Facebook: The New Student
By Jennifer Gabrielle ’06
Link to Smith College facebook page
Oddly, according to site administrators, 3,461 Smith students are signed up on Facebook,
the latest student online preoccupation. That’s surprising, considering there
are fewer than 3,000 students on campus. But once you take a look at some of the
possibilities, that inflated number is not so surprising after all.
There’s no question that Facebook (at www.facebook.com), an online, interactive
directory that connects people nationally via their student status and school affiliation,
has staked a solid claim on the Smith student culture since its national launch two
years ago. Students spend untold hours logged on to the Web site, checking their
personal accounts for messages, joining groups of the like-minded, sending e-hellos
to friends on other campuses, weighing in on pertinent issues of the day.
Smith students are by no means alone in their preoccupation with the resource. Each
month, more than 8.5 million individuals—mostly students from colleges and
universities across the country—use Facebook, according to Chris Hughes, a
spokesperson for the Palo Alto, California, company. The site ranks ninth in overall
Internet traffic and has joined students’ daily tools of virtual communication
such as e-mails and instant messaging.
But it’s difficult to say exactly how many at Smith regularly use Facebook.
More than 3,000? Is that possible? It is if you include the Facebook accounts of
faculty and staff members, alumnae (even the deceased if they are well known), house
mascots and celebrities.
They are all among those with Facebook accounts at Smith.
Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004. A Harvard student at the
time, he discovered a need to be able to identify people from other residential
places on campus. “While each residential house listed directories of their
residents, I wanted one online directory where all students could be listed,” he
says. “And I’ve always enjoyed building things and puttering around
with computer code, so I sat down and in about a week I had produced the basic
workings of the site.”
Facebook quickly expanded to other schools as social networks began to grow and overlap.
Today, it’s available to students from most colleges across the country, and
to anyone with a “.edu” e-mail address. Once logged on, users build personal
profiles with information of their choice, including pictures, political affiliations,
relationship status, scholarly interests, favorite movies and contact information.
Students at other schools can view profiles of Facebook members and search for their
long-lost kindergarten buddies, for example, friends from camp or people from their
high school class. The Facebook allows messages to be sent and features postings
on the “wall” of a friend’s profile, a popular way to stay in touch.
Students are now using Facebook to advertise events like parties, concerts and festivals
on campus; they can send an e-invitation to friends requesting an RSVP or post information
on an online calendar of events.
The Facebook also enables students to create their own groups. At Smith, groups have
been created, such as “Class of 2006” and “I’ve Got 99 Problems
and the Long Walk From the Quad Is 73 of Them.”
The Facebook online community grows steadily as students create alter-ego profiles.
Bill Clinton is listed as an undergrad, thanks to Smith Democrats, complete with
a major in government and a minor in women’s studies. Martha Stewart is in
a Facebook relationship with Cookie Monster, and she has a group named after her: “Free
Martha!!” Of course, Smith’s directory would not be complete without
alumnae stars like Julia Child and Sylvia Plath.
The Facebook has encountered problems with privacy issues as it grows in popularity.
For example, some schools have faced difficulties as potential employers have caught
on and consult the Facebook profiles of students before hiring. This has prompted
some students to more carefully consider the information they post about themselves.
Nonetheless, it appears for now that Facebook is an undeniable force in the national
college student community as hundreds of new members register for the free service
Among college students nationally, and here at Smith, it’s the new electronic