Thursday, September 2, 2010

The College Experience via Social Media

This week was the first week of classes at the University of San Diego, where I work. As I had a front row seat for freshman move-in day (my office is literally the floor below freshman dorms) I watched the process of 18 year olds meeting new friends, finding their place at school and connecting with old Facebook friends. Wait…what? Oh, that’s right, these kids actually have “met” before they came to school. As soon as they are admitted, or sometimes before, they start creating social networking groups to determine where they should live on campus (I’m not even going to talk about the fact that they get a choice), what classes they should take, and what organizations they should join. Before they ever set foot on USD’s campus they are already forming social cliques.

I don’t have an issue with this, in fact I think it’s great that students are able to make their transition to college a bit easier through their use of social media, but it does make me think of my own experience ten years ago. In August of 2000 I packed up my belongings, said goodbye to my boyfriend of the time, and drove across country to Lynchburg, Virginia to attend a small women’s college. I didn’t know anyone at this school and had only talked to my roommate once or twice over the telephone to determine who would bring a TV (me) and who would bring a VHS player. That’s right kids, we still had VHS players back then, though truth be told her family did end up sending her with a brand new DVD player as well, which I was unable to use because I did not own any DVDs.

But I digress, what I’m trying to share is the wonderful experience that I had as a freshman, 3,000 miles away from my friends and family, meeting new friends and making a new pseudo-family for myself. This wonderfully scary experience led to a 10 year long (and counting) friendship with one of the greatest supporters of my blogs (she’s also a wonderful friend, if you were wondering). Although we became friends simply because we were assigned to live across the hall from one another, and despite living most of those ten years on opposite coasts, we’ve shared lots of memories that include two presidential inaugurations, countless drives through the state of Virginia (to meet boys at UVA and VMI), a handful of embarrassing experiences (falling down a hill in front of a frat party), one major sickness (mono drove me out of VA), several trips across coasts, and thousands of laughs and smiles.

While I cannot credit social media for the creation of this friendship, today, with our busy adult lives on opposite sides of the country, we do the majority of our communication through social media (and some old fashioned emailing and birthday card sending). I certainly wouldn’t trade my experience, but I also wouldn’t begrudge anyone the ability to start their friendships online. After all, there are some great online communities out there that are created every day.