BY JESSICA BAKEMAN
Face it: we are the tech generation. And if you think you have a million uses for the internet now, just wait until you're a full-blown college student, knee deep in class work and the prospects of the coming weekend's party scene.
You can utilize the internet in your search for sanity -- a.k.a., the college "balance" between working toward your bachelor's degree, and being a bachelor yourself.
Below are some social networking sites that can come in handy, and some ways to use them that you might not have thought about.
With the Facebook news feed and its recent expansion into languages other than English, this site makes it almost impossible for users to lose track of their friends' activities.
However, knowing the ins and outs of this social networking site can specifically contribute to enhancing your college experience.
• Group projects: Facebook groups are very popular for group projects, used to set up meeting dates, divvy up work, and simply connect students who may be running around to all different corners of campus. William Keating, a senior at SUNY Brockport, says he uses Facebook in many ways academically, including "if you have no other way in getting in contact with a classmate, if you need an assignment, or if you're working with a group," he said.
• Friends: Simply adding friends can give you another opportunity to meet new people, especially if you're a freshman, Brockport senior Kyle Amendola says. "When you add people as friends you get updates about what they are doing," which can be useful for staying in touch, he says, but "kind of creepy sometimes." There may be a fine line between an easy way to find out info about your friends, and getting way too much information. Amendola, who is also the president of student government at Brockport, says that his marketing associates use the Facebook events application to get the word out about campus events.
• Applications: Although some can be extremely annoying at times, Facebook also offers some very useful apps. For example, by using NYTimes.com Most E-mailed Articles, you can grab the articles that are stirring up the most controversy, and stay up-to-date with what's going on in the world, not just your campus.
This site, similar to Facebook, offers tools that may significantly enhance the life of a college student -- if you know where to look.
• Impact: This segment of the site gives opportunities for political and social online activities, as well as raising funds for charities. This could be a center of community service for a college student who would prefer to make a difference with a click of the mouse.
• Entertainment: MySpace has a video/TV channel and a celebrity gossip channel that can keep you informed on what's going on in the entertainment world.
• Classifieds: The site displays a classifieds section where students can look for job opportunities in their area. This can be a quick and simple way to find an off-campus job and earn a little extra dough. (You'll probably need it!)
• Forums: Online discussion forums, a feature you will find on many social networking sites, can connect you to opinions and of other students around the world, and spark some serious debates.
Rate My Professors
You may be familiar with the high school version of this site, but the college one will be of more use to you, as you usually have more freedom in the selection of classes and professors.
• Ratings: If you think that you can trust the opinions of your fellow college-goers, log onto ratemyprofessors.com and search for your potential teachers. Making your schedule? This site can tell you how much work to expect, how hard of a grader the teacher is, and even the hotness factor.
For example, on the ratings segment for Nazareth, you'll find a teacher who, according to the comments, "makes references to his friend Yoda and plays music videos," and one who is "frustrating sometimes and can be a little wacky." Take it with a grain of salt. (Oh, and by the way, RateMyProfessors is now available as a Facebook application. Talk about one-stop shopping!)
• Professors Strike Back: Don't think that students are the only ones reading this site. Professors see what you write about them -- anonymously, if you choose -- and in a relatively new feature have been sending in video responses to their students' criticisms. So far, there aren't any teachers from Rochester-area schools who have submitted these retaliations; however, if you make one angry enough, that might change.
YouTube's main site -- and also channels specifically created for the collegiate audience -- are resources at every student's fingertips. "What's most exciting about higher-education on YouTube is that the breadth of content is limitless," says Elizabeth Linder, a spokeswoman for the online video site. "From lectures to sports games, a cappella concerts to archival content, these channels are both portraits of higher-education institutions and open platforms for learning and sharing ideas."
• University channels: The only Rochester school with a YouTube channel is UR. The school has put together an admissions channel, with videos crammed with information and online tours of the campus. And you can also use the channel to access taped lectures. Didn't make it to class today? You may be able to find what you missed online.
• Most Viewed videos: These videos give you the opportunity to see what other YouTube users have been watching, including your peers all over the country. The Most Viewed videos have more than 300,000 views in some cases, and include political statements, entertainment clips, and some titles that shouldn't be mentioned without a parental advisory.
• YouTube Mobile: This feature can keep you connected to all your favorite videos no matter where you are on campus, as you can access them through your cell. Just go to http://m.youtube.com on your phone, or go online to download the application. (Not all phones are compatible.)
But be wary...
It's not all fun and games. As useful as social networking sites can be, they can also mean trouble. Brockport senior Kyle Amendola gave this advice: "You wouldn't want to put anything on [your page] that you wouldn't want to be on the front page of the newspaper." Here are some more specific tips:
• Make your profile page private. It's common knowledge that employers look at social networking sites to get a better idea of their potential employees' character. Make your page private and you'll know who has access to your personal information.
• Not everyone is your friend. It's easy to simply confirm any random person as your friend. But remember that with one click, you're allowing access to your profile. You wouldn't walk up to someone on the street and tell him your full name, where you go to school, and show him your prom (and after-prom) pictures, so think before you do it online.
• Restrict the info. Do you have to put up your address or your college dorm room? Is it necessary to put your phone number and your date of birth? Think carefully about each piece of information before you share it with the world.
• A thousand words. Nude photos are not the answer. Period. And don't incriminate yourself with pictures of yourself performing illegal activities.