Social Networking Among College Students

chalk-on-blackboard-trayI learned something astounding in my college English class today. I learned that I was among a group of thinkers, movers and shakers who have been looking at their world and making some critical choices about it.

Let me explain: right up through last spring’s semester, my students were a technology-focused lot, as in multi-tasking experts with their Facebook, Twitter and cell phone accounts. What is fascinating, however, is how quickly “the” most popular app of the day found its way to the Internet mothball fleet.

Example: right up until the fall of 2013, Facebook ruled and many students were actually addicted to it. I know this because despite my threats and promises of significant penalty, I still saw many Facebook screens reflected in the glass wall in the back of our computer lab classroom.
Enter fall 2013, exit Facebook and enter Twitter. Last year Twitter was the social networking vehicle among my college students. Indeed, seemingly overnight Facebook became passé and Twitter took its crown. Twitter continued its reign right through the spring semester of 2014. Now it’s fall 2014 and today my students told me that Twitter is out.

Why the rapid cycling by college students from one social network to another? As for Facebook, they said they became tired of the phoniness and competition that comes along with it. (I agree) They also did not like revealing their business and many of them deleted their accounts entirely.
Why are they now passing up on Twitter? “Too much advertising,” one student said today. Now they see Twitter’s value as a way to keep up withnews and sports information, but no longer as their preferred social networking communication tool.

So what are they using now? Instagram, which I’ve heard of but do not use. As this is all moving too fast for me, I’ve asked several students to demo and explain it in class on Wednesday.

But beyond Instagram, beyond any of these apps, is the cell phone. My students all admitted to becoming panicky if they can’t find or forget their phones. And they all admitted to a propensity to multitask, with phone in hand, of course. But what they also admitted to was an awareness of their phone and texting obsessions and a sincere desire to get back to a world where face-to-face communication takes precedence over all other forms. Now granted, in this global marketplace, face-to-face may not be practical, but Skype is the next best thing, pointed out another student.

As I wandered about the classroom, in awe and delight about this generation who has been accused of being shallow, I listened to a final and amazing story told by a young woman. She told the class that when she and her friends go out for dinner, they put their phones in the center of the table. If any of them uses the phone during their time together, that young woman is relegated to pay for everyone’s appetizer. I’m impressed. I can think of a good many adults over 50 and 60 who would lose a fortune in appetizer fees.

Nick DiChario

Reader, writer, life-long mistake-maker

Judith Shenouda

Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications

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