation. One of my first profile pictures was of my feet, and those of my best friend, with a backdrop of crashing waves. We’d gone on a coastal road trip and I had titled the photo “happy feet,” or something like that. A couple of days later, I got an extremely inappropriate message from a foot fetishist, a stranger, who’d seen that photo while cruising profiles.

That’s when I realized there was a dark side to social networking—the anonymity in particular emboldened people. I cannot imagine that guy would have said the same things to me in person.

Back then, the only way to make my profile private was to say that I was a 14-year-old. I did that, and so did most of my friends, until MySpace caught up with the times and developed a privacy option.

Today, like so many millions of other people, I have a Facebook account. I go back and forth on whether or not I should close it. On the one hand, it’s such an easy way to see what’s going on with people I care about. On the other hand, it’s such a major time-suck.

I’m just glad Facebook didn’t exist when I was in college or high school. I was thinking about that over the weekend, when the students were going apeshit in the south-campus neighborhood, throwing beer cans and bottles at the police.

Don’t get me wrong, I never did anything like that. In college, my friends and I—most of us journalism students—did our share of socializing over beers at barbecues or at the bars and nightclubs. Back then, not every cell phone could also take pictures. Fortunately.

But things are different today, when doing that stupid thing just once—or being in the wrong place at the wrong time—can have lasting repercussions. My advice to students is to steer clear of those gigantic parties. That’s probably the easiest way to keep from being associated with those beer-bottle-chucking jackasses who, while they are a minority of the student population, still do a bang-up job of giving Chico State a bad rep.