News and Events

Facebooking: the New Fad in Campus Communication

This article was originally printed in the February 2006 issue of CLASnotes.

Facebook.comFacebook.com

What Web site connects students, faculty and staff and has more than 60 percent of its members sign in at least once per day? Facebook.com is a national site created for college students to connect with each other. As of September 2005 it had more than 37,000 registered users connected to the University of Florida, including the vast majority of the freshman class, which had 6,021 members signed up by the end of their first month at UF!

You might remember those hard-copy face books you got in college, where you perused the photos of your classmates (and of course made judgments about their appearance). Facebook.com provides an online version—allowing users to post photos, albums and a profile, and connect to others as friends and as classmates. Participants post comments on the profiles and send messages to each other. It’s now even a verb—“facebooking” someone means to check out his or her profile and photo online.

Students list their courses, and Facebook automatically connects them to others in the class via a link. They also can create and join virtual groups—such as by major, interests, or much sillier things like the groups I belong to, including “Seinfeld Maniacs” and “Beastie Boys are the Rulingest.” Facebook.com also allows for paid advertisements specific to UF—which might be the new way to advertise on campus, as the rates are $20 per day. The Web site projects 111,000 views per day at UF.

UF faculty and staff can benefit from it in several ways. First, a profile provides students with a slightly more personal look at you as an individual, making you more approachable. (You might want to leave out some of your REALLY personal preferences, of course.) Second, it is a much more reliable resource for student contact information, including e-mail addresses, physical location and cell phone numbers. Third, it is another way to help you remember students’ names and faces, as they have their photos posted. You can also create your own group for a class or project.

However, the trend of posting a tremendous amount of personal information online also presents security considerations. The Wall Street Journal reported on December 8 that universities are discussing harassment, threats and even disciplinary incidents related to the use of Facebook.

Photos of underage students drinking at parties is one example of what can be found online. Also, the information students choose to put online about themselves can be problematic. The advice at Brandeis University for students is “post only things you would want your grandmother to see and limit sharing to what can already be found in the public domain.” At UF, the computer lab for student athletes in the Office of Student Life has blocked Facebook from its computers, along with other popular time-wasting sites that tempt students away from their academic work.

One effect of the Web site was the huge jump at UF in pre-move-in requests to change roommates this year, with the Department of Housing and Residence Education reporting more than 100 roommate change requests that it believes were due to the ability of high school students to create and view potential roommate profiles and photos on facebook.com. Once a student has a Gatorlink address, he or she can get onto the UF site on Facebook.

Whatever the reason, facebook.com is the newest craze on college campuses. Check it out yourself and see what all the fuss is about. Don’t be shy—your students will be happy to see you online!

Credits

Writer

Jeanna Mastrodicasa, Associate Director of UF’s Honors Program

Jeanna Mastrodicasa consults nationally about millennial college students and will be co-authoring a book with Reynol Junco, a 1994 UF psychology graduate, on this topic for NASPA, student affairs administrators in higher education, in 2006.

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