Civic Engagement and Facebook Use Among College Students

Open Access
Author:
Carroll, Erin Marissa
Area of Honors:
Sociology
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Barrett Alan Lee, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jeffery Todd Ulmer, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Civic Engagement
  • Facebook
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Student Involvement
Abstract:
The recent development of online communities has had a major impact on university students’ interactions. Through the use of Internet tools such as Facebook.com, students are able to communicate, form groups, learn about others, and pursue interests. As the popularity of Facebook continues to grow, it becomes important to ask how students’ civic engagement (in the form of involvement on college campuses) is related to their online lives. My project hypothesizes that students who are more involved on campus will reflect this in their Facebook interactions, utilizing Facebook as a critical tool to foster and encourage further civic activity. Survey data to address this hypothesis were collected during Fall 2009 from a convenience sample of 508 undergraduate students at a large northeastern university. The results document a connection between campus activity and both year in school and gender, with advanced students and females more likely to attend campus events. Females are also more likely to volunteer, as well as to attend a community service event that they discovered through a Facebook invitation. Students holding leadership positions in student organizations tend to be more advanced in school year and more likely to send a Facebook invitation regarding a club event. Students who are involved in a greater number of student organizations are more likely to attend campus events, respond to Facebook event, and discover and attend club events and community service activities through means of Facebook invitation. Those students who are involved in civically oriented student organizations are significantly more likely to have voted in the presidential election. Lastly, students who have discovered community service events on Facebook are more likely both to be leaders in a service club and to have volunteered frequently while in college. These connections demonstrate a strong resemblance between student involvement online and offline, with students who are involved in their communities’ offline using Facebook as a tool to proliferate this.