Facebook is ubiquitous on college campuses. Students use the social networking site to share pictures, make new friends, connect with old friends and of course, e-stalk crushes (although I like to think of it as investigative journalism).
However, Facebook is being used for a much more useful purpose by Harvard and UCLA researchers. A study initiated in March 2006 by Harvard’s Sociology department and a UCLA sociology professor is examining the social habits of college undergraduates, said an articlein The Harvard Crimson, titled “Facebook Maps Networks.”
The goal of the study is to better understand how students form social ties and whether factors such as race, gender, or personal interests affect relationship formation, said the article. The study will focus on a 2009 class at an undisclosed college.
Preliminary finding have shown that social networks among college students are fairly homogeneous. The study has also shown that race and gender are factors in social networks. The data also shows that African American students tend to have larger social networks and White students have more racially homogeneous social networks, said the article.
Another article in The New York Times said, Facebook can provide sociologists, psychologists and political scientists with wealth of knowledge.
Anyone who has taken a sociology course or anyone who is particularly observant should not be surprised by these findings. After reading several articleson the study I examined my own Facebook account and several friends’ accounts and the findings seem to be fairly accurate, at least in my own network.
My sociology teacher was just discussing this phenomena, social homopholy, or the idea that “birds of a feather flock together” and how it is especially evident at MU. She pointed to the area in Brady Commons known as the “Black Hole” where many African Americans hang out. There is a noticeable division between the African American students and the White students.
You might not believe this trend but just take a look around the next time you’re on campus and see who’s around who; it’s likely they’ll be similar to each other.
Even though it seems like our culture has come a long way in terms of diversity, this study shows we could go a lot further. It’s especially relevant considering February is Black History Month. So, I hope people will go to some Black History Month events or other cultural events and meet some different people. After all, variety is the spice of life.