A reporter with the Daily Universe, BYU's paper, interviewed me via email about Facebook, social capital, and the announced rollout of Facebook to non-academic settings. I've copied some of my responses below in case they are of interest to others:
3) After conducting your survey, do think there is any harm as far as privacy issues on the site?
NE: There is the potential for students to disclose personal information without realizing that their true audience is not limited to their on-campus friends.
4) Facebook is planning to open up its eligibility to anyone with an email address- what do you think about this?
NE: I think depending on how it’s implemented, it could mean very little changes for current members, or it could be very disruptive. There is already a movement growing to protest this change; Facebook should tread carefully so as to not alienate its core userbase – college students who value the exclusivity of the system.
5) do you think this will affect social capital?
NE: Theoretically, it could lead to an increase in current members’ bridging social capital. This kind of social capital is based on having lots of “weak ties” – people you don’t know that well but who might provide you with valuable information or resources. Of course, it all depends on how the new system is implemented and how easy it is for people to connect with those outside their network.
6) How do you think this will affect college students willingness to use facebook?
NE: see 4 above – we could see a backlash of students who leave Facebook in protest, or because they think they’ll have encounters with people they don’t want to connect with. Some of the message boards have talked about it becoming non-exclusive like MySpace or full of pedophiles. I think this fear is overblown, but I do think Facebook will have to manage the rollout carefully. I’m surprised they are doing it so soon after the NewsFeeds incident.
7) Do you think usership will increase or decrease?
NE: Overall, it will increase. Among college students, it could decrease, depending on how the system is set up and the reaction among existing members.
8) Is there any other information, you learned while conducting your study, that you think would be valuable for college students to know?
NE: Facebook can be a valuable tool for getting information, staying in touch with people, and finding out more about people you want to get to know. But be aware that it’s not as exclusive as most people think – it’s fairly easy for law enforcement, future employers, marketing companies, and others to get access to it. Give some thought to how you want to present yourself online knowing that you may have multiple audiences for your profile.