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Students use Twitter, Facebook to connect with current events

Megan Doyle | Friday, September 2, 2011

When the U.S. women’s national soccer team faced Brazil in the World Cup semifinals this summer, freshman Paul Anthony was stuck on the highway during a road trip.

However, thanks to the help of social media, Anthony did not miss an update.

“Instead of even following ESPN on my phone, I got on Twitter,” Anthony said. “Whenever someone scored, there would be tweets with ‘GOOOAAAALLLLLLL!!!'”

Anthony is one of many college students who rely on social media to stay updated on current events.

“I get news from Facebook and Twitter all the time, especially because of the trending topics,” Anthony said. “I don’t check news sites daily.”

Even though he does not have profiles on other networking sites like Google+ or LinkedIn, Anthony said he can still be distracted by his Facebook and Twitter pages.

“[Facebook] is up right now,” he said, gesturing to his laptop screen. “I would have it up on my computer whenever I’m working. I’m not necessarily being active on it all the time, but it’s there … It’s addicting.”

Freshman Maggie Lawrence also said she monitors social networking sites daily.

“When [former Apple CEO] Steve Jobs retired, I saw it on Facebook like two minutes after it happened,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence joined the “University of Notre Dame Class of 2015” page before she got to campus this fall. She said she also joined a page sponsored by her dorm, McGlinn Hall, which was helpful as she got ready for college.

As she prepared to head to school, Lawrence said she connected with two of her three roommates via Facebook before the girls even arrived on campus. The last member of her quad, however, still does not have a Facebook page.

“I think we’re all used to being able to find out about other people on Facebook,” Lawrence said. “I feel like sometimes people who don’t have [Facebook] don’t know about things that are happening because of that.”

College students are not the only demographic using social media. Economic professor Eric Sims started his Twitter, @ndeconprof, two years ago as a joke. Now, he tweets regularly about the latest news in economics and his thoughts on the Irish football team.

“I think it’s a really good way to keep track of news,” Sims said. “When we felt an earthquake on the seventh floor [of Flanner Hall], it was on Twitter immediately. It’s also a good way to meet people and a good way to keep track of people that you don’t hear from all the time.”

Sims said he tries to post interesting or relevant articles about his subject matter on Twitter for the students who follow his feed.

“I believe one of our roles as faculty at Notre Dame is to get to know our students and to be a mentor to them,” Sims said. “The more I can appear approachable because I’m using social media, I think that’s important. It’s important to be on the same level as your students.”

Fr. Tom Streit is another professor who uses Twitter in the classroom. His students in Common Human Diseases, a topical science course, can use Twitter to add to their participation grades in the class.

Junior Louis Medina said Streit encourages students to share news articles and questions with him via Twitter.

“We’ll tweet at him whatever we find, get some participation in and he’ll usually retweet for the entire class ⎯ his followers ⎯ to see,” Medina said. “Since most of us are usually wasting time on Twitter anyway, it actually proves really convenient to be able to tweet in some class participation and learning.”

Medina said he stays informed of campus, national and international news by following Twitter feeds and Facebook posts.

“I definitely use my social media sites as a news source,” he said. “I really don’t watch that much television … so I’ll often learn of new occurrences through someone’s status updates or hashtags.”

Social media sites streamline multiple sources of information in an efficient package, Medina said.

“Why have to turn on the television for some entertainment, go get the newspaper for current events or pick up the phone to make a phone call when you can get all of that through one simple visit to Facebook or Twitter?” Medina said. “I think it really just comes down to convenience, and in a time where we, as students, are probably the most stressed and busy we’ve ever been, social networking sites are just nice and easy to manage in a world full of information.”