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

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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 Facebook.com, including the Facebook.com 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 SaveFacebook.com.
  • 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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