Engaging Sociologically with Students’ Facebook Usage
It’s the middle of class. Looking out into the classroom, a dim light reflects on students’ faces as they stare or type into the devices in front of them. Walking up and down the aisles, blue-tinted Facebook pages on the students’ screens are usually the source of the reflected light.
While such students might seem withdrawn from the class, this familiar scene holds a potential goldmine of sociological exploration and examples.
If these students are already intently interested in, or “studying” the profiles and usage of their friends and themselves, why not engage them to do so via in-class assignments and beyond? The setting seems ripe for investigation on topics like presentation of self, production of identities, symbolic boundaries, and social interaction of all sorts.
Some sociology departments anchor courses in such investigations. According the article “College Offers Facebook Sociology Course,” Nell Vidyarthi explains,
As a student, I was always amazed by the abilities of students to simultaneously “pay attention” and browse Facebook, but a new course from Bowdoin College in Maine brings Facebook into the course load. Entitled “In the Facebook Age”, the course analyzes sociological concepts and applies them to the emerging phenomena of Facebook and other social networks. The course itself is fluid, and its material responds to the changes that occur every day in the social sphere.
Other sociology courses could find ways to weave their themes and concepts into things that could be analyzed by using Facebook (as long as bias and investigation are incorporated into such assignments or discussions). With the many facets and pieces of information we all provide for each other via Facebook and the time our students already spend interacting through it, it seems absurd not to engage them to sociologically utilize the time they spend there.
In what ways do you or others engage sociologically with students’ Facebook usage?