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Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 10:56 pm

WTF, Facebook?

Springfieldians want a network to call their own

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After his wife and several friends signed up, Bill Carter decided to create a Facebook profile six weeks ago.

Not long ago, Facebook served primarily as a vehicle for college kids to rag on their professors and ascertain the location of the next beer pong tournament. Now the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook is popular with professionals looking to stay in touch or reconnect with old friends, coworkers, former classmates, and neighbors via the site’s various networks.

So when it came time for Carter, 36, to select which network he’d become a part of, the Chatham resident was more than a little puzzled by the choices. Springfields in Massachusetts and Missouri were options, as were local educational institutions Springfield College in Illinois and UIS. He could even join the network for the 135-employee Springfield (Mass.) Housing Authority.

But our Springfield — Population 114,000. The seat of government for the fifth largest U.S. state that contains the third largest city. The hometown of Abraham Lincoln and the city where president-elect Barack Obama worked as lawmaker, launched his bid for the presidency and unveiled his pick for VP. Where as many governors have been indicted as Bart Simpson has fingers (not to mention the town where everybody in the world thinks The Simpsons live, contest be damned) — doesn’t have its own Facebook network?

“It just made sense that we would have one — at a minimum because we’re the state capital,” Carter says.

In fact, Honolulu, Frankfort, Ky., Augusta, Maine, Annapolis, Md.; Montpelier, Vt., and Helena, Mt. are the only U.S. capital cities lacking Facebook networks of their own. And size can’t be the issue because eight state capitals with populations smaller than Springfield’s have networks.

Carter decided to go with the Peoria network in the meantime — St. Louis, Urbana/Champaign, and Chicago are popular regional networks for Springfield Facebookers — and promptly emailed Facebook Web administrators to suggest adding “Springfield, IL.”

“Due to the current volume of requests, there may be a lengthy delay before this request is reviewed,” was the automated reply he received. Over the course of the next six weeks, Carter contacted the company a half-dozen more times. Unsatisfied, Carter started a mob and declared Mafia War, so to speak, and started the Facebook group Springfield, IL should be a Regional Network.

He also prepared a form letter that members can send Facebook highlighting some of Springfield’s attributes — birthplace of the horseshoe sandwich and Cozy Dog, and the nation’s only unoccupied governor’s mansion. Group members are welcome to add to his list or write their own, he says.

The group has grown to almost 1,000 members, with over 100 people joining since December 30. “I sent Facebook an email about this last week! It makes absolutely no sense,” screeds one group member with the Kansas City Royals network.

Another member, with the Peoria network writes, “We shouldn’t be deprived of our network here in the Springfield area, just because our governer [sic] has no clue where the capital city of Illinois is...... leave him on the LOST network... and put the rest of us on the intelligent network.”

So far Carter hasn’t gotten an official response from Facebook nor was Illinois Times successful in getting an interview with a Facebook representative for this story.

“It’s ridiculous,” Carter says, “Unless they’re under the assumption that there’s nothing in Illinois outside of Chicago.”

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com

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