Facebook study shows where friendships start

Reanna Delgadillo

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Freshman Adam Weisberger said he has met many people since beginning his first year of college at CSUN.

“Most of them actually are in my dorm or in my classes,” Weisberger said.

Weisberger, 18, said he has mostly met his friends in his general education classes.

The biology major said he has never become friends with someone for the sole reason that they share the same race as him.

“It’s just their personality, they’re the best,” Weisberger said, adding that what matters most is if the person is a good friend.

Weisberger is not alone in the qualities he looks for in his friendships with his college peers.

A new study published by researchers from UCLA and Harvard University shows  first-year students are more likely to forge friendships with people they live with in their dorms or see in class than people who merely share the same race.

The researchers utilized the social networking website Facebook and studied the profiles of the 2009 freshman class. Instead of using the “friend” feature, the researchers followed the students’ photos and the “tagging” feature. This was used to make sure these were  real-life connections, not just online acquaintances.

“It makes sense that social relationships are more of a function of what people are doing than demographics,” said Dr. Ellis Godard, CSUN sociology professor.

Godard said that although it is easy to say race does not matter anymore in friendships, it must clearly be a factor or this issue would not have been raised.

“It (race) just maybe doesn’t matter as much as it did,” Godard said.

She said the subject of the study, college freshman race, would no longer be an issue due to the extreme change the students have gone through.

“All kinds of things have changed, they’re not living at home, they’re living in the dorms,” Godard said. “Family connections are weaker, connections to church and high school and all those old connections they had are broken.”

Godard said by the time these students are seniors, they could reorganize again into different racial groups in comparison to the freshman students bonding now with their fellow dorm mates or classmates.

Using Facebook for their tool of study was also addressed by the researchers, who said they received permission from the networking website and only viewed public profiles.

“It (Facebook) has allowed people to revisit and reinvigorate old friendships,” Godard said. “Conversely, it doesn’t generate new friendships.”

She also said prior to Facebook, millions of people were meeting strangers through newsgroups or bulletin boards because they all shared some common interest.

“Now through Facebook, you’re more likely to connect with people you’re already connected with,” Godard said.

Instead of breaking down boundaries, Facebook puts attention to all the boundaries a person comes with.

Godard said the information on Facebook profiles such as “here’s where I went to high school, here’s where I work, here’s my favorite book” is how people are going to connect with others which would lessen the chance of finding new friends.

Jennifer Melgar, 18, said  she has also met many of her new friends in her common surroundings.

“I met them in classes, my building, and just randomly,” the freshman said.

Melgar said that while the majority of her friends are the same race as her, it is not a big factor in making friends and she likes to meet people of other races to learn about their cultures.

Brenda Melgar, 18, said she has met many of her new friends in her classes and through EOP (Educational Opportunity Program), an on-campus program which helps students with the transition from high school to a university.

“You meet a lot of new people from different backgrounds. They don’t know what they’re doing sometimes and you don’t either, so you just follow that same direction and get to know each other a little better,” Brenda  Melgar said.

Jennifer Melgar and Brenda Melgar said they met in the EOP summer program and found out then they had the same last name.

“Where I come from it’s generally Latinos only, so just coming here and it being really diverse it’s really cool. I just made my first Native American friend,” said Brenda Melgar, biology major.