Freshman Facebook group alters college social experience

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Source: MTCdirect

Facebook impacts how college freshmen interact once they arrive on campus.

Morgan Kinney, Blogger

There’s always that one kid. You know, the guy that oozes swag and inborn charm. The girl who, with just a knowing glance, can make a guy’s knees weak. These people effortlessly navigate Northwestern’s social scene, fitting in wherever they like. These are the popular kids.

But we can’t all be those kids. Popularity is a pyramid scheme in which the blessed few triumph over the cursed many.

The Internet, however, seeks to upend that sordid reality. The shy, the awkward, the geek and the nerd can now hide comfortably behind the veil of social media. Facebook and Twitter evoke a sense of intimacy, whether real or imagined, that compels us to speak up when we may not have otherwise; social media has redefined how we gain popularity and what it means to be popular.

Case in point: the freshman Facebook group. It’s a bizarre concept, dumping 2,000 virtual strangers into a walled-off section of cyberspace. This Facebook group is ground zero for your social life — an opportunity to show the stuff you’re made of.

But the Facebook groups aren’t real life. The rules of engagement are completely different. On the Internet, a well-timed pun is as alluring as a great smile. You don’t judge your new acquaintances based on their clothes so much as the quality of their cat GIFs. Most of all, the Facebook group facilitates discussion rather than conversation, where the participants are not set and participation itself is optional.

Thus social media creates a brave new world, where the playing field is even and the risks are low. We no longer have to slog through the trite introductions of name, hometown and major because a statement in the Facebook group is rarely intended for a specific target. We can make more personal statements, like our favorite bands and spirit animals, which can trigger interest or discussion with like-minded individuals.

Even more, this allows those especially cautious freshmen — the lurkers — to scope out new acquaintances by reading, studying and sizing up their classmates without posting anything. You no longer have to work up the courage to talk to that cool-looking guy, wondering if you have anything in common, because, from his post, you know he likes Kanye West, and you can talk for hours about Kanye West.

So, in one way, Facebook eliminates some of the social anxiety of coming to college by providing a low-stress environment to scope out a roommate or prospective friend.

But we also need to be aware of the phoniness of social media. Eventually we all have to meet each other, and eventually the snarky tweets and meticulously curated “about me” Facebook posts melt away to reveal our true personalities and character.

Rather than use the Internet to sound like the person we want to be, we need to use it to reveal our true selves. Otherwise we’re not really getting to know each other, not really making friends and not really becoming popular — we’re just telling stories.

— Morgan Kinney

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