[AfrICANN-discuss] On the uses of the Internet -- For College Students, if it''s Facebook, it''s Love

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Thu Dec 6 12:33:59 SAST 2007

And it is for the week end smiles --

INTERNATIONAL: For College Students, if it''s Facebook, it''s Love

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

With profiles on the Facebook social-networking site almost de rigueur
on college campuses, students can define their relationship status
with menu choices ranging from "married" to that perennial favorite,
"It''s complicated."

"It''s complicated" could also describe the emotional calculations
people in their late teens and early 20s make as they decide whether
their relationships are what they call "Facebook-worthy."

For Stephanie Endicott and Marcus Smallegan, first-year students at
George Washington University, announcing to the world that they had
found love in a college dorm was a no-brainer.

"It was important for me to share this with my friends since I''m so
far away," Endicott, attending school 3,000 miles away from her home
in Maple Valley, Wash., said as she clasped Smallegan''s hand on a
park bench on the campus.

"Neither of us had been in a really good relationship before and ours
turned really good really fast," added Smallegan, who had posted a
relationship on Facebook once before, only to have that girl move out
of state and break up with him via a text message on his cell phone.

Some of their friends, however, have had less harmonious Facebook
experiences. Both Endicott and Smallegan know of other college
students who thought they were in a relationship--only to have it all
blow up when they tried to link their two Facebook profiles as a
couple, an option that requires the consent of both parties.

"It was this major emotional crisis breakdown," Smallegan said of a
close friend at a Midwestern university who was heartbroken when her
cyberlink was rebuffed by a young man who thought they were "just

Not all students post their relationship status. For some, it''s a
matter of privacy. For others, it''s all about marketability.

"I have NEVER changed my Facebook status--it has always been single,
even when I started to get involved with girls. I think it''s better
this way, until you are VERY serious, because people look, people
talk, etc., and unless it is super-serious it can ruin any chance with
any other girl!" one young man, who asked that his name be withheld to
avoid alienating his current and many ex-girlfriends, wrote in an

But for many couples, being "Facebook-worthy" confers a status on a

When a couple was "going steady" in the 1950s, the young man might
have let his girlfriend wear his Varsity team sweater or given her his
fraternity pin. But the 1960s swept aside those rituals. Now the
Facebook link has become a publicly-recognized symbol of a reasonably
serious intent short of being engaged or moving in together.

"For those in a relationship, the theme that kept echoing was that
Facebook made it official," said Nicole Ellison, an assistant
professor of telecommunication and information studies at Michigan
State University who has studied social networking sites. "That was
the term they used. And when the relationship fell apart, when you
broke up on Facebook, that''s when the breakup was official."

Facebook even produces a little red broken heart icon when a couple splits up.

Duke University student Adam Zell concurred. "Putting it on Facebook
made it official," said Zell, who had a "serious sit-down relationship
talk" with his girlfriend last year after two or three months
together. They made a joint decision to put "in a relationship" on
Facebook, and link profiles.

Dave Berkman, who does mental health counseling at the University of
Wisconsin clinic, finds that some students feel compelled to define
themselves on a Facebook page, or to compulsively update their status
over and over again.

"People are beginning to use it more than phones, more than text
messages, more than instant messaging, even more than talking in
person," he said. "It speeds things up. People are prone to define
where they are so they can show other people (online)."

If Facebook can certify a relationship, it can also destroy one.
Ellison in her research learned of one young couple in a
"Facebook-worthy" relationship. But he cheated with a young woman who
naturally looked up his Facebook profile. When she saw he had an
"official" Facebook girlfriend, she contacted the other woman.

"Then the two of them were in cahoots to make this guy''s life
miserable," Ellison said. "So if you are in a relationship and it''s
listed on Facebook, don''t cheat."

 By ZD Net

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