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Facebook Study: Students Focus on Ideal College Life

A recent study,entitled, “Look at us: Collective Narcissism in College Student Facebook Photo Galleries” by Andrew Mendelson and Zizi Papacharissi, professors at Temple and University of Illinois (respectively), found that college students’ – specifically underclassmen – “central objective …on Facebook was the recording and posting of their participation in the social rituals of college.”

The pair looked at 20,962 photos and 13,543 comments on 333 Facebook pages, examining the subject matter in the photographs, the behavior of the subjects, the aesthetics of the images, the organization of the photographs, comments on the photos, and even what was missing from the photographs. Social and sporting events were the primary local of the pics, parties being the most common.

The study also found that families and academic related activities were notably absent. The two researchers believe that the main point of photos posted was to show others your ideal college life style and the tagging and commenting serve to “reinforce group cohesiveness and closeness.”

Is it just me or is this not earth-shattering? Sure, Facebook is a relatively new media outlet for sharing pictures with all your buds and acquaintances, but is taking pictures of fun times that you want to remember really a new concept? The authors of the study make the point that photos of family members and going to class are absent from college students’ Facebook albums. It seems fairly logical to me, since you see your family only a few a times a year on breaks, usually not doing anything too interesting.

Pictures were invented with the purpose to capture things you’d like to remember. I personally don’t need to remember studying or going to class. I doubt very many people ever took pictures of class or studying in college – not just our generation. However, the researchers do have a point in the fact that being proud of such party behavior and drinking culture can have repercussions.

Facebook is public, and, while you can fiddle with all kinds of settings, there are still ways for professors and future employers to see these rather crude and immature pictures that may cost you in the future (just look at some recent State Patty’s Day photos).

While I’m all for memories, maybe leave the pics on your computer and don’t upload them to an album titled something like “I can make your sham rock” or “We like to get weird” or “Let’s get ready to stumble”. Be cautious of what you put out there for the world to see.


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About the Author

Caitlin Silver

Caitlin is from a small Pennsylvania town called Unionville, which is by West Chester, which is by Philadelphia. She is a sophomore in the Smeal College of Business and will probably major in accounting. Caitlin loves "How I Met Your Mother" and dougnuts.

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