The Effect of Social Network Sites on College Students

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Lessons from Facebook: The Effect of Social Network Sites on College Students’ Social Capital1 Sebastián Valenzuela2, Namsu Park3, and Kerk F. Kee4 University of Texas at Austin Submitted to the 9th International Symposium on Online Journalism Austin, Texas, April 4-5, 2008

1 We wish to thank Dr. Sharon Strover for her intellectual and financial support for this project, as well as the participants of the seminar “Interactivity and Web 2.0,” held during Fall 2007 at the University of Texas at Austin. Corresponding author: Sebastián Valenzuela; E-mail: 2 PhD student, School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. 3 PhD student, Department of Radio, Television and Film, University of Texas at Austin. 4 PhD student, Department of Communication Studies, University of Texas at Austin 1

Lessons from Facebook 2
This study examines if Facebook, one of the most popular social network sites among young adults in the U.S., fulfills the promise of civic journalism: to spark attitudes and behaviors that enhance public life and civic action. Using data from a random web survey of college students in Texas (n = 2,603), we find moderate, positive relationships between intensity of Facebook use and students' life satisfaction, social trust, civic participation and political engagement. The associations between Facebook usage and students' social capital are detectable even when taking demographic, socioeconomic and socialization variables into account. These findings highlight important lessons for journalists and media interested in reconnecting individuals, especially young adults, to society and public life.
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