Campus Overload Live with Jenna Johnson: Happy Birthday Facebook

Feb 03, 2011

Jenna Johnson will be joined by Facebook's Andrew Noyes and Brooke Oberwetter to discuss the social networking sites's seventh birthday.

Campus Overload's Jenna Johnson introduces you to ambitious student leaders, journalists, activists, interns and newsmakers from colleges across the country in her blog daily. In her live chat, she'll be answering your questions about college life, on and off campus.

A very happy early birthday to Facebook, which turns seven tomorrow... And in honor of that occasion, we have two Facebook staffers online to answer questions. Please welcome Andrew Noyes and Brooke Oberwetter.

We hope we can cover everything from the somewhat serious (like Facebook beefing up its lobbying in Washington and evolving privacy settings) to the very serious (If you break up with someone and de-friend them, but then get back together, how long should you wait before re-friending?).

So ask away!

Hi there! I’m Andrew Noyes and I manage Facebook’s public policy communications out of the DC office. I’m excited to be here with my colleague Brooke to answer your questions as we near Facebook’s seventh birthday! Time flies when you’re having fun!

Hi there.  Brooke Oberwetter here, associate manager of policy communications.  Andrew and I are excited to be here and take your questions, and thanks, Jenna, for inviting us!

What's it like to work at Facebook? Is there an unspoken expectation that everyone be FB friends?

Working at Facebook is fun and challenging. We all have a common goal of helping you connect and share with the people you care about and we take that job very seriously. Many employees at Facebook choose to be friends on Facebook just as we are in the offline world. It’s particularly helpful for those of us in the Washington, DC office to be Facebook friends with our colleagues in Palo Alto, London, and around the world.

So last week when that nasty snowstorm hit DC and most colleges canceled evening classes, American University Professor R.S. Zaharna decided to hold her class on Facebook. (She wrote about her grand experiment) How have you seen educators use Facebook in the classroom? Does it work? Any other examples?

There are a lot of educators using Facebook in some really innovative ways, both in and out of the classroom.  Professor Zaharna's snow-day class is a great example, and there are more great uses from teachers across the country.  I was talking to a teacher earlier today who said that she has used Facebook Groups to provide a forum for students to continue classroom discussions online, encourage one another, and talk about things that might  never have come up in a classroom setting.  So there are definitely opportunities to use the platform to enhance the learning experience.

How does social media changes the way we receive news?

As a former journalist, I’m excited to see how media outlets – large and small – have embraced Facebook. We think our platform empowers news and media companies by enabling them to connect with their audiences in an authentic way, distribute information quickly, and gain a presence through viral networks. Personally, I like being able to “like” a story on or and see stories that my Facebook friends have also “liked.” Over the past week, I’ve been particularly struck by how news outlets have used Facebook to report from the front lines in Egypt as news breaks.

Our son plans on joining a fraternity this fall. My husband is fine with the whole endeavor, but I'm not very happy. If I merely contact them to ask questions about the initiation process, could that cause my son to not be accepted?

You aren't the only parent with questions about greek life. At many schools, the message officials want to send is that greek life has likely changed since you were in school -- it's less Animal House, and more leadership, philanthropy and service. (Not always, but a lot of the time.)

Rather than contact individual houses, you should feel free (with your son's permission) to contact the student affairs department that oversees greek life. Chances are, an administrator or staffer there can answer most of your questions. And a lot of this information is online. (Here's a parents' guide at Vanderbilt, and another at Elon.)

Plus, use your friends as resources -- do any of them have sons in fraternities? If so, ask them about their experiences.

And your son can always rush, see if he likes any of the houses and then make up his mind if frat life is for him.

At what point did you realize the impact Facebook had on the current people's revolution in Egypt?

We saw a drop in Egypt traffic last Thursday and for several days saw minimal to no traffic since the Internet was turned off. We're pleased that Internet service has been restored and the 5 million people who use Facebook in Egypt can continue using our service. I was interested to learn that since access was restored, we have more users than ever in Egypt. 

What are your thoughts on students using Facebook in class to play games such as Farmville?

In class!?! Students shouldn't be doing anything in class but attentively listening, learning and participating, right? I can't imagine students doing anything but that...

So busted, DeLuca.  I resent your question about Farmville, as I feel that it was directed at me.

I am currently looking for a job in the social media field. I currently have a degree in communications. Was it hard for you to obtain your job in social media and what do you think will be the future of this specialized field?

This is a great question. The Internet overall is moving in a more social direction, and information is increasingly disseminated via social sharing, instead of a more traditional point-to-multipoint broadcasting model.  I think we've only started to scratch the surface of how this new mode of information dispersal will change our everyday lives, so the future for the field is bright!  Good luck with your job search!

As a job seeker, I am worried about my privacy on Facebook. How can I protect my privacy on Facebook?

That's a good question. Facebook lets you decide what information you want to share and with whom. Check out for more information. You can create friend lists to limit what certain sets of people see about you. There's a great tutorial here that explains how to control how you share.

Facebook is obviously a successful site, are there any new features that YOU as an employee like to see?

So just my personal perspective: my friends keep telling me that Facebook should get a "dislike" button (but my friends are cynical DC-types who don't like anything!).  But what I really want is an "acknowledge" button.  As in, "Oh, I'm sorry about your recent break-up, which I learned about in my News Feed.  I don't 'like' your breakup, but I 'acknowledge' that it has happened, and you have my sympathy."

I'm a senior studying Public Relations. How important is it for me to become knowledgeable about social media including Facebook and Twitter?

As a future PR practitioner in the age of the 24/7 news cycle, you'll want to be pretty familiar with Facebook, Twitter and other social services. They are increasingly important in all aspects of business. You might want to "like" our PR on Facebook page where you'll find best practices  and conversations around using Facebook for PR. Go forth and conquer! 

Is there a graphic or timeline that depicts Facebook's updates over the years? I'd love to see pictures of the layout changes and an overview of the major enhancements from year 1 to year 7.

Here's an awesome Facebook photo gallery that will show you how our site has evolved over the years . It's amazing to see how profiles have changed to meet the changing needs and desires of people who use our service

The never-ending debate: Should kids friend their parents? How about teachers, professors, coaches, friends parents or other adults? Should adults feel jilted if a younger person doesn't want to be friends?

This is indeed one of the great questions of our time, and one that I'd be hard pressed to answer if I were about 10 years younger.  One thing I can say is that Facebook gives users very granular control over which of their data is shared with whom.  So my advice is to take the time to educate yourself about how to control the privacy of your data, and then go ahead and friend Mom and Dad.  Added bonus? A good working knowledge of the Facebook privacy controls will come in handy once you've graduated and start your job search!

What is the appropriate amount of privacy to have on Facebook while job hunting? You don't want to display too much and let employers see all your photos, bio, etc. But you don't want to display too little and make it look like you're hiding something. Where is the balance?

Ah, a great question... It really depends on you and your field of work, as I think creative fields often allow their employees to have a little bit more fun than workplaces where wearing patterned tights is considered edgy. And if you are applying for a job specifically in social media, you really need to have a strong, professional online prescence. (I get suspicious when I can't find someone anywhere online.)

But, with all of that aside, you really want your employer to judge you on your resume, references, experience and interviews -- not your charming YouTube videos. If you are already have too much of a life online, just go through and edit down anything that's too edgy or embarrassing (and maybe get rid of that high school MySpace page). Use your privacy settings so that random people can see your profile picture and maybe a little info about you, but not your family holiday pictures. 

You want your online persona to show that you are an interesting human with a life outside of the office -- but you never want that to overshadow your qualities for the job.

Gabriel Shaoolian of Blue Fountain Media wrote a column about polishing your online persona. It was aimed at students applying to college, but the advice applies to job applicants, too!


I saw the article a few weeks ago about what facebook did when it found out what the govt of tunisia was doing re: facebook/stealing logins/etc. We all (my friends on facebook, etc) complain a lot about what facebook does with regards to privacy, but let me tell you, I was quick to share that with friends and praise y'all on your efforts for that.

Thanks very much for the kudos!  Here's a link to the story I think you're referring to, which details how our security team handled the situation.

Do you guys work closely with Representatives @ the Federal & State levels? And if you do you guide them how to social network effectively to reach all of their constituents?

Facebook is being used by elected officials and government agencies around the world to better connect with citizens, provide information, and deliver services. We think Facebook presents policymakers with tremendous potential for transparency, collaboration, information sharing and citizen engagement. You might want to check out the following pages:,, There are some great resources there for elected officials and government agencies at all levels.

Is their anyways someone can tell that you're Facebook 'stalking them'? e.g. looking at photos?

No, that's an urban legend and I'm glad we can put that to rest! 

What does Facebook do about people who report being cyber bullied?

Facebook takes the safety and security of our users very seriously. We don't condone cyberbullying and when users register on our site, they agree to our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that states they cannot intimidate or harass other users. We will disable accounts that are found to be intimidating others in any way. We encourage people on Facebook to click the "report" links located across the site when they see content that is inappropriate or potentially harmful. Our highly trained team of investigators reviews those reports around the clock. It's also a good idea to confide in a parent, teacher or other family member if you're being bullied online. They can also assist.

Lots of K-12 schools block Facebook and other social networking sites on school computers. Granted, a lot of students are smart enough to find ways around these blocks... but... What do you guys think? How should schools monitor students online?

I think this hits on a big problem that is facing educators right now: to really reach students, it's important to meet them where they are, and right now, that's on Facebook.  But the other side of that coin is that many educators feel like their students are overly connected to the online world, at the expense of their ability to interact with, analyze, and understand the offline world around them.   The solution, which is easy to say but probably harder to implement, is to strike a balance. 

The high school teacher I mentioned earlier, who created a Facebook Group for one of her classes, asked that the school--which usually blocks Facebook on campus--allow access to seniors, with the hope that they would be able to use the privelige responsibly.  The key is finding ways to incorporate online platforms in ways that complement, rather than compete with, what students are learning in class.

Admittedly that's an incomplete answer. I think the impulse to block Facebook on campuses is slowly being replaced with the idea that it can be incorporated into classroom objectives and used as a tool for connecting with students more meaningfully.  But that's only just beginning to play out. 

How would you respond to those, like Betty White on SNL, who believe FB is a colossal waste of time? When analytics and ROI (of social media) are still such an unproven entity?

We love Betty White! She made those remarks when she hosted Saturday Night Live (after a Facebook fan page helped land her there). She's a great comedian and a careful analysis of the data leads me to believe that she was joking. Saying Facebook is a waste of time is like saying watching the Golden Girls is a waste of time and I bet Betty would beg to differ :)

So... this is a personal question... my 20-year-old brother refuses to be friends with me on Facebook. We are the best of friends in real life, so I don't understand this. He says he doesn't want me seeing his photos and wall posts. Is there anything you guys can do to help this situation?

So I didn't get too into the weeds in my answer about friending family memebers and how users can control which data their various connections are able to see, but it's actually pretty easy.  I'd be happy to send him instructions.  I have a friend or two on Facebook who see something totally different than what the rest of the world sees when they click on my profile. 

Do you guys enjoy your job at Facebook and what would you want to see Facebook do in the future?

Joining the Facebook team was one of the best decisions I've ever made. This is a dynamic company that values its employees and our contributions. My colleagues are some of the smartest, most talented people in the business and I'm excited to come to work every day. Plus, the perks are pretty great. I get to be logged into Facebook all day long! 

I have to agree with Andrew.  I've only been here for about a month, and every day there's something new and awesome to work on.  I feel like we're just at the beginning of what Facebook can do--it's only our 7th birthday, after all--and I look forward to being a part of whatever the future holds!

Will there ever be a "Dislike" button?

Although, I am worried that if a dislike button existed I would "accidentally" click it for things like this: Friends who overshare about the wonder of childbirth. Newly weds who post daily announcements of their love for each other. Friends who brag about exotic vacations in fabulous warm locations while I am stuck in dreary D.C. Anyone who goes overboard self-promoting themselves.

How about you guys?

How often do you guys get together to discuss a Facebook layout change? I know a lot of people have complaints when the site gets another facelift, how is that decided?

The site we all use everyday is built by a relatively small group of the smartest engineers and entrepreneurs in the world who have a huge impact on 500+ million people. Back at headquarters, we hold all-night coding sessions called Hackathons to give our employees time to explore ideas and experiment with ideas to make Facebook better. As good ideas emerge, we put smart teams in place to accelerate the roll-out of those good ideas. We also depend on feedback from the Facebook community and we're very responsive to what our users tell us. 

A friend just passed along this question: How many status updates a day are too many status updates a day?

I think this really depends on what you are using Facebook for.  My friends in Washington, for example, are avid Facebook users, sharing news stories, adding commentary, checking in at various events, and really working the network.  Some of my friends from college, on the other hand, seem to be more passive consumers of information.  Obviously the platform is more useful the more people share, but there's no right of wrong answer!

We had a great time chatting with you today! You can keep up with the Facebook DC office at Be sure to "like" us! 

That was a lot of fun! Thank you everyone for sending in such wonderful questions -- and thank you, Andrew and Brooke, for helping me answer all of them. You guys rock.

Everyone have a wonderful week! See you next Thursday.

In This Chat
Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson writes about college students and campus trends for the Post. She also runs the blog "Campus Overload," which chronicles national college news, drinking fads, admissions buzz and the latest exploits of Hill interns.
Andrew Noyes
Andrew Noyes is Facebook's manager of public policy communications based in Washington, DC. In this role, he nurtures relationships with policymakers, the press and the public and explains how the social networking service helps its more than 500 million users share in a more trusted environment; helps makes the world more connected; and drives economic growth. Noyes joined Facebook in 2009 after covering Capitol Hill, the White House, federal agencies, nonprofits, and think tanks as a member of the Washington press corps.
Brooke Oberwetter
Brooke Oberwetter joined Facebook in early 2011 as the associate manager of policy communications in Facebook's Washington, DC office. She has worked on telecom and Internet policy issues for over five years in Washington, most recently on the public affairs team at Arlington-based New Media Strategies.
Recent Chats
  • Next: