By Graig Graziosi
Just over 10 years ago, Youngstown State University students first signed up for what would become arguably the most influential website in existence.
Facebook, then called Thefacebook, was opened to YSU students on April 7, 2005 as part of the company’s expansion into larger markets. Where Thefacebook initially was reserved for Harvard students and then the Ivy League in general, founder Mark Zuckerberg began allowing access to the website for anyone with a .edu email account during 2005. He dropped the “The” in the website’s name in October of the same year, but not before YSU students signed up.
Most current YSU students were just entering their teenage years when Facebook first arrived on college campuses, but for students on campus when Thefacebook first became available, such as alumnus Bob McGovern, trying out the budding media was an easy decision.
“I don’t think it was a tough sell for most students. A lot of us, myself included, learned about it from friends at other schools, so we were relatively familiar with it. Everyone probably had a friend of a friend who was on it,” McGovern said.
McGovern, a former Student Government Association president, recalls seeing early potential for the program beyond keeping tabs on friends as well as the budding of the first privacy concerns associated with the platform.
“One of my first thoughts was how useful Facebook would be in SGA elections, and that definitely came to pass the following year,” McGovern said. “At first there was no newsfeed. … When newsfeed came out, some people didn’t like it at first. That was one of the first times privacy came up, I think. Sure, people were already putting this information out there but all of a sudden the rules changed about how it was broadcast, even if the audience was technically the same. Obviously that wasn’t the last time that would come up.”
Since the social media site’s first day on campus, the world of interpersonal communication at YSU has been evolving to reflect the current trends in social media. The phrase “social media” had barely permeated the cultural consciousness 10 years ago. Today, students can focus their studies around social media and the marketing potentials therein.
Despite beginning as a way for college students to keep track of each other’s social lives, Facebook eventually became a tool for marketing, self-promotion, political campaigns and as a means for screening potential new hires.
As social media began to influence the hiring practices of job recruiters, there became a necessity for career guides in colleges to educate their students about the potential benefits and pitfalls of their online presence.
Jennifer Johnson, director of Career Services, helps students stay abreast of the changing expectations of job recruiters, including how those recruiters are using social media to find potential candidates.
“With Facebook, there’s a whole new consideration for students for what they put out [onto the Internet] for the public to view,” Johnson said. “Job recruiters are known to scour social media profiles of students, so we always tell students to ‘Google’ themselves and to see what’s out there. If they’re using Facebook, they should be sure to use privacy setting and of course be careful about photo tags.”
In the coming decade, more students who have never known a time without social media will begin entering college. Johnson said she believes it will be imperative for those students to educate themselves as to the expectations employers — most who come from a vastly different world than the new students — will have of them.
“I think that for more and more generations who grow up surrounded by social media, it’s going to become imperative that they’re trained to understand the difference between being social online and between the things that could negatively impact their professional lives,” Johnson said. “You mature professionally as you go through college. Some will learn the hard way and some will get the advice they need early on.”
Ultimately, Johnson said she believes one of the most significant changes social media has brought will not be in the way we communicate socially, but the way we communicate our marketable skills to potential employers.
“On the positive side, social media — not so much Facebook, but LinkedIn — has become a resource for both students and recruiters … some of the recruiters from larger companies are saying they feel like we’re on the cusp of a time when the traditional resume will go out the door,” she said. “I don’t believe the resume is necessarily going to go away, but it may become more supplemental than primary as more and more recruiters search for employees on social media first.”
Few can argue that the way we communicate has been drastically changed over the last 10 years. As younger students enter their college years and new forms of social media interactions — like Tumblr, Yik Yak and dating apps — are introduced, the trend toward change is very likely to continue.