How Facebook has changed your life

Lauren Piro

Typical Villanova students live intertwined within a tightly knit yet vast social network. On any given day, they may hear about their friends’ latest relationship woes, see pictures from a basketball game or RSVP to an upcoming campus event. And then they may turn off their computer, leave the confines of their room and actually step into the real world. The technological phenomenon to which this practice refers is, of course, Facebook. College students across the nation recognize Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild as the ultimate social connection tool – the informational hub for all of the people they know and even some they don’t know. Facebook describes itself as “a social utility that enables people to understand the world around them.” With 18 million users and 30 billion page views each month, the site has obviously grown to much more than just a way to keep in touch with friends.When asked about their use of Facebook, most students cringe with delight. Their thoughts turn to their hours spent Facebooking (yes, it’s even become a verb), when they could have been studying or even – gasp – actually talking to their friends. They know they’re addicted, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. Most students can easily recognize and appreciate Facebook’s upfront and intended uses. Sharing pictures, posting humorous comments or groups for friends to bond over or raising awareness about an event or issue are all great innovations that earlier generations of college students did not have.”You can find out how people are doing when you haven’t talk to them in forever simply by commenting on their wall or even just looking at their pictures,” freshman Beth Awalt says. “Everyone knows I take an absurd amount of pictures. How else would I share them with my friends?”However, Facebook’s subliminal culture also gives it a notorious reputation among most college students. Facebook isn’t just how we connect to each other; it’s how we surf, scrounge and stalk in order to discover information we would have never known – or are not intended to know. As soon as students log on to the site, they are presented with all of their friends’ recent activity. The News Feed, or “Stalker Feed” as it is affectionately rather than infamously known, is students’ one-stop-shop of everything they wish to know about their Facebook friends. Once intensely protested by the Facebook community as a threat to privacy, it is something many students now can’t believe they ever did without. In reading only a few words, they discover the status quo of their friends has been altered. Johnny doesn’t like a certain movie any more? Better return that birthday present you got him. Susie is now friends with Peggy? Guess you should try to be friends with her too now.Even more information is mere clicks away as students navigate through profile after profile, becoming familiar with people they may never meet. For those they do get to know in person, the type of acquaintance they may build is already influenced by what they have seen – and judged – online. For new students arriving on campus, for example, a college atmosphere is no longer characterized by a sea of nameless faces like it once was. Imagine being introduced to someone who has already placed your name to your face. For students newly enthralled with the Facebook phenomenon, this recognition may not be at all uncommon. For some, relationships created on Facebook even blossom into romance. Months of admiring one another’s profiles and noting poetic song lyrics and similar movie tastes, while jealously glaring at pictures of dates from previous formals, just may be the recipe for love for the millennial generation. “If it hadn’t been for Facebook, my boyfriend and I wouldn’t have gotten together,” says senior Christine Mahin, recalling a Facebook-influenced courtship. “A friend set us up, and because of the site, we were able look at what were getting into first.”Even after a relationship has begun, the pressure of the Facebook culture is not lost. Are you truly dating if you aren’t connected at the virtual hip on your Facebook profiles? How many mushy wall posts is one allowed before you’re on a cuteness overload? And of course, all students realize the undertones of “poking” someone.”Poking definitely means you’re flirting,” freshman Kristin Scudder says.Whatever happened to the days of simply meeting someone in class? Whenever Facebook is even mentioned to a student, suddenly an intense conversation about their stories ensues, both crazy and serious. For instance, one student recalls a friend’s mother finding out about her son’s homosexuality by noting his “interested in” on his profile. As reported in the Louisville Cardinal, a professor’s dismissal from the University of Louisville was justified in part by student protest through a Facebook group. And nearly everyone has a story about an embarrassing or incriminating picture posted on the site. Career Services counselor Jenn Wickersham reminds students of being mindful of their impending careers when posting on Facebook.”Some employers have been known to check Facebook when hiring,” she says. Students today are not living their parents’ college lives. You won’t see them pouring over long-awaited letters from their friends or counting the days until their next phone call home. All the information and connection they need – and then some – is literally at their fingertips as members of Zuckerberg’s sociological experiment. If you think you are immune to the impact of the Facebook culture, think again. Consider this: Disappointed with the selection for the NovaFest concert this year? Well, you have no one to blame but yourself. Choices were made in part by Facebook searches for the students’ favorite bands. Time to update that profile, perhaps? Don’t worry; everyone will catch it on the News Feed.