Could Social Networks be Disconnecting College Students From Jobs?

When it comes to social networks, Katie Fendick is “always plugged in.”

“It’s a way to stay in touch with people, or stay in touch with the world around you,” she says.

Fendick, 21, is a graphic design major. She transferred recently from the University of San Francisco to City College of San Francisco. Brown hair, a taste for spicy tuna, and a tendency to dote on her cat are just a few of her characteristics, and they are neither more or less distinguishing than her ability to use social networks. That, too, comes naturally to her.

Fendick says, when a new tool goes public she will “sign up and use it once to see.”        She got hooked in 1996 with, what in her opinion was the original online networking too, AIM. Today, she regularly uses Facebook, Twitter and the newly emerging Foursquare. She has a Youtube account, a Tumblr blog, a Myspace profile, and she plays games on Zynga. She has tried LiveJournal, LinkedIn, WordPress, and ZOOST, which she says started as an events calendar but “changed into a dating thing.” She tried AshleyMadison, a Web site where unhappily married women find men to have affairs with, just for a laugh. Likewise, I Just Made Love, a Web site where couples post when, where and in what position they had sex. Fendick points out a post from March 29, 2010 from USF’s Loyola Village housing unit. Her most recent discovery is GetGlue, where people post what television shows they are watching.

She says, “I have developed a persona but that persona is very natural. I think people that use things like Twitter to make themselves seem interesting in their work field … I think they are faking it.”

Michael Robertson, former San Francisco Chronicle writer, and current USF professor of journalism says that the ability to package information with social networks, in a world of constant communication, is a useful skill. As an example, Robertson tells the story of a former student, who was just hired to a music Website as a writer after she responded to a Tweet and the editors read her blog.

He says another student was just been hired as the “social networking person for some company, making like $90,000 a year.”

“Former grads say you need to do it. You need to establish a credible Web presence.”

Bryce Muhlenberg, 22, is a senior Media Studies major at USF and he does not use social networks.

“I don’t even Facebook,” he says.

Muhlenberg thinks USF’s media studies professors put a lot of emphasis on using social networks, and he has become worried that something he once considered a hobby could become a deciding factor in his future. He looks around his apartment. He says that after he graduates he will lose the benefits he receives from the GI Bill and will not be able to afford the place.

“When I go for an interview, I’m afraid that they will look to see what I’ve been doing online, which is nothing, and I won’t get the job.”

Muhlenberg worked as a photographer, a writer, and an editor for the Marine press corps when he was in Afghanistan. He still says, “I feel like I’m at a disadvantage because I’m not familiar with the landscape, the tools, the culture. I feel like people who do it have something to show and I don’t.”

When Robertson was writing, he says, “there was no real equivalent o this constant conversation,” and in his opinion, the chatter will no cease anytime soon.

He says, “it is a technology that seems to have operationalized a natural instinct in human beings.”

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