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The Evolution of Social Media Use on College Campuses

It wasn’t all that long ago that Facebook was the social media service of choice for most college students. As with most things in the technology world, however, social media use on college campuses is rapidly changing and evolving.

According to the recent Global Media Impact Study, 67 percent of the college students surveyed indicated that they are Facebook users. While this might seem like a lot, this actually represents a 12 percent decrease from the previous year.

Why the Rapid Exodus From Facebook?

The lessening of Facebook’s appeal with teenagers and young adults can be traced to a variety of factors. The fact that an increasing number of adults have started using Facebook in recent years has made it become “uncool” to younger users. Most 19- and 20-year-olds are yearning to break free from parental control — the last thing they want is for Mom and Dad to have easy access to the intimate details of their lives while at college. Increasing concerns about Facebook privacy issues have also caused many students to seek less invasive social media outlets.

Another factor is the pervasiveness of smart phones. As more students acquire iPhone or Android devices, they have also started making the transition to simpler social media services that are more compatible with mobile phone use.

What Social Media Sources Are College Students Using Now?

So which social media sources are now posing a threat to Facebook’s supremacy? There are several, including some newcomers and a few well-established social media giants. Each platform is regarded as being smart phone-friendly:

Snapchat — Snapchat is a photo messaging application that enables users to easily take photos and record videos. The multimedia is then sent with accompanying text to targeted recipients. Snapchat was specifically designed for use with mobile devices, making it popular with smart phone users.

According to one study, 77 percent of students indicated that they use Snapchat at least once a day. CNET points out that Snapchat has now surpassed Facebook in the number of photo uploads. Interestingly, Facebook recently attempted to purchase Snapchat, but the deal fell through.

Twitter — Perhaps Facebook’s biggest rival, Twitter’s 140-character format is mobile-device friendly. Tweeting gives bored students something to do while sitting through a tedious lecture. Users can make quick, real-time comments on concerts, sports, movies, the previous night’s party, or whatever else is on their mind.

Instagram — Instagram is much like Twitter, only with visual capabilities. An attractive feature of Instagram is that it enables self-expression via photos. Users can implement a variety of effects to alter the appearance of a photo before posting it.

Vine: A property of Twitter, Vine allows users to record six-second videos. This length is ideal for the relatively short attention span of many college students. The Vine app also features a built-in camera, which only operates while the screen is being touched. This enables the user to make quick edits and to create a stop-action visual effect.

Tumblr: Tumblr combines video, text, photos, and audio. While Tumbler provides users with more options than other social media forms, it’s also more labor intensive. Tumblr is not the best choice for students seeking maximum ease of use.

WhatsApp: WhatsApp is a subscription-based instant messenger service specifically designed for smart phones. In addition to text messaging, the app provides the capability to send images, audio, and video content. Initially offered as a free service, users must now pay for a WhatsApp subscription.

Ello: Ello is a new social media service that has captured the attention of many disgruntled Facebook users. Unlike Facebook, individuals must be invited to register to become an Ello user. Ello is also advertisement-free. Users are not required to provide their real names, enabling them to remain anonymous.

Social Media Is Making Email Obsolete

Another interesting development in the evolution of social media on college campuses is its impact on email usage. In recent years, students have moved away from email as a communication tool. They now favor social media as a way to get information. Many frustrated professors and administrators have discovered that the emails they send to students often go unread. Some students are not even aware that they have a college-supplied email account at their disposal.

Additionally, some colleges that have attempted to reach students via social media have experienced great difficulty thus far. It appears that many students simply don’t trust the information placed on social media by campus sources, perceiving it to be unreliable. Administrators will need to strengthen their social media efforts if they wish to use it as a viable communication option in the future.

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