Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Students cautioned about Facebook, MySpace

Whether looking for the weekend’s big party or a long-lost friend, Web sites like and offer online worlds of infinite social connections. But DU’s message to students is: beware. 

Student orientation Director Lisa Matye Edwards says she wants students to understand that employers, stalkers, police and professors have access to the profiles people build on these sites. Edwards and education master’s candidate Jillian Marchi led a discussion about Facebook for second-year students during the Second Year Experience Conference on Sept. 10. 

Members of MySpace and Facebook are given a Web page where they post pictures, quotations, likes, dislikes and blog entries. Profiles can be specific or vague. Some users provide their birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers and street addresses. Member pages also include links to friends’ pages. 

“[Posting on MySpace or Facebook] is the same thing as having a conversation in the dining hall and thinking no one else can hear,” Edwards says. “They’re in a public place.” 

MySpace is offered to anyone over age 14—although this policy is loosely enforced—and according to some estimates, the site has more than 100 million members. Facebook boasts 7.7 million members, and it poses a specific challenge to universities because its membership is only open to people with school e-mail addresses. 

At the conference, Edwards says they discussed Facebook etiquette and asked students questions such as: “How would this look to someone who didn’t know you, particularly if this was a potential employer?”

In a research paper she wrote about Facebook, Marchi detailed several instances of student-athletes who got into trouble through social networking sites. Among them, members of San Diego State University’s men’s soccer team were suspended after refusing to remove pictures of themselves partying and snide remarks about their coach and team posted on Facebook. 

Marchi also referenced a case reported in the Boston Globe, where a 16-year-old from Evergreen, Colo., was arrested on weapons charges after law enforcement officers found pictures on MySpace of him surrounded by guns. 

University Technology Services created a new policy regarding social networking sites. In part, “The University neither endorses nor prohibits the use of such services. However, the University does urge you to use extreme caution when posting personal information online.” 

The policy warns users not to post pictures of illegal activities and embarrassing or inappropriate material. It urges users to take advantage of privacy settings and to read the sites’ terms and conditions. 

Marchi also expressed concerns about the sites’ possible effects on student communication. As a Campus Activities graduate assistant, she says she has observed students “Facebooking” their roommate rather than talking. 

Marchi says if students grow overly dependent on the Internet for communication and don’t learn to communicate verbally, it could hurt their future job prospects.

First-year hospitality major Liz Bender first contacted her future roommate through Facebook rather than by phone. Bender also created the Facebook group DU 2010, which has 372 members. 

For Bender, Facebook has eased the transition from high school to college.

“If I didn’t have [Facebook], I’d probably be a lot more nervous than I am because I wouldn’t know anyone,” she says.

This article originally appeared in The Source, September 2006.

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