The New Student Preoccupation
Jennifer Gabrielle ’06
Link to Smith College facebook page
to its administrators, there are 3,461 Smith students 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,
maybe that inflated number is not so surprising after all.
no question that Facebook (at ),
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
are by no means alone in their preoccupation with the resource.
Each month, more than 8.5 million people—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 emails and instant messaging.
difficult to say exactly how many students at Smith regularly
use Facebook. More than 3,000? Is it possible? It is if you
include the Facebook accounts of faculty and staff members,
alumnae (even the deceased in some cases), house mascots and
They are all among
those with Facebook accounts at Smith.
The mascot in
question is a dummy who sits in the foyer of Washburn house.
Of course, the dummy himself didn’t create an account,
but one of the oddities of Facebook is that anyone can create
an account for anyone else, including fictional entities.
Safety Man,” says Andrea Rosen ’09, a Washburn
resident, of her house’s dummy mascot represented on
Facebook, “and someone made a profile for him.”
of the site is that you can create your own reality. Rosen’s
own profile, for example, claims that she’s married.
“I’m actually ‘Facebook-married’ to
my friend’s inner boy,” she clarifies. “Me
and my friend believe that every girl has an ‘inner
boy.’ He has a name and a persona and everything.”
And on Facebook, he also has a wife.
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.”
The Facebook quickly
expanded to other schools as social networks began to grow
and overlap. Today, the Facebook is available to students
from most colleges across the country, and to anyone with
a .edu email 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.
The Facebook also
enables students to create their own groups. At Smith, groups
have been created, such as “Class of 2006,” “I've
Got 99 Problems and the Long Walk From the Quad Is 73 of them,”
and “Cisco Clean Access is a Pain in the #SS.”
One of the more popular Facebook groups is “The I'm
On Facebook When I Should Be Doing Homework” Club, with
228 members at Smith.
Some groups celebrate
organizations, houses on campus and study abroad programs
(see the backlash group “Cool Kids Don’t Go JYA”).
Others define a very Smith-specific culture, like “Smithies
Who Shave” and “Concerned Smith Students for the
Advancement of Relevant Class Discussion.”
Patrick Connelly, assistant director of student activities,
has a Facebook account and belongs to several Campus Center
employee groups. He works as an adviser to student employees,
who helped him create a profile last September. “They
wanted me to have a Facebook account so I could be in those
groups specifically,” he says. “I do like the
fact that I’m a member of the groups I work with. It’s
important that administrators participate in community, even
in online forms.” He suggests that staff members might
pursue “ways to use things like Facebook more effectively
to build community on campus.”
The online community
grows steadily as students create alter-ego profiles on Facebook.
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
Carly Anne Maberry
’08 joined Facebook just months before setting up Sylvia’s
account. “One of the reasons I was drawn to Smith in
the first place was because of Sylvia Plath,” says Maberry,
who maintains the account every week. “She gets people
pretty regularly asking to be her friend, so I have to go
and confirm. She has over 600 people listed as her friend
now, and not just at Smith.”
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‘s
profile of a student before hiring, prompting students to
carefully consider the information they post about themselves.
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 every month.
students nationally, and here at Smith, it’s the new
electronic student preoccupation.
from Sarah Gauché, who transferred from Smith last