Diary Of A Fresher: 'Facebook is an essential part of social life at university'

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The Independent Online

My Year 10 English teacher has Facebook. My mum's kid brother (now middle-aged) has Facebook. Even my grandmother has Facebook, so it's probably fair to guess that you have Facebook too.

Since Facebook became more granny-friendly a few years ago, it no longer matters whether you're the kind of person who's reading this because you're roughly like me or because you're roughly like my parents. Still, you adults just don't do Facebook like we do Facebook. For you it's a curiosity, a fad, a nice way of letting all 15 of your "friends" know how splendid your holiday in Tunisia was, right? For us, it's a little different.

Facebook is pretty essential for life at uni. Any university-based play, concert, political campaign or party will inevitably be organised through Facebook. It ensures that a photographic record of your time as a student is thrust into cyberspace for eternity. It's a neat deterrent against committing a serious crime or becoming famous, for should either occur, every publication can have access to a wealth of drunken pictures of you, should Facebook wish it.

Worse, when you live in student accommodation, it's very easy to leave yourself open to the modification of your clumsily unguarded page by a friend, most typically involving a status change declaring one's interest in members of the same sex. Gone, I fear, are the good old days when students put cars on the roofs of prominent buildings when they felt mischievous.

More extreme practices aside, it is delightfully counter-productive to keep Facebook open while slogging through a research essay: watching friends periodically update their statuses, often about their progress through their own essays, makes procrastination seem almost sociable. The more active form of Facebook procrastination, that of looking through the profiles of one's friends, enemies, and anyone whose profile can be accessed, is known affectionately as Facebook "stalking".

Being part of a university network makes this particularly fun, as it allows you to see the profiles of most other people at your uni, whether you're "friends" with them or not.

This can cut both ways of course, with the possibility of the university itself spying on you being particularly disturbing. I've never found any direct evidence of this, but I've no doubt it happens. I don't think it's having double standards to say that, when we do it it's a bit of fun, but if the uni does it, it crosses a line.

Facebook is also a crucial part of any student's public persona. Your Facebook will be among the first things anyone who wants to find out more about you will look at, whether they're a new supervision partner, friends of friends, or even, perhaps, the occasional girl encountered while clubbing. That's the hope, anyway.

Most people choose either to nail their colours to the mast by making a pristine, classy, detailed profile with several carefully chosen applications, or alternatively keep their page to the bare minimum. I tend towards the latter, though that probably says more about my workload than my social life.

Taking this position to the extreme, someone could opt to not have a Facebook page at all, but that's way too counter-culture even for me.