After celebrating her graduation from the University of Michigan, one of the first things my sister did was sign on to Facebook and proudly switch her affiliation from “Current Student” to “Alumni.” Soon, millions of other high school and college graduates will walk across the stage, throw their caps in the air and in a sign of the times, update online profiles to reflect their rite of passage.
Already, MySpace and Facebook profiles of this year’s graduating classes are decked out with photos of prom nights, friends draped in graduation robes and with sparkling graphics bursting with the words “Class of 06!”
I spoke with some members of this year’s high school and college graduating classes to find out if they planned on changing their online presence once they graduated. They generally agreed that for them sites like MySpace and Facebook aren’t temporary and they plan on maintaining their pages into the next phase of life.
“MySpace is not ‘too high school,’” says Amanda, a senior from Phoenix, Arizona. She points out, more people joined social networks after graduation.
“Most of my friends who swore to never get them are finally getting MySpaces so they can keep in touch with people in college,” she says.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of MySpace.com, the hugely popular social networking site that offers users an interactive network of user profiles, blogs, and photos. Facebook works in much the same way, although its members are grouped by school, making it easy for alumni to connect.
Past graduates say they value the classmate friendships Facebook and MySpace have helped them maintain.
“They make it easier to communicate with people as we leave college,” says Irina Svetlichnaya, a 2005 NYU graduate says. “It's great to have these communication tools to use and stay in touch.”
In fact, Elon College graduate Megan Deasy says staying in touch is the main reason she and her friends will continue to use social networks after graduation.
“Me and my roommates are all still going to use Facebook, but we plan on taking off a lot of things and using it more as a networking tool and a way to keep in touch with old friends,” Deasy says.
Updating a profile on a social networking site like MySpace.com or FaceBook takes mere seconds. Facebook user and New York University grad Katie Phelan says she updates her page to “reflect who I am at different moments,” but won’t specifically make her profile more “serious, professional or mature.”
Tommy, 17, is from California. He's also in the high school Class of ’06 group on MySpace, which has more than 41,000 members. He says he doesn’t plan on altering his page to reflect his status as a high school graduate or be influenced by any new-found sense of maturity.
“I don't create my profile based on age,” he says. “I base it off my creativity.”
And unlike most teenage trends that come and go, there are no signs that future graduating classes won’t use MySpace and Facebook as well. Already, the top five MySpace groups in the Schools & Alumni category include one dedicated to the class of ’07 and another to the class of ’08.
I get a little nostalgic for the days when my online profile was mostly party pictures and Simpsons quotes. And I felt a little old visiting Class of ’06 groups. But hey, I’m at a different stage in life now, and so is my online profile.
To my sister and to the rest of the college class of 2006, congratulations on your Facebook and MySpace graduations. Welcome to the real world.