“You Have 10 New Facebook Notifications”: An Investigation Into How Stuyvesant Students Use Facebook

A student body view on how Facebook impacts their social and academic life.

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While most of the world is asleep, Stuyvesant students still buzz with activity as posts and comments flood the “Dear Incoming Stuyvesant Class” advice groups late into the night. Facebook, a vital tool for the vast majority of the students, allows them to remain in contact with each other virtually 24 hours a day. Whether to view news, ask questions about classes, communicate with classmates, or promote a club, students often have a reason to turn to the platform that has become so essential to Stuyvesant life.

It is hard to find many students who do not have a Facebook account, regardless of whether they’ve used it previously or only created one upon coming to Stuyvesant. So the question is, why Facebook?

Facebook is different from other communication platforms students might use; for example, it does not have the professional and somewhat intimidating aura that email does. “Whenever I send an email, I feel an obligation to sound formal, so I take more time to write them,” junior Josslyn Kim said. “On the other hand, on Messenger, I can contact my classmates more casually.”

At the same time, Facebook is not as casual as other social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Sophomore Sabrina Chen shared, “I used to use Instagram a lot more before coming to Stuyvesant. But after I was introduced to Facebook, especially [at] a school like Stuy[vesant], I shifted toward using Facebook more instead because it was more ‘educational.’”

Unlike other social media platforms, Facebook’s organized structure allows for mass communication. “Facebook helps me communicate with my classmates and get to know what’s going on around Stuy[vesant] since it’s such a big school,” freshman Keara O’Donnell said. For example, Facebook allows students to create large groups and send mass messages. “We can make big groups such as the ‘Dear Incoming Stuyvesant Class’ groups whereas other social media don’t have as many features for gathering big groups,” Kim said.

Facebook groups also bring together students across various grades, providing a place where underclassmen’s concerns and questions are answered in a matter of minutes by upperclassmen. “[Facebook] definitely helps me connect more with people and find out information really easily, but at some point it can get too addicting and interrupt study time,” sophomore Zoe Buff explained.

“I felt more connected to the students at Stuy[vesant], but that doesn't mean [Facebook] is positive or negative,” junior Ruoshui Mao said. “It was sometimes convenient for me to ask for information, and there were times that I asked classmates or friends to send me notes or help me with other things. However, it did take a lot of time away from me that I used to use for other things.”

Though widely used, not everyone was familiar with Facebook prior to coming to Stuyvesant. Many students got Facebook after being urged to do so by their Big Sibs or peers: “My first impression was that [Facebook] wasn’t necessary, and I actually didn’t want to get it for a while, but my friends eventually convinced me to. At first, I barely used it but after a while I started to see the benefits,” Buff said.

Even some teachers encourage their students to get a Facebook account. Mao shared, “What really pushed me to use [Facebook] was my sophomore year English class, when [Assistant Principal of English Eric] Grossman asked a student to post the model essays in the class's Facebook group chat. I wanted to look at the model essays, and that made me start using Facebook.”

In fact, Facebook is so embedded into Stuyvesant’s culture because upperclassmen encourage underclassmen to make an account, thus spiraling a new generation of students to use the platform. Despite its reputation as “an app for old people,” as Chen called Facebook, it continues to be used by new classes of Stuyvesant students every year. “Almost as soon as I got into Stuy[vesant], my cousin, who also went to Stuy[vesant], advised me to get Facebook,” Chen recalled.

Though Facebook is viewed as such an integral part of Stuyvesant culture, there are still some students who do not use it. “Honestly, I don’t trust myself using Facebook because I know I can get distracted easily,” sophomore Tamzid Tapan said. “One obstacle is not being able to communicate with the sports teams that I’m on because they all use Facebook and Messenger. I think that it is helpful in Stuyvesant, but you need to be able to balance your time out.”

Junior Michelle Liang also does not use Facebook. “When everybody else started getting Facebook, I didn’t really have the time to make one, or I wasn’t really interested in it,” she explained. Though Liang does not have Facebook, she does use Instagram, which she finds inconvenient as a communications tool. “When I want some information about clubs or about teachers, I have to ask people on Instagram to tell me what’s happening on Facebook,” she elaborated.

Regardless of how often or why each Stuyvesant student uses Facebook, it is clear how fundamental the platform has become to students. This unique dependence on Facebook goes to show how connected the Stuyvesant community is despite its large size. However, it is not only the educational and communication benefits that make Facebook so fundamental to the Stuyvesant community. “Facebook doesn’t exist at Stuy[vesant] for purely educational purposes. It also allows students to show who they are outside of school as well. I think that’s part of what makes Facebook so connective and interactive,” Kim said. Active as both an effective communication tool and social platform, Facebook will most likely remain an essential aspect of Stuyvesant’s culture.