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|Bailey Poster uses Facebook, along with 90 percent of U.S. college students.|
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The use of social media has spread worldwide and according to a 2011 Harvard University Institute of Politics poll, 90 percent of four-year college students now have a Facebook account. Facebook reports over 800 million active users.
With each click of the mouse more people, more colleges and universities, more companies, and more programs are getting involved in the Facebook craze.
UMD is no exception. Included in the 2011-2012 UMD campus directory, is a list of nearly 30 UMD departments and programs which maintain Facebook pages. In addition, dozens of UMD student organizations, student clubs, and athletic groups have them as well. The UMD Hockey page leads the group with 12,738 people who "Like" UMD hockey. The UMD Athletics page has over 2,200 "likes" and the Official UMD Alumni Association page is not far behind with 1,500 "likes,"
A number of the pages found are directly related to UMD academic programs such as Civil Engineering, the Marshall Alworth Planetarium, and the colleges, including the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. The Communication Club has a Facebook page: Comm Club of UMD and there is also a Communication Alumni Group. Dr. Aaron Boyson, a professor in the Communication department of UMD, and the faculty advisor of the club, said that they have over 100 Facebook members. “We're trying to leverage Facebook as a networking tool to help our students get in touch with alumni," he said, "Not only can they peek at how others are doing professionally, they can also make functional connections. Just the other day two of our graduates in Chicago connected to help each other out."
Other campus organizations use Facebook for similar purposes. New features allow students to utilize the social media site as a quick means of communication. It’s fast and easy to send messages and share information with larger audiences in a format they are already comfortable with.
The Alumni Association at UMD has provided a page since 2009. Lisa Pratt, Alumni Associate, said "Now we are able to reach the younger alumni population, which is an audience we have been struggling to reach. We notify them about events and keep them informed about what's happening on campus. It provides a forum for alumni discussions with each other and improves awareness."
UMD students say Facebook helps them stay connected and improves communication. Hanna Iazzo, a junior studying biology at UMD said, “I use Facebook to keep up-to-date with friends that I couldn’t otherwise keep in contact with during my busy school year. It’s a good way to stay social.”
Nicole Turner, a senior majoring in sociology said, “I use Facebook to keep up with family. I’m able to keep in touch with them even though I’m so far away.” She continued, “ It’s a choice in how you use it, it doesn’t have to interfere with your schoolwork or life.”
Other people are less active on Facebook but still remain users. When asked how often he uses Facebook, Zack Webster, a sophomore writing studies student said "Almost never. I log in, check the little bar in the upper right hand corner to see if there are any red messages, and if not, I leave. I don't spend much time on Facebook at all."
Facebook is not for everybody but for many people it carries a lot of appeal. People follow news and current events. They follow entertainers, films, music, pop culture icons. If it is out there, it's probably on Facebook. Bailey Poster said, "If there is a band I'm interested in, I "like" them on Facebook. Then I follow them on Facebook to find when bands are on tour."
Photo albums, games, and chatting are all capabilities that are not found in traditional means of communication. Natalee Phelps, a studio art major said, “I use it to chat with friends in Europe and share things with others. My favorite feature is creating albums. I’m big into pictures.”
Facebook is more than just a social toy, it is a powerful networking tool. Whether staying in touch with friends near or far, finding out about events, or getting involved, Facebook is just one access point to many doors at UMD.
Written by Jessica Coffin, November 2011.
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