SJA gets all Facebook

By Steven Downes, Secretary, SJA
It has been all over The Sun and the Mail in the last week, featured on Radio 4 and television news, it is accused of causing bullying and blackmail. And now Facebook has its very own SJA group.

For those of you unfamiliar with Facebook and other social networking websites (the other principle one is MySpace), the idea is that you run your very own, personal web page, and from there you can connect with pretty much anyone you have ever known or worked with, plus many others you have no connection with whatsoever, provided that they have an internet connection.

My admission is that I joined it out of curiosity. The age profile of most of these sites seems well below 24, so I might not be a typical member. But after I watched an item by the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, I opted – in the interests of research for the benefit of the SJA website, of course – to give it a try. It is free to join, and you can have an up and running profile within minutes. Within a few hours, you may have discovered other colleagues and mates already on the site (there is a tool that allows Facebook to trawl your e-mail address books).

There are some ugly sides to “Fakebook”, too. Such as some of the blatant racism and bullying observable on its message boards (which the administrators rarely appear to take the trouble to prevent), and in the United States, one beauty queen was blackmailed over photographs of her posted on the site. Closer to home, Oxford University dons have been taking disciplinary action over some students’ incriminating end-of-term photographs.

All human life is here. And some inhuman, too. The usual caveat emptors used in terms of using the web safely and securely apply on Facebook – you just need to use a bit of discretion and common sense, and it can be a most useful tool.

Facebook can become compelling, possibly too much so. It has some excellent musical links for sourcing tunes and performers, and checking out where they are playing their next gigs (provided you are in north America). You can store your favourite pictures on there, and opt to share them or not with your “friends” or just about anyone. You can turn your profile page into a sort of pick n’ mix blog, adding links to articles from other websites that you think are interesting (or self-promoting). Like so much in life, you get out of it what you put in to it.

And you can network like fury: there are specialist groups on Facebook for the NUJ, for a “Boris for Mayor” lobby group, for the BBC, for the Royal Television Society, for those who wonder “Are we too old for Facebook?”, the “I’m sorry I haven’t a Clue Appreciation Society”… The list goes on.

And now there is a group for the Sports Journalists’ Assocation. Jim Munro suggested we should have one, so we’re giving it a try. It is not, at present, restricted to SJA members, largely in the hope that we can bring our efforts to a wider audience, some of whom may think about joining the Association. Nor will it be a replacement for this website, which remains a vital communications tool for our work and ought to be your first point of reference for all things SJA.

But like so many things connected with t’interweb, it is a work in progress, something evolving and developing before your very eyes. So let’s see how it goes… Take a look and see what you think.

This is the SJA Facebook group address: Or just search the site for Sports Journalists’ Association.

And if you want to learn more about Facebook, here’s a random selection of recent news stories:
Facebook: 150000 a day join social website
Narrowing Your Social Networking
Should Facebook be banned?
Facebook reunites mom and son
However much is in your Facebook, it ain’t a new Google

Join the SJA today – click here for details and membership application form