Social Networking Sites Among College Students

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There are many different types of social media sites that are used today, and one of the most prevalent age group that uses these sites are college students between the ages of 18 and 25. Throughout my time in college I have become accustomed to and have experience in using many of these sites for not only socializing with my friends and family, but also for work and for uses in school and the classroom.

I, as well as my friends and classmates, have grown up in a generation where being digitally savvy is considered the norm and if you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, and 10 other social networking sites (SNS) you are considered weird and different. I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone in college who doesn’t have or has previously had a Facebook account; and why any of them got rid of their account is for one of two reasons: to apply for jobs, and as social experiments to see if they can go without it for a while, but I’m not going to get too far into that.

Being considered “digital natives,” this generation of college aged students don’t only use social networking sites for digitally hanging out with their friends, but have the knowledge and ability to utilize these sites for everything their worth. Whether its creating connections and looking for a job on Linkedin, showing off personal works of art and design on Tumblr, or simply browsing the web and sharing interests on sites like StumbleUpon and Pintrest, there is a social network site for anything that you would want to do.

Any article you read, video you watch, and picture you look at contain links to easily share whatever you are doing across a wide range of various sites including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Reddit. These sites make it just one click share_bar1away from letting thousands of people the opportunity to see what you are doing. Many people share videos, articles, and pictures and it gives the opportunity to view something you might not have originally and open you to a site you haven’t been to before. These tools are good for college students because they are always finding new interests and always want to share everything they do with everyone they know.

According to Ken Burbary, a Digital Marketing Analyst, 35% of Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 25, which is 15% higher than the next highest age group of 26-34. There are a lot of ways in which students utilize Facebook and the tools it possesses. One of the major uses is for marketing purposes. Anyone can create a page/group/profile for any product and it gives easy access to millions of users to be able to see the page. Typically college students would use Facebook pages to promote a band, show off they’re artwork and invite friends to events they sponsor.

Other than advertising and marketing, college students use Facebook for school purposes. There are Facebook groups for college class by year, such as Ramapo College of New Jersey Class of 2014, which many students utilize to seek help from other students on certain topics. Also, I have no experience first hand but through research I have found that some specific classes like “MATH 101” have groups in which they discuss homework and other assignments. Groups are also a great way of communicating within a club or organization; they help let the entire organization know about events, meetings, and its easy to post almost anything in the group (link, picture, video, etc.).

Twitter is a little different than Facebook, but still does the basic functions and 29% of 18-29 year olds are active on the site according to a study done by the Pew Research Center. Similarly to Facebook, a lot of advertising takes place on Twitter. Companies and brands can create an account and tweet new products, offers/deals, and just random thoughts and quotes to keep consumers interested. Fifty-two percent of Twitter users follow a brand or product with Nike being the most popular out of any of them. Also like Facebook, college students can connect with their friends and have opportunity to interact directly with nike-rsvp-twitter-00celebrities with 50% of college students with a twitter account following a celebrity. Another way college students make use of Twitter is through promotion and the ability to “retweet” someone and share their tweet with all your followers. Through the “retweet” feature, a tweet by a person or company is easily reposted to more users and tweets get up to 100 retweets depending on who it was tweeted by. One tweet with at least 100 retweets by people with at least 100 followers each makes that first tweet viewable to more than ten thousand people. Just like other sites Twitter is simple to use and that’s just the way the users want it.

I’m going to change the pace a little now and go into some sites that are no so much about the interaction between users and more about the content that the users post and create. I’m talking about sites where you are free to express yourself and show the world, well internet I guess, what you are doing and what your really like. I’m talking about WordPress and Tumblr. I have used both of these sites in a college classroom so I know first hand that students use them.

WordPressWordPress is a free software where you can create a custom website or blog. As far as college and college students are concerned, WordPress is used in many different ways and for many different purposes. Professors can create a site for themselves and have an easy way to post information about the class and assignments for the students. It is an easy site to use and a good way for teachers to communicate with their students. Another way that students use WordPress is for personal blogs or websites. Because it’s free and so easy to use, students can create a website/blog for just about anything and make them either private or public.

College students use Tumblr to display mostly pictures and small blog posts on the web. They can follow other users and view their posts similar to Twitter. Typically it is used to display personal works of art or any other image that was found on the Internet. Tumblr is also used within the classroom. It could be used in the same way in which WordPress is used. I have had a class in which we submitted all our work onto Tumblr for the teacher to see and grade it.

Through experience and research, I have found that students usually enjoy using social media sites in the college classroom. Many have found it much easier to stay on top of their work, and it puts all their work in an organized space to be viewed.

The last form of social networking sites that college students use are some of they’re favorites. These sites have been enjoyed by students for years and have helped students procrastinate doing work for hours at a time. These sites are considered “discovery engines” or “social news” sites. They allow you to browse popular web pages and links for hours at a time. The two most popular of these sites are StumbleUpon and reddit. Stumble upon allows users to browse or “stumble” through millions of webpages based on the interests they have selected. Like many if not all other sites, users can share, favorite, and dislike pages and the site will adjust to their interests.

The other popular discovery engine among college age students is reddit. In a TED Talk by reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, he explains the basic process in which reddit works and how it is almost completely run by the users, which are mainly young adults between the ages 18-24. Any user can submit a link to the site and other users vote on the link on whether they like it or not. The more votes a link has the higher on the list it is; and top links make it onto the homepage. College students are known to sit on websites like this for hours and just kill time.

Social Networking sites seem to be one of the most prevalent things among college students. They are being used to do almost anything you can think of, even when ordering a pizza from Dominos can you track your order and send messages to the cook… that’s kind of extreme. With the rise in technology, and an ever-growing database to access anything via a single search it is hard to imagine what is going to happen. What will we be able to do on the Internet next? And what will be the next big social network after these die out? And I actually mean die out because you didn’t hear me talk about MySpace in this. I’m eager to see what they next wiz kid will come up with for me and other college students to waste our time on.

References

Bahk, C. M., Sheil, A., C, E. T. R.,Jr, & Lin, F. (2010). Digital media dependency, relational orientation and social networking among college students. Communications of the IIMA, 10(3), 69-78. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/859009139?accountid=13420

Matthew, & Masahiro. (2008). Searching for media complementarity: Use of social network sites and other online media for campaign information among young adults. Rochester, Rochester: doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1300694

http://www.kenburbary.com/2011/03/facebook-demographics-revisited-2011-statistics-2/

http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-demographics-2012_b23387

Ohanian, Alexis “How to make a splash in social media” TED.com. retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/alexis_ohanian_how_to_make_a_splash_in_social_media.html

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