Facebook is outlet for new students to meet each other and feel more comfortable about college. But does it work?
By Juliann Guiffre
Everyone remembers those last few months of summer before becoming a freshman in college, those final moments of bliss and freedom before becoming slaves to homework, sports, and the many activities of college life.
If you happened to experience this within the past few years, you most likely remember something else as well–signing up for the explosive phenomenon that is Facebook. But how beneficial is registering to advertise your life on this public forum?
Senior Eric Danforth, a peer mentor, witnessed the Facebook frenzy of this year’s batch of freshmen firsthand. Along with receiving messages with questions from his own mentees, Danforth had many others ask him for advice as well.
“People asked me if they could switch roommates to a person they had met on Facebook, maybe because they had looked at their assigned roommate’s profile and didn’t like what they saw,” he said.
Danforth recognizes the positive sides of Facebook but is so often faced with the negative. “I didn’t advise it. If you choose your roommate based on Facebook you lose the mystery and could find that your Facebook friend has a really bad habit.
“One of my mentees was really upset because she made all these friendships on facebook and they all ignored her when she got here,” he said.
Besides the trials of establishing lasting relationships over the Internet, there are also risks that come with publicizing yourself in such a way. Danforth was asked to watch for any suspicious upperclassmen that seemed to be befriending freshmen for ulterior motives.
“I actually had to contact one guy about this after receiving several complaints about him,” he said.
Despite the risks of Facebook, Danforth concedes that it can be used for good, such as for getting to know your roommate and others with similar interests.
Freshman Sami Bicknell, creator of a McDaniel ’11 facebook group, strongly agrees.
“I created the [group] the day I was admitted,” said Bicknell. “I wanted to have an idea of the people who I was going to be going to school with.”
Many people, Danforth included, feel that making friends on facebook doesn’t allow for the bonding experience in a freshmen seminar. Yet Bicknell explained, “I made it a point to find everyone in my first year seminar on Facebook and talk to them several times [finding that] the people I talked to more often online did stay my better fiends but it didn’t prevent me from being friends with other people.”
However, she also admits to seeing the other side of Facebook, saying, “I thought I knew a lot about the school before I attended, but it turned out that I didn’t.”
Although Bicknell no longer attends McDaniel, she thinks that she was ultimately very successful in her goal of trying to get to know the kids she would be going to go to school with so that she wasn’t a complete stranger to them.
Dean of First Year Students Sarah Stokely was also faced with trying to understand the complex nature of the Facebook world.
Stokely’s interest in facebook was piqued when she read a USA Today article on the number of families (students and their parents) checking out a roommate on Facebook and deciding their character based on that.
“I think that a Facebook profile does not give a true representation of a person, and students and their families can interpret it differently,” she said.
According to Stokely, at the beginning of the year the first year team (peer mentors, etc) met with counseling services and campus safety to talk about advising freshmen to be safe with Facebook, and be cautious with friends made on the website.
“I think there is a honeymoon period for freshmen where they reveal a lot about themselves, until they realize that not everyone is their friend,” said Stokely.
Yet despite her feelings that “Facebook has the potential to cause unnecessary pain,” she believes that overall, the orientation process is affected positively by Facebook because of its ability to foster strong relationships.
Without a true regulator of this public environment, Facebook will continue to remain in the hands of the students – risks, reimbursements, and all.