Students build new communities online

By Jessica Wilson ’05

The words “the wall,” “poke,” and “groupies” may remind people of a fraternity initiation. But for college students today the words are synonymous with thefacebook, an online college community.

Founded by an underclassman at Harvard University in 2004, thefacebook.com allows anyone with a college e-mail address to join her school's social network of personal profiles. Today there are currently 832 schools on the network with over 3.2 million users.

Almost all of the profiles include a picture, e-mail address, links to friends, and common interests. Once a student has a profile he can browse anyone at his school. If a student forgets the reading assignment for lit class he can search courses and find someone in his class in one click. Students are also able to connect to other school networks by requesting to be their “friend” and gain access to their profiles. On the “wall” students post messages to each other and may get “poked” several times during the day (but it doesn’t hurt too badly).

At Pacific nearly 400 students and 52 alumni are registered. For Lindsey Mullens ’07 it is a great way to keep in contact with friends and meet new ones. “You can learn more about what you might have in common with a good friend, a casual friend, or even someone you do not yet know at Pacific.”
One fun feature of the site is creating “groups” based on similar interests by students including “Boxer Handball” and “Association of Rebellious Swashbuckling Enthusiasts.” Setting a limit on the number of members per group creates “groupies.”

Thefacebook can also be a tool for faculty and staff, which are allowed to join. Assistant Director of Residence Life Ryan Aiello is one of the 11 faculty and staff registered at Pacific. “Thefacebook gave me a chance to learn about student's hobbies, interest, and important areas of their life, plus they could learn a little bit about me - a sort of way for people to see my professional and personal lives complimenting each other.”

Aiello noted that with this technology a new kind of community is growing that faculty and staff need to tap into as well. “I think it's important for staff and faculty to think outside of what we can touch and see and try to reach students within the communities that they create. Pacific is the students’ experience, we work for them, and connecting with students, meeting them on levels that make sense to them is what I am about.”

Online communities are not new to the Internet though. Students also are using Myspace.com, a free site that essentially allows anyone to create a personal website. The global community uses it for everything from personals and dating, to bands and marketing for businesses. Livejournal.com also is a similar concept with an emphasis on users keeping a blog (online journal) for others to read.