The Importance of Social Networking

(Published in my student newspaper Flex, on Page 11.)

I’d like to say that we’re not all obsessed with social networking sites, but I think it’s more accurate to say that we are.

It started off on Bebo when we were 10, before switching to Myspace when we started wearing skinny jeans. Now the place to be is Facebook, and for those who feel their opinions are worthy to more than just their university friends, there’s Twitter. So why are our lives so heavily focused around these sites? And why, as university students, do we find them so useful?

Is it simple enough to say that we use these sites because they make our lives that little bit easier? (Easier or lazier, you decide.) Instead of asking our friends personally to come round for a few drinks on our birthday; instead of walking all the way down the hall to ask our housemate a question, we simply pop up a conversation on Facebook Chat whilst we remain in our beds watching Jeremy Kyle on the TV.

On a hangover day, we can sit and refresh our news feed to waste a few hours. We can spy on those we’ve told we never want to see again, because by that we meant we’d constantly nosey on their recently uploaded photos. More pleasantly, we can keep up to date with our close friends and family whom we left behind to attend university; having my mum ring me up concerned about a recent “frape” always brightens up my day.

These sites aren’t only useful to keep in contact with those we already know either. Facebook, especially, was a great place to meet people before Freshers week who were going to study the same course and at the same university as ourselves (And also to search for the random person we got with in Remedies the night before).

But it’s not only socially that they come in handy. As a Journalism student, I’m told to be a part of all of these social networking sites to better my chances of a career as a successful journalist. I’m told to use Twitter to express my opinion about the latest newsworthy topic – in my case I have about 2,000 tweets expressing my love for tea and Harry Potter – and to upload all of my work onto my blog so that my work is essentially self-published – now I find that I’m checking my blog views daily and celebrating to myself when I hit a new milestone.

Sam Batt, second year Journalism student at UCF says: “I think there is an element of them that is really useful. You can keep in contact with people you are working with and can organise projects. For my course, they are also useful for collecting vox pops and public opinion.”

Although they are potentially useful for our courses, they are also the main distraction to why we are handing in our essays minutes before the deadline, rather than researching for them months in advance. Sam adds: “Mainly, I think they are distracting. I think they’ve done my work a lot more damage than good.”

I think it’s fair to say that we could all gain a few marks if we weren’t spending so much of our time on these social networking sites. But without the distraction of these sites being there, I don’t think I’d have the motivation to sit online and, mainly pretend, to do work in the first place. Sitting and refreshing Facebook/Twitter whilst gradually getting something done makes it seem a little more worthwhile.

So, in conclusion… Wait, what’s that? I’ve just found a new networking site, so I’ll see you on ‘Path’ sometime soon – you’ll get a better response from me online.

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