Charlie Rosenbury looks and sounds like an average college sophomore. He’s dressed in an obscure band T-shirt, brown corduroy shorts and green flip-flops that look like they’re covered in AstroTurf.
His hair is dark and curly, and his face is a little bit scruffy today. Drumming his fingers on his leg and mumbling the tune “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson, he talks about his favorite bands and how living off campus is treating him. The twist is that this MU sophomore majoring in computer science has set a record — and it is making him famous.
What makes Rosenbury different? He made 75,000 friends on the Facebook, an online social network for college campuses. Rosenbury wrote a computer program that sent messages to 250,000 Facebook users across the country and asked them to add him as a friend.
“I wouldn’t say they are all my friends, ... I’m also not saying that they are my enemies either. I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” Rosenbury said.
He said his program took him about five hours to write, and he did it because he was bored and thought it would be fun. He added most of his Facebook friends over a three-week period last spring.
While the Facebook challenge seemed like a fun and innocent diversion, other Facebook users disagreed. Rosenbury receives hate messages from fellow Facebookers. One user, for example, wrote to Rosenbury: “charlie rosenbury = tool.” Hardly ruffled by his hate messages, Rosenbury instead pokes fun back at some of the negative messages in a post on his blog. His response: “This guy must be a math major. Zing!”
Other Facebookers have sent Rosenbury messages filled with slurs, obscenities and threats.
“I got quite a few messages similar to these from happy people across the country, most of which I just laughed really hard at,” Rosenbury said.
Rosenbury even received a notice from the Facebook’s creators, telling him to cut it out. They limited his messaging capabilities to four messages over the span of six hours. Rosenbury’s newfound notoriety does have some perks, however. Some feel compelled to write nice messages on Rosenbury’s profile wall. One student from Dayton wrote, “looking at your Facebook always makes me smile.”
Being “the Facebook guy” has presented some lucrative opportunities. Several Internet companies have contacted him with possible job offers.
Rosenbury got his start with computers in the fourth grade, when he began designing Web pages. Since then, he also has designed two Web sites, x-perience-outdoors.com and beupout.com, Rosenbury’s personal project, which serves as a place for people to post ideas on “stuff to do.” His blog also is built onto the beupout pages, where Rosenbury talks about his Facebook antics and his love of music, among other subjects.
Rosenbury is more than just a computer guy. In fact, if he was given his choice, he would rather be a rock star since he plays guitar and sings in a band. “Who wouldn’t?” he asked.