What people said about Facebook in 2005: 'It puts you on a more real level'

This "CBS Evening News" story from 2005 covered what college students thought about the new website at the time and includes an interview with a young Mark Zuckerberg.

CBS News staff
3 min read

A user's profile on thefacebook.com in 2005. CBS News

As a reminder of how much things can change in a decade, we're looking back at the first report the "CBS Evening News" did about Facebook. The story, which aired in 2005, takes us down social-media memory lane for a look at what the site's first users thought of it.

Profiled in the piece were a number of early Facebook adopters, including Marisol Romaro, a college sophomore at the time. Former CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes asked Romaro to describe the new site.

"You see someone that you might recognize, you click on them and then you see that they're friends with someone else, and you share all these common interests," Romaro said. "And then you check the time and it's four hours later and you have no idea how you got there."

Facebook's ability to vacuum time hasn't changed. The only difference now is that users are more likely to parlay that time across multiple social networks on mobile devices instead of just desktops.

"On college campuses it's called 'the Facebook trance,'" Hughes reported. "To everyone else it's spending too much time in front of your computer glued to a website called thefacebook.com."

At the time of Hughes' reporting, in May 2005, the website was still called thefacebook, but would change its name just months later. In the movie "The Social Network," Sean Parker is famously portrayed as the one who advised the company to drop the "the."

Former CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes reports on Facebook in 2005. CBS News

While it may seem silly to have to describe to someone what Facebook is, in 2005 it was still a new idea that needed an easy explanation. Hughes chose the yearbook analogy.

"Consider this site the 21st century version of the old paper-bound yearbook," Hughes said. "Now millions of students use thefacebook.com to list not only their pictures and hobbies, but as a virtual community."

The comparison sounds strange today -- a testament of how Facebook has evolved from a yearbook-like page to a digital mecca of media, interactivity and commerce. The one constant the company has had is its leader, CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark Zuckerberg in 2005. CBS News

Hughes interviewed Zuckerberg for her 2005 story. The former Harvard psychology major had launched the site a year earlier at just one university.

"Now we're up to 575 or so schools, expanding at about 65 schools a week for the rest of the school year," Zuckerberg said.

Hughes also interviewed a couple -- Dan Gildengorin and Lauren Skinner -- who said they wouldn't have met at all if it wasn't for Facebook.

"You know going in what their favorite movies are and what their favorite books are, what they're interested in and if they're single or not," Skinner said.

The user experience Skinner had then has changed dramatically over the last decade. But perhaps most interesting is the change in perception.

"It puts you on a more real level," Skinner said.

That statement may raise eyebrows today. A 2013 Pew Research survey found that 20 percent of people who used to use Facebook no longer do. Reasons cited include: "Too much drama." "I was tired of stupid comments." "I got harassed by someone from my past who looked me up."

That last sentiment -- a nod toward privacy concerns -- was forewarned in 2005 by Neil Howe, author of "The Millennials Rising."

"You may see 40 or 50 people in a large class, you may know nothing about them, but you go on a website like this and you can find out everything you probably would have never known the entire year," Howe said.

And that's the way it was on Sunday May 15, 2005.

This story originally appeared on CBSNews.com.