The scope and substance of communication especially in the context of college students have undergone massive changes as a result of recent developments and emerging uses of communication technologies. Social networking on the internet has become the most fashionable thing for any youngster to be in. These sites allow teens to express themselves, share their interests and passions, and get feedback from others. They facilitate connections with other students who share common interests and help maintain bonds within a peer group. There are many kinds of social networking sites such as Orkut, MySpace, Xanga etc. Facebook is an online community networking site that was initially meant for college students and more recently it has expanded to include almost all people – anyone with a valid e-mail address. A lot is being discussed regarding the dangers of social networking in the case of youngsters. While exposure to porn, distraction to studies and dangers of stalking are cited as some of the main reasons why college students should be discouraged for engaging in such kinds of social networking, there are also other reasons why social networking can be beneficial to college students. Thesis Statement: Social networking of college students enhances a sense of communizing because it: gives students a sense of self-identity, allows them to explore contacts with similar interests and gives them a platform to express themselves.
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Social networking sites provide teens with a space to work out identity and status, make sense of cultural cues, and negotiate public life by facilitating their networking with friends and classmates. Students get to learn more about their own selves through social networking. By entering details such as favorite bands and movies, books, heroes, etc the students get to realize their own likes and dislikes. Their choices of photos, selection of friends, groups they belong to and personalized answers to generic questions give students deep insights about themselves. They can also manipulate their identities through privacy settings that allow the students to control who sees their personal info. Identity can be seen as a social process that is dynamic and contingent on the situation. In an electronic networking site such as Facebook, an individual’s perceived audience frames the situation. This might be the individual’s friends and peers or the whole world. Social networking sites such as Facebook use the process of articulated expression to support critical peer-based sociality. Usually, adults exert their power over the youth that creates complications in identity. This is more so in the United States where the lives of youth – particularly teenagers- are highly structured. Compulsory schooling, after-school activities, strict home atmosphere and busy- parents, leave them with almost no time or encouragement to explore their own interests and identity in life. Facebook allows homosexual students to have an identity in that particular social environment without feeling threatened. Networking and specifically, Facebook, allows the students to develop, manipulate and express their self-identity.
As the name implies, social networking sites enable students to connect with as many people as they want. Facebook is very easy to use and can help a person make connections very fast. It is possible to invite everybody in one’s email address book to become such a pal. It can help people to find friends, with whom they have lost contact, meet new people, form groups with those who have common interests or acquaintances and also learn a lot about other people instantly. Facebook is especially popular with gay and lesbian students who have difficulty making contacts in the real world. Facebook allows students to interact with people on various levels – through messaging, commenting and blogging. Facebook has Facebook Notes, a blogging feature which allows blogs from other sites to be imported and also permits readers to comment on the entries thereby facilitating interaction on a number of issues by different users. Networking can also be a social status for students. On their profile page, they assemble galleries of friends, and the size of friends lists can be a status symbol among peers. But the real power of social networking is that it allows the students to surf trails of other people’s “friends” easily. Personal profiles, lists of friends, pictures, etc. can be viewed, undetected, by anybody. However, practically speaking, many students restrict their Facebook activities to a network of peers with whom they have prior association, and use interactive communication tools to enhance their social connection with friends.
One of the major characteristics of social networking sites such as Facebook is that they enhance self-expression capabilities of students. There are many methods of communicating among members in Facebook. Instant Messaging or IMing is one such method. Messaging requires special communications skills such as meeting the interactional demands of conversation, such as turn taking, relevance, and timely response. Facebook activities enable communications in some silly ways as well. Here, it is possible to mirthfully bitchslap, dryhump, marry, divorce, sucker punch, chest bump, cock block, caress or grope them. Through developing contacts and messaging them, students also acquire multitasking skills. Students while listening to lectures preview PowerPoint slides posted online, check their e-mail, and surf Facebook profiles for new groups to join. Friends check their text messages while chatting with each other over lunch. This is more of a multicommunicating environment rather than a multimedia environment. Social networking is potentially transformative, and enables young people who live online to become smarter. Facebook allows young people to publish their creative works, photos, stories, videos, comments, and other online content. As the ultimate enabling of creativity, Facebook has recently launched the Facebook Platform, which allows developers to create applications that interact with core Facebook features. It is possible to learn interpersonal skills through networking. In fact, Facebook has recently added a new feature to the website allowing its users to send ‘gifts’ to friends from Facebook’s virtual gift shop and adding a message. There are several new features such as “X Me” and “SuperPoke!” that allow users to express themselves better. A significant tool of social networking websites, particularly Facebook, is the ability for participants to mourn publicly for a deceased individual. On Facebook, students often leave messages of sadness, grief, or hope on the individual’s page, transforming it into a sort of public book of condolences. Networking websites also serve as bulletin boards. Facebook Marketplace allows users to post free classified ads in categories such as For Sale, Housing, Jobs, and Other. Facebook events enable members of a particular group to be posted on upcoming events.
Electronic social networking has enabled college students to communicate in ways earlier thought impossible. Many have felt that the websites that facilitate social networking such as Facebook are dangerous to youngsters and can lead them astray. However, the huge popularity of these websites indicates that there are a lot more positive sides to social networking via internet. Sites such as Facebook help youngsters to form a self-identity through an expression of their likes and dislikes, choice of friends, photos to share, etc. They facilitate communication and connection with people across geographical boundaries and that too in real time. Finally, they help youngsters to express themselves visually and textually.