Social Media in the College Space: How Student Space Has Moved to Social Space
A Little Nostalgia
If you’ve seen the movie “The Social Network,” you know that Facebook started out as a website exclusively for college students. When I was 16, it broke from requiring a .edu email address, and became available to all users. My friends and I quickly jumped on the social networking bandwagon. We were MySpace junkies aching for a fix of something new, and Facebook was just the place to find it.
As our familiarity with the website expanded, the site itself did as well. Soon, not only were we using Facebook to leave each other random comments or tag each other in embarrassing pictures, but we were using it to ask each other questions about our homework, get in touch with our teachers (the ones that were daring enough to friend their students anyway), and when the chat function was introduced and we could do all of the above while talking simultaneously, our minds were blown.
Time passed and high school came to a close, with our major milestones validated by the new photos and friends we had on Facebook. The site had proved itself to be more than just a newer, cooler MySpace; it was clear that, like a modern day hope chest, Facebook would be taken with us and used throughout college. Nearly four years later, the presence of social media in my life has exploded tenfold. Not only do I use it to keep in touch with friends and family scattered across the world, but the introduction of websites like YouTube, Twitter, Yelp, blogs, and others have revolutionized the college experience.
Social Media and the Student Body
Social Media in the Lecture Hall
While the student body is using social media as a means to promote its agenda and maintain social connections, teachers also have embraced its potential as a means to communicate with and engage students. I took a class once that was largely discussion oriented, and the professor created a Facebook page for the class, encouraging us to post questions and discuss topics that we didn’t have time to get to in the allotted time on campus.
UCLA gives each course its own web page that comes with sections for discussion and announcements already, but it has been my experience that these are rarely used – except when required for grades. Normally when a professor announces that discussion in these forums is required, the lecture hall filled with 200 people erupts in groans detesting the inconvenience that has just been thrust upon them. But in this class, it was different. Many of us were intrigued by the fact a professor had embraced our Facebook addictions, and was asking us to use social media in this new context. Sure we had all seen and used YouTube videos in class presentations to illustrate topics, but never had we used a Facebook page as a discussion forum.
Social Media and the University
On a larger scale, many schools are beginning to incorporate the social space into their disaster plans. Most universities send out mass texts and emails whenever an incident occurs on campus, e.g. a fire, lockdown, or assault, but now students are finding status updates and Tweets alerting them to the fact that a disaster has occurred on campus. In early October, Sacramento State students were notified of a campus fire via status postings on the school’s Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as on the school’s homepage.
“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”
Of course, the intertwining of the social space, the college campus, and the student body also comes with a price. Students must be increasingly aware of their Internet presence. Comments regarding cheating or other unacceptable behavior can spread like wildfire through the social space, and if brought to the wrong person’s attention (or right person, as the case may be), it can have detrimental consequences. Admittance to cheating on exams on Facebook comments have led to referrals to the Dean of Students and expulsions from campuses, and offensive YouTube videos can turn an entire community against a single person.
College campuses are known for spearheading movements and inspiring innovation. Social media provides a space for this to continue in a modernized fashion. While once students took to their college quads and student unions to hang out, study, and rally, students today are abandoning their picket lines, throwing away their protest signs, and picking up their laptops in favor of heading online to let their voices be heard.
About the Author: Tyler Peterson
A UCLA senior, Tyler is gearing up for life in the “real world.” When she’s not writing for Jigsaw Social Media or hitting the books, she can be found gallivanting around Los Angeles searching for new sights, sounds, and tastes to try.