Prof says social media is making students less social

Many students at Purdue walk with their head down, focusing on their phone.
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WEST LAFAYETTE - Facebook is helping change the face of friendship on college campuses and what's happening could have a life-long impact.

Thousands of Purdue freshmen walked along the "Hello Walk" on campus Tuesday, but few said hello. They were on campus, but were they missing campus?

"They have earplugs in, listening to music, texting, sometimes they are carrying on a phone conversation, walking across campus with mobile laptops in front of them," said Professor Glenn Sparks.

Staying in touch with their hundreds of Facebook friends, yet out of touch. Sparks notices the change.

"Many people are not available to you to say 'Hello,' because they're lost in their technology," he said.

Facebook keeps them in touch with high school friends, but Sparks says it takes time away from building face-to-face campus relationship. He has researched those college relationships for 20 years.

"Turns out, the college years are a time to make friendships that last a lifetime," Sparks said.

In his research, those college relationships survive longer and help support each other through marriage, divorce, job loss, children and death.

"It takes time to start those relationships. You have to start interacting with people in a casual way," Sparks said.

Those relationships can, one day, even lead to job leads.

"People have difficulty now identifying a number of close friends they can confide in," Sparks said.

But maybe not for a group of people found playing a fountain at Purdue.

"What better way to build a relationship than face-to-face?" said one student.

"Close the laptop, drop the cell phone," said Sparks.

"You don't really get to know the person. It's not as good," said another student.

So take heart, people still do say hello on the Hello Walk.