Try real life social networking

By By Spencer Merrick

By Spencer Merrick

I left Brigham Young University because I felt like all the people around me were movie extras. I’m sure it was all in my head, but it seemed as though everyone around me passed me with tilted heads and “The Truman Show”-esque smiles.

But now that I’m at the U and I’ve found some people I’d actually like to get to know, I find they live horribly far away. An after-class conversation might go something like this: “Hey, so what are you doing this weekend? Want to hang out Friday?” “Yeah, I’d love to, but I live a little far away. I commute from Canada.”

The U isn’t known for having a particularly social campus. According to a 2001-2002 student demographics report at the U, 37 percent of students are married, 18 percent have at least one child and 90 percent live off campus. So not only is the U an older campus, but the vast majority of U students also make the daily commute on Interstate-15, only to return to homes sometimes more than an hour from school.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder so many students rely heavily on online social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. In fact, people between the ages of 18 and 24 are by far the biggest users of these networks8212;according to statistics from Facebook, 40.8 percent of all active users are in that age group. Although I have nothing against venues such as these and admittedly use them myself, they don’t stand very well on their own and come with a few obvious problems.

The first and most apparent defect with Facebook is that defects aren’t apparent. Because each user has absolute control over the profile, it’s far too easy to make yourself look much better than you really are. But in reality, the people who have enough time to make themselves look fun and interesting on Facebook are, in consequence, boring and uninteresting people.

It’s easy to make yourself into an online celebrity. People are more physically attractive on Facebook. People are wittier on Facebook. People smell better on Facebook. But there’s too much that’s unsaid. Communication is extremely misleading. People might argue that there’s more said in a post or a “poke” than what comes up on screen. They say it’s all about response time, or punctuation, or a combination of semicolons and parenthesis.

I don’t disagree with that8212;there is indeed much more said, for instance, in “lol” than you may ever know. Is that “lol” a giggle, or a chortle? A snicker, or a snort? In your head, you might translate “lol” into an adorable, attractive laugh, but for all you know, my real “laugh out loud” could sound like a pig in free fall.

Back in the olden days, a good part of social networking on campus consisted of fraternities and sororities. Often, these are given a bad name, especially with movies such as “Sorority Boys” and incidents like the recent alcohol-related death of a fraternity pledge at Utah State University. The Greek Council at the U, in the face of decreasing membership, has tried to reverse many of these stereotypes. Last year, their theme for men’s recruitment was “Get past the myths…Go greek!”

Not into the greek thing? Fine. Why not get involved in any number of clubs or organizations on campus? Not that parking in E-zoned spaces doesn’t build some camaraderie, but what if there is more? Imagine that! Although it might be hard to believe that stronger friendships can be grown than those generated by patrolling the parking lot as a cohesive unit for empty spaces, it just might be possible. If the social life at the U is lacking, we have no one to blame but ourselves…and the Internet.

Online social networks are a great way to keep in contact with old friends, and maybe even a good way to meet people. But information is too selective, it gives too much response time, and real personal contact is often completely replaced. Students disappointed by the apparently antisocial nature of the U would better profit from the good old-fashioned social networks. Join a club, a fraternity, a sorority, or keep yourself posted on the events on campus.

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Spencer Merrick