I work full-time in the office of international services and part of my responsibility includes assisting in technical aspects of international orientation. This past international orientation, we invited admitted international students to a facebook group as a medium to communicate prior to arrival to the United States. Our intent was for facebook to be a place where the students can choose to network and participate in a single forum for answering questions. We had an amazing number of responses with an estimated half of the new international population joining the international student orientation group. Several students proactively participated in the group forum and wall as well.
Despite active participation by some, however, based on an anonymous survey, most students do not appear to have benefited greatly from the invitation. For many it was their first introduction to a social networking site. Some others had experience with social networking sites, but they did not find the group useful. For some, the ‘social’ aspect of social networking sites was not desired and in some cases the site didn’t appear to work or caused confusion. Privacy was another concern preventing some from registering. We concluded that the aura of informality associated with social networking sites clearly transcends international barriers.
Based on anonymous feedback surveys, email was the most informative form of communication for over 80% of the international population. This makes sense because the code which includes the sender, formal recipient, addresses and addressee, are so standardized across cultural barriers that email is much more effective than websites or social forums.
In contrast, use of facebook by our office for advertising social events has been very effective for existing members of facebook because of the viral effect of attendees and participants inviting their friends. Last week, weinvited 280 students to the IU World’s Fare event, and now over 1,500 students have been invited to the event. Clearly, medium plays a major part in the code.