It’s amazing to watch how social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are changing relationships: from friends and family to coworkers and former classmates, it’s easier than ever to connect and stay in touch, regardless of physical distance.
As the Internet changes the way we communicate in everyday situations, it’s also changing the college experience for students. The kinds of events that define what many of us went through in our college days—freshman mixers, making photo albums, sharing lecture notes—have been transformed by social media.
Now, the college experience can be virtual, with little or even no real-world interaction with fellow classmates and instructors.
Getting To Know You
Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, it’s possible for college students to meet classmates before getting to campus.
For shy kids or for students who are attending a university far from home, building a network of friends before the semester begins can be an advantage. And for students attending an online university, this makes sense—and it’s a great way to reach out to classmates and instructors when physical meetings aren’t possible.
But in college, a large part of the experience is learning to make friends and getting to know people face-to-face; the personal aspect of friendship and dealing with classmates is a lesson that students take into the workplace.
With professional social media platforms like LinkedIn, however, learning to meet-and-greet might be a skill that also changes with time.
The New Photo Album
For folks whose college days are well behind them, making and sharing photo albums was a way for friends to catch up and relive trips and other events. Now, photo sharing sites like Flickr make it possible to share experiences in real time.
In some ways, this is better: it saves the time of sitting around and looking through every single photo a friend or roommate might be eager to share. On the other hand, friends who posts tons of photos can clog news feeds on social media sites—which can be just as annoying.
Remember going to the video store to pick out a movie to watch with friends or a date? On Friday nights and weekends, Blockbuster was a date destination; it was also a place to meet friends and pick out movies to watch together on study breaks. Now, choosing a movie is as simple as clicking a mouse.
With online video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, students can get together anytime and watch almost anything they want. Even some smartphones have movie streaming capabilities—which more than a few students have used during a boring class lecture.
iTunes U and Cloud Computing
When a student couldn’t make it to class, it was common to ask a friend to take notes. With services like iTunes U, professors can record lectures and post class notes that can be accessed from anywhere. Other universities use online course management systems that allow them to collect and grade assignments online.
Cloud computing is becoming the dominant mode of sharing files, which makes it possible for students and instructors to send and receive assignments quickly. Of course, it’s also made it harder for students to make excuses for turning assignments in late.
The college experience has always been unique for every student, but the Internet has changed the game completely. For better or worse, university students now have a vast number of resources to help them get through their classes and social interactions with classmates. As technology evolves, expect the student experience to evolve as well.
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Jesse L. is a recent college graduate looking to make his mark on the world. Currently he is a blogger and a contributor at the Professional Intern. You can follow the Professional Intern on Twitter @TheProIntern.