The future of social networking

| Forum Editor

(Erin Mitchell | Student Life)

Social networking has no doubt changed the way college students interact. Information is shared more frequently, relationships are easier to sustain and knowledge is spread at unprecedented speeds. From sharing photos to dating, social networking sites have transformed cultural norms that were once taken for granted. Casual conversations with friends take place through instant message chats, and gifts and birthday cards are sent virtually to be displayed to a world of hundreds of “friends.”

Such modes of connection also take the guesswork out of communication. My sister was recently admitted to her top-choice university and was faced with the new task of finding a roommate. And so, she turned to Facebook.

After what couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes surveying different possibilities throughout her new school’s “Recently Admitted” Facebook group, my sister had selected her choice for a freshman year roommate. Scanning through the girl’s photos, she became a tour guide, dictating the details of her not-yet-friend’s life.

“She’s close to her family,” she told me with absolute certainty. “And she has a great group of friends.” The photos had changed from a family vacation to a group of smiling, embracing girls. “Look, her boyfriend is cute,” was her response to the boy linking arms with her might-be roommate. In the next photo he was dancing, “…and he seems like a fun guy, right?”

While my sister found her instantaneous judgment somewhat laughable and very possibly inaccurate, she couldn’t help herself. And who was I to blame her? I too stalked my would-be roommate and would-be best friends, all of whom turned out to be far from the people I had seen on their Facebook pages. The information, the photos and the wall posts are all there, acting as open invitations into sculpted, Facebook lives. How can we resist them?

And, if we can’t resist them now, will we ever? Facebook, or some updated version, will undoubtedly change the way we function as adults and real people outside of college. I imagine our relationship with social networking sites, as a generation who grew up connected to the Internet, will be very different from that of the older adults who currently use Facebook. Just as our college years were transformed by the use of such sites, our 30s, 40s and 50s (I’m too afraid to go any farther) may also reflect the more recent trends. Just as many of us set privacy setting to block our parents, family members and potential work prospects from viewing our photos, we may be doing the same to block out our own children. It is no longer easy to simply hide parts of our youth inside stacked boxes in a dusty attic where no one will look for them. The Internet is accessible and its contents traceable. With the capacity to “back stalk” to our college years, our past, which one day will seem like a lifetime away, will in fact be available literally with the click of a mouse.

Alissa is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at arrotbla@artsci.wustl.edu.