When people connect to college friends on Facebook, networks tend to form around graduation year and university housing, rather than shared interests, finds a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
Researchers studied the first colleges and universities to have students, faculty, or staff join Facebook in September 2005. As members joined, social networks formed.
Using community-detection techniques, researchers were able to identify groups within each network.
University networks that had groups largely formed around housing assignments tended to have smaller residence halls, or halls where students lived for multiple years.
Researcher Amanda Traud said:
We found that most groups were largely composed of people with the same graduation year, although some groups were composed of people who lived in the same university housing. I found it interesting that the subject people majored in and where people went to high school played little to no role in the social structure.
This indicates that universities can contribute to creating a strong sense of community among students by manipulating their student housing efforts. In the absence of these efforts, graduation year seems to be the default.
Readers: Do you find that your experiences with college friends on Facebook mirror the findings of the UNC-Chapel Hill study?
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