March 1st, 2013
Is Facebook Destroying the American College Experience? asks danah boyd, referring to prospective students looking up their classmates on Facebook and trying to establish links to those who share a common interest:
At first blush, this seems like a win for students. Going off to college can be a scary proposition, full of uncertainty, particularly about social matters. Why not get a head start building friends from the safety of your parent's house?
What most students (and parents) fail to realize is that the success of the American college system has less to do with the quality of the formal education than it does with the social engineering project that is quietly enacted behind the scenes each year. Roommates are structured to connect incoming students with students of different backgrounds. Dorms are organized to cross-breed the cultural diversity that exists on campus. Early campus activities are designed to help people encounter people who's approach to the world is different than theirs.
To be fair to Facebook1 – as danah boyd notes later in her post – this isn't in any sense a Facebook problem: the site just happens to be the tool students are curently using to do this pre-college reconnaissance. The trick to curbing this habit is going to lie in persuading students of the benefits of mixing with people they might not normally choose to rub shoulders with.