Did Facebook jump the shark once parents and other "old" people got on it? Drexel University student Josh Weiss weighs in.
In CNBC's social media on campus series, we asked editors at college papers across the country: What social media platforms are hot? Are any of them dead or just for old people? This first installment is by Josh Weiss, a fourth-year junior at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
While I may lose my inheritance for admitting it, I am the child of those parents who have Facebook accounts and barely know how to use them. Watching a baby boomer try to use social media is like watching an agonized elephant stampeding precariously close to a nest of newly hatched chicken eggs. In other words, it's hard to witness and irreversible damage could be done. And no matter how much my siblings and I beg, they refuse to be taught how to properly use it.
That being said, social media hasn't taken a downward spiral in popularity just because an older, less "hip" generation is trying to embrace it. In fact, social media is an indispensable, ever-present part of college life — like overpriced textbooks and communal bathrooms.
Personally, I am an avid user of social media, something I am both proud and ashamed to admit in equal measures. Yes, it can be a waste of time and we've all run out the clock, scrolling through a newsfeed we've seen a million times. At the same time, it allows you to stay connected with the world. I'd be lying if I didn't say I don't get the vast majority of my news from Facebook. I also use it to stay in touch with friends. While some students may use it at its bare minimum to stay up-to-date with the world or group projects, I see it as a time-wasting means to an end. I use it to reach out to old friends or discuss pop culture and make plans with current ones.
In terms of my school, Drexel is a very technical place of learning, very well-known for its engineering program. We're no strangers to the modern age and it's not out of the norm to see students carrying around plastic boxes of random of parts that could very well become a breakthrough in artificial intelligence or some elaborate Pee-wee Herman/Rube Goldberg breakfast machine of the future. Hey, you never know.
Most students use social media on a daily basis – in particular, Facebook and Twitter . Both are important tools for student groups and the university administration for updating students and faculty on what's going on around campus. It's especially important when you consider that Drexel is a city school, surrounded by all the various happenings of a city from a water main break to a political protest. As the social media director of the school's newspaper, I often use our social media accounts to provide updates on everything from robberies on campus (someone once robbed a cookie truck with brass knuckles), to weather updates (school cancellations and the like) and general school updates (they began construction on a new building or established a new college, etc.).
On the other hand, social media isn't one-sided at Drexel. I belong to several Facebook groups that are used by student leaders to promote events or for individuals to advertise apartments for rent. As a Jewish student on campus, social media groups for Hillel and Chabad help forge a community of sorts in which we can all grow closer over a shared heritage and culture. Even wedding announcements of students and alumni are announced via social media.
Snapchat is fast becoming one of the most frequently used social media apps on campus because its story feature allows you to document your life in pictures and short video clips. During the eight days of Hanukkah, my friends' snap stories were saturated with the giant menorah in the center of campus or of frying latkes using the Philadelphia or Drexel geotags: filters that label where you are.
However, I've seen Snapchat used the other way so that people are living more through the screens of their phones than in the moment. I'm a frat boy and have been to my fair share of college parties where people are recording the nocturnal debauchery instead of just having a good time. I, myself, am guilty of it. Once, a group of girls entered my fraternity's house just to take pictures in the basement. A sign of the times we're living in, folks.
Other platforms like Yik Yak (an anonymous Twitter) and Instagram are used more by people trying to find drugs or parties and sorority girls showing off their little sisters and plates of nachos, shrimp scampi, and pitchers of sangria. I know people who literally live and die by the number of likes they receive on a photo and on more than one occasion I've been asked to like a picture from all the accounts I run.
Social media can end up running our lives – or even enabling our bad behavior – but if we harness it right, it can help us connect with people and run our lives more efficiently – old and young alike!
Commentary by Josh Weiss, a fourth-year junior at Drexel University, majoring in communications. He is also the direction of social media the school's independent newspaper and a contributing editor to Drexel's branch of the Odyssey, an online student news network that brings together content from over 100 campuses across the U.S., and an intern at CNBC.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaHWeiss.