Away From the Keyboard: The Building of Social Networks and Social Relationships in Person.
There’s a pretty good chance that you are one of the 901 million active Facebook users or the 500 million on Twitter. You also may have caught the Facebook and Twitter bug going around, and find yourself constantly on either (or both!) of these sites. However, it’s important that you remember that social networking works both on and off of the net. Don’t forget that meeting people is only half the battle, you must also maintain these relationships.
Even if you plan to attend college with your best friends, there are other people to meet. Meeting these other people should also be on the top ten of your to-do list. You never know when you’ll need a study buddy, somebody to take a midnight food run with or to just periodically hangout.
One of the easiest ways to meet new people is to get involved on campus. Within the first week or two, most campuses have Club Fairs. Whether it is a community service club, theatre group or the anime club, there’s at least one thing you have in common (the interest that brought you to the club) and that can open doors.
Other clubs may link you to other students culturally, and not rely on a common interest. Nearly every campus will have a minority group or resource available that can provide cultural unity or a chance to learn about another culture. A group of people love when others want to learn about their lifestyles.
For a greater effect, putting yourself in a place of power, such as Student Government or a club’s Executive Board (eBoard) is an excellent choice. Chairs interact with entire clubs and other intermingled organizations. Chairs are faces that are recognizable by club members as friendly, open, and willing to help if something goes wrong.
However, since joining clubs doesn’t always work, there a few different ways to go about meeting new people in a new setting.
Unexpected Friends in Unexpected Places
Sometimes social networking is just about taking chances and letting the unexpected happen. During my Freshman Orientation, I realized that I hadn’t met much of anybody that didn’t live on my floor. The day was nice and I decided that I might as well go out and meet some new friends. From my dorm window, I could see three students – a guy and two girls – all from different colleges in the university; sitting on the statue we called “The Cake.” I went out and after a few minutes started talking to them. One of the girls happens to be one of my closest friends since starting college and I worked with her and the other girl, though I never saw the guy again.
I’m not sure if spontaneity will work as well as it did for me, but it’s worth giving a try. The best part about being spontaneous is that you never really know how well you’ll get along with the person you’re meeting. It’s also the worst part of being spontaneous. Chances are that someone you’ve randomly met has as little in common with you as possible. You have different tastes in music, movies, sports, art and they’re in a major you haven’t even heard of. A week later you’re out getting lunch with a group of people you thought you’d never be friends with in a million years. Or it’s a total flop and you awkwardly walk by each other hoping that they don’t recognize you because, as far as you know, their name is the last thing in the world that you would ever know.
If you want to get a head start on meeting different people, looking for a Facebook page or group will let you screen candidates. Pages like “Accepted Student 201x” provide a chance to tell others about yourself. More than likely, anyone who likes or comments on the post is someone you should get to know. And fair warning; don’t judge a person completely their profile. While the internet makes this type of thing a lot easier, it is even easier to misperceive someone when you haven’t met face to face, which may not happen immediately. After an entire year, there are still 5 out of the hundred or so classmates I haven’t met.
Once your network is built, there’s the matter of using it. The major networks you should focus on utilizing are professional networks. For those who have used the professional networking site, LinkedIn, may already be clued in on how professional social networking works. The saying “It’s who you know,” is dead on. Getting to know someone on a personal level will open doors. Whether it’s a mentor, a professor or a friend, having someone close to you who can attest to your skills, personality, work ethic, etc… is never a bad thing to have.
But no matter your intentions, unless malice, learning to take advantage of social networking opportunities far outweighs avoiding them.