When Students Turn to Facebook With Questions,
Who Provides the Answers?
BY KIM NEHLS AND JAKE LIVENGOOD
Facebook is a fantastically popular social networking site. Today, 99 percent of college students have established Facebook profiles, according to Facebook reports. Facebook has changed the way that students interact with higher education institutions. New college students are making friends, joining clubs and activities, finding roommates, and discussing student activities through Facebook, which is part of campus culture long before students step foot on campuses nationwide.
Our recent study explores new student interactions on
Facebook through an analysis of more than 4,000 posts on
incoming college and university student Facebook pages.
These pages, established by both institutions and new students, appear to be infrequently monitored by campus personnel. In Facebook groups, students discuss everything from
the best burgers on campus to financial aid disbursements
to residence hall assignments. The study finds that incoming
college students are constantly searching for purpose, meaning, and shared experiences as they transition into college life.
Incoming students share Facebook posts that reflect an array
of emotions, including anxiety, elation, and eagerness.
The following typical, unaltered exchange indicates how
students search for others with similar concerns. Students
often use very candid and casual language in their posts,
including abbreviations and slang, which is quite common
➤“Yeah, I paid super early too [for housing].
I guess we just have to keep waiting [on
housing assignments] : ( It might take
another week, though! I heard they might
not be done until 2 weeks past June 1.”
STUDENT, JUNE 8, 2010, 7:51 P.M.
Fatima Mncube-Barnes Bioinformatician, Meharry Medical College Summer Fellow, Peabody Professional Institutes
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➤“thanks! i’ve talked to almost all of them [fellow
students] via facebook now and they are pretty cool
so im not so nervous anymore. and some other freshmen sent me messages saying they will be on that
floor with me so its all good!”
STUDENT RESPONSE, JUNE 8, 2010, 9: 26 P.M.
➤“phew!!! Ok. as long as I’m not the only one : )”
PREVIOUS STUDENT, JUNE 9, 2010, 3: 21 P.M.
It is customary for new students to gain answers to procedural questions by asking peers and staff in their Facebook
groups. Although the study does not gauge the intent of postings and student expectations of staff members to respond,
students use the group to obtain answers to process questions
that are most likely answered in formal communication, such
as a university publication or website. Typical questions posed
on Facebook cover where to park during orientation, whether
persons of the opposite sex can stay in a residence hall, and
how to use the student registration system.