I assumed that all college students viewed social media in the same manner: Facebook is the main source of interaction and the easiest way to make friends. To college students, I assumed, friendship was truly validated by accepting a friend request on Facebook.
I assumed incorrectly.
Over the past two weeks, I conducted a series of interviews with students of California State University, Fresno, to try and gain a true understanding of why college students use social media.
I was able to obtain responses from six students, but only four of them were willing to give their answers on camera. The input I received was interesting and proved that many students are more knowledgeable about social media and social networking than one might expect.
What types of social media do you use and why?
At the start of each interview, the student was asked which social networking websites he or she was an active user of. Aside from the popular Facebook and Twitter, many students are active users of MySpace and Tumblr. Two of the students said that they have Flickr and Xanga accounts, but rarely log onto either website.
The second part of the question grew the most interesting, as each student gave his or her reasoning for using these social tools. Overall, the six students that participated, used social networking to simply keep up with their friends. For these students, social networking has become a platform by which one person can communicate to a multitude of people.
How do you believe other students are using social media?
“Without Facebook, I don’t know how I’d get through college,” one student said in her interview. “I think other students find comfort in knowing that there’s a place where they can post their feelings and somebody is going to listen to them.”
The common theme in the responses I received was that social media offers college students a channel to vocalize their opinions and feelings. Students are comforted in knowing that somebody is going to listen to what they have to say.
While one student believed that social media (Facebook, specifically) was a platform for college students to waste their time and “rot in front of a computer screen,” most interviewees were aware that social media is going to play a large factor in their futures.
Here are some of the responses students told me:
Should social media be incorporated into the classroom setting?
There were mixed reviews on this topic: while some students believed that social media should become part of curricula, others believed that it should be kept a separate entity, something for personal use.
Most students believed that social media shouldn’t be part of a professor’s lesson plan, but should be made available for students to have open communication about the class itself. Trisha Rodriguez, a child development major at Fresno State, believed that social media could be used as a communication channel for students to obtain clarity in the classroom. She proposed a Twitter account be created for a specific class, or a Twitter list (with a hashtag) that would allow students to ask class-related questions and get short, quick responses.
Overall, students believed that social media shouldn’t be completely ignored. They each commented that social networking would make a nice addition to the classroom setting, but (depending on the specific class) should not be a part of the curricula.
Here are some of the responses students told me:
How do you believe the job market is effected by social media, if at all?
I was surprised by the amount of awareness each student had when it came to their perception of others on the Internet. Most students said that they knew one needed to be careful of how they presented themselves online, as it could effect their getting employed with any company.
“You need to be able to censor what information you put online,” said Allyson McCaffrey, psychology major at Fresno State. “A picture of you, drunk, at a party can paint a negative image of you.”
One student believed, however, that employers should show respect for their employees and completely ignore how that person is presenting themselves on the Internet.
Overall, students were aware that employers are now using social media as part of a background check on potential employees, before (and during) employment. While Facebook was once considered a simple social website, it can now be considered a large contender in how easily you get hired.
Here are some of the opinions students had on social media in the job market:
Students seemed to have a strong grasp on the severity of social media in our lives. They believe that it can be used in both a selfish and professional manner. Overall, I found that students believed social networking websites to be communication platforms.
College students have a lot to say–they simply want a place to be heard.