Social Networking and the College Student
It seems that every year more and more of our society is becoming embedded into the digital grid of information known as the Internet. This is not surprising as technology becomes cheaper and more powerful and internet connectivity more readily available. One of the foundational uses of these millions of interconnected devices is communication. Starting with electronic mail, this has evolved into more mature and functional forms like instant messaging, blogs, and most recently, the social network.
Social networks are communication systems that center around the idea of allowing people who know each other to share thoughts, ideas, and events in their lives with one another. Contrasted to a simple email to a friend or relative, a social network allows you to make information known to all of the people you want to be in touch with at once without having to contact them individually. The added benefit of this is that your friends and family can choose when they want to view this content and how much detail they want.
Advanced platforms such as Facebook have added features to enhance this sharing of information like instant messaging, discussion of topics or of content posted, interest group collaboration networks, and even games. Facebook is the largest of these networks with over 300 million active users and two billion photos being uploaded every month. Other popular platforms include: Myspace, Twitter, Friendster, and Linked-In. Each has a unique spin on social networking and, in some cases, have only a specific feature of social networking.
So what do college students think about social networks? In discussing this with students at Santiago Canyon College, I found some not so surprising information. In a simple survey, I found that at least half of students surveyed use Facebook at least once a week. On our campus, Myspace had about a fourth of the use of Facebook, it seemed, followed by Twitter and Linked-In. As an added note, students insisted upon their use of the dating web site eHarmony.com being counted as well.
I thought that since I was hearing that sites like Facebook were being used by over half of students on a weekly basis, it would be important to hear about how that integrates with their daily lives. According to Facebook's corporate web page, users spend over eight billion minutes on their site each day world wide. One student I spoke with seems to be contributing actively to this statistic. She spends hours a day on the site she reports, and it has become a pivotal means of communication for her. She is not afraid to admit: "It's addicting."
Another student told me that she uses it fairly often to keep in touch with her friends and family, but it is not something that she will spend a lot of time on. To her, it is a good avenue to talk with people she cares about, but not something she would let take over her life.
Myspace has risen and fallen since it's inception in 2003, but it is still used by several students. Other sites such as Linked-In, which provides business and professional networking, are becoming increasingly valuable to students as they look for careers after college. And we must not forget another important social network frequented by our students looking for the perfect match--the ever so famous eHarmony.com.
Whether you are in favor of or against this rising online force of people sharing what's important to them with each other, it looks like social networking in many capacities is here to stay.
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