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It is a common occurrence around campus to hear the phrase “It will be posted on Facebook soon” to end a meeting. A quick glance at most students’ Facebook group lists show involvement with at least three or four groups on Facebook specifically related to Principia. Whether that be the ‘Prin’s Crägslist’, a house page, an athletic team, a club, or any other reason, Principia students are always using Facebook as a means for communication. This makes sense, as Facebook was originally developed for college students.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook first began to allow anyone above the age of 13 to use the site in 2006. That would be when this year’s freshmen were in fourth grade, so the site has been around for a significant part of the lives of current students.
But Facebook is not the only social media giant that is clamoring for students’ attention. One such app, Yik Yak, was solely targeting college campuses for its growth. Created in November 2013, Yik Yak is basically Twitter with anonymity. It was inspired by Twitter handles like “@CollegeConfessions” and “@TotalFratMove,” which gained thousands of followers by posting anonymous tweets about weekend parties or campus events.
Principia got sucked into the Yik Yak storm in the fall of last year. One intriguing part of Yik Yak was that you could only see what was happening on the site if you checked the app constantly. A post that got five “down votes” was deleted off the page, while popular ones shot up in the rankings.
At first, the whole school reacted with enthusiasm to the app, with many “yaks” centered on complaints that students have had—such as the weather, homework, or food. Slowly, the app became infused with the darker side of being able to post as an unknown user: bullying posts cropped up with some regularity.
As issues with the app grew, so did the interest around school. Students who hadn’t even downloaded the app were constantly hearing about controversial posts. The app inspired so much buzz that most resident counselors downloaded the app to keep an eye out for any explicitly bullying posts.
Eventually, Principia students began to dislike the app, and this year it has not come close to reaching the influence or use it had last year. When interviewing students about Yik Yak one of the first questions inevitably asked was “Why are you bringing it up again?” Yik Yak’s reign as king of Principia’s gossip and drama is over due to the disdain with which students now regard it.
But other apps still fight for a slice of the Principia attention-span pie. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all battle for college users, which social media companies consider the most important demographic. According to Pew Research Center, once young adult users are hooked onto a site, they will visit it two to three times a day.
Nationwide, Facebook dominates the market with 71 percent of all Americans using it daily. All other social media is below 30 percent usage, which mirrors Principia’s social media habits.
During one class, sophomore Isabella Perea said to freshman Briggs Hurley, (who was on twitter), “You have a twitter?” and then followed that up with an incredulous “Do you tweet?” This is demonstrative of how rare it is to find a Principia tweeter. However, Twitter usage has actually shrunk from last year, according to Pew, and has fewer individuals tweeting now than this time last year.
The school itself has an Instagram, a Twitter page, and a Facebook page, but the most frequently visited of these by students is Principia’s Instagram. The Facebook page is more user-friendly for parents and alumni, and thus caters to that audience.
Principia students have very rarely deviated from Facebook for social media use, and statistically this matches up with the national averages. Pew reports that the death of Yik Yak on campus has happened at many colleges; the number of Yik Yak app downloads continues to decline. Also, Pew found that Twitter and Instagram battle for a limited audience, and Pinterest occupies an area that is almost exclusively used by women.
In the social media department, Principia is just like every other college in America: loyal to few sites, enticed by new ones, and always looking for the next big thing.