Facebook House: Cloud Storage and a Genuinely Safe Online Space

In David Fincher's brilliant film The Social Network, Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, founder of Nappster.com, who we first meet waking up from a night of....Nappstering. He sees Facebook for the first time on a computer, and uses an email account to send the link to himself. It's a revolutionary moment, which changed our lives forever. Something I never knew about, until I saw it, and it rocked my world. You know what I'm talking about - he emailed himself! What a great idea! A free way to store information online, securely and quickly. No longer do you need a USB stick to back-up your essay: just email it to yourself. From your own account, no less! Consumer advice within a film. But wait - maybe it doesn't stop there. Maybe there's a way to store all your errant information - pictures, essays, that funny YouTube video the name of which you can never remember - all in one place. A cloud storage area with leg-room and no subscription fee. A private corner of the internet which only you can access. A safe-space, just off the main road. Less a Wall, more a House. Well, apparently there is: all you have to do is create a Facebook Group with only one member: yourself.

The idea is simple. The set-up has a slight catch. On the left-hand side of your news feed, there's a list with headings like 'Favourites', 'Groups', 'Apps', and so on. To create a Group, find the 'Groups' heading and click 'Create Group'. You'll be greeted by a pop-up box which wants you to set things up. Name the group whatever you like (let's call it 'Facebook House') but then leave the 'Add Some People' box blank, and set the Privacy to 'Secret Group'.

Now, this is where it gets interesting: if you try to continue like this, it won't work. Facebook will tell you that you have to add at least one other person to the Group. However, if Facebook recognises you as being part of an institution (for example, if Facebook knows you're a member of a university) you should be able to create the Group 'Within' that institution. You can do this with the tab in the top-right of the pop-up box you're in. Change that setting from 'Outside [institution]' to 'Within [institution].' Then you'll be able to proceed. Then, just choose an icon and you're set. But that's the catch: you have to be part of an institution, and be able to create groups which are 'Within' that institution, in order to do this.

However, if those conditions apply to you, then congratulations! You now have your own Facebook House - a Secret Group which only you can access. Your own private corner of the internet. Use it in any manner you see fit: an online notebook, a de facto home page, it even has safe-space applications; whatever you like.

If you don't want to fill your hard drive the vacuous yet hilarious videos you inevitably watch all the time on YouTube, don't go to the hassle of downloading them - just copy the hyperlink and Post it into the Group's Discussion feed. There's even a way to keep them organised; the Discussion feed allows you to:
a) write Posts;
b) write Comments on those Posts;
c) write Replies to those Comments on those Posts.
If you treat these functions like folders, you can:  
a) give the folder a name;
b) put content in the folder / create a folder-within-a-folder;
c) put content within that folder-within-a-folder.
So in practice it looks like this: 
a) Post: "Memes"
b) Comment: "Doge meme websites"
c) Reply i: "Here's a doge meme website - always forget what this is called! itsdoge.com "
    Reply ii: "Here's another. Bogus but hilarious! dogecoin.com "

It's like Inception, but with admin... Adminception. You can use your Wall, or any other Group, in exactly the same way - but with a Facebook House, it's not visible to anyone else (so long as it's a Secret Group). So, you don't get any elbows in the way of your content: and, importantly, it's all arranged in the way you want. But why stop there? Chances are you'll be visiting this place a lot, so why not make it a nice environment to spend time in? Change the cover photo, hang some pictures here and there on the Discussion thread for decoration whilst you're scrolling around. In terms of areas available to you on the site, this can be one of the handiest and most personaliable. It's another reason why Groups are perhaps Facebook's strongest feature - and it's a brilliant reason to keep Facebook close to hand in your bookmarks.

Naturally, there are down-sides. The Discussion feed is arranged in chronological order. You can pin one post to the top, but that's about as much control as you have over it. If you want to keep posts close to the top, you'll need to add a dummy comment to them every now and then (which you can delete) to keep them active. What's more, it's always possible you could add someone to the group accidentally - which is fine, so long as you're comfortable with them seeing everything that's there, potentially moving stuff around and so forth. It's never going to give you the security of a hard drive, a USB, or an online cloud storage area. But as a place which you're probably logged-in to most of the time, and into which you want to casually drop content every now and then whcih would just clutter-up your proper storage areas, Facebook provides an easy, free solution.

This is a really handy tool, which people generally don't seem to know about. It's completely legitimate, so far as we can tell from the Terms of Service and Pages Terms agreements. Indeed, it seems more like a conscious choice on Facebook's part, to only allow one-member groups if you're part of an institution. The reason is pretty unclear - but it's nonetheless a feature of the site; and it's really not that hard to set one up. Still, we did find some interesting stuff in the Terms of Use - did you know, for example, you're not supposed to create pages 'with a generic name, like "beer" or "pizza"', or tag somebody in an image like this:

It's a little harsh, but those are the rules. Nevertheless, we'll forgive Facebook here because this is, overall, some genuinely good news. At last, we can archive the best of /r/YouTubeHaiku in peace.

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