Is Facebook Destroying the College Experience?
The world has no shortage of theories on whether technology, the Internet, and social networking sites are good or bad for kids.
Last week at the NAIS annual conference, we heard a fascinating presentation by Danah Boyd*, a senior researcher at Microsoft. One of her papers called, “Is Facebook Destroying the American College Experience?” looks at the question from an interesting angle – diversity.
She posits that an important benefit of the residential college experience is being exposed to things (people, ideas, experiences, etc.) that are different from what students are already familiar.
According to Boyd, exposure to different experiences is a key component of a college education, starting with the freshman roommate, and Facebook is interfering with that particular roll of the dice.
So much for my mother’s favorite saying, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”
For example, instead of the old school experience of showing up on Day 1 to meet your roommate for the first time and then being forced to make do with whoever is there, freshmen are pre-screening assigned roommates based on Facebook posts.
If the assigned roommate doesn’t pass muster according to the 17-year-old (i.e. “This person is just like me.”), then according to her research, the freshman is likely to request a change before even arriving on campus.
*Danah Boyd is Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School and a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center.