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  • Online Social Networking on Campus: Understanding What Matters in Student Culture
  • Dianne M. Timm
Ana M. Martínez Alemán and Katherine Lynk Wartman. Online Social Networking on Campus: Understanding What Matters in Student Culture. New York: Routledge, 2009. 156 pp. Paper: $44.95. ISBN-13: 978-0415990202.

Many professionals in higher education are faced with keeping up with rapidly evolving developments in technology. This is especially true regarding the growth of Social Networking Sites (SNS) and their use by college students. In their book, Online Social Networking on Campus: Understanding What Matters in Student Culture, Martínez Alemán and Wartman attempt to provide a guide for staff and faculty to learn more about why students use SNS.

This book provides an overview of the social networking phenomenon and describes in depth Facebook and its vast attributes. Junco and Mastrodicasa (2007) stated that administrators needed to develop an awareness of what students' and even their parents' expectations of online communication and interaction were. This book is one means of becoming more educated about the many ways in which students, and even administrators, can take advantage of Facebook to enhance the college student experience. It also provides a good resource for those who are unfamiliar with Facebook and the culture created online through this somewhat new and developing technology.

Martínez Alemán and Wartman (2009) begin by stating that they will, based on findings from their ethnographic study, describe Facebook through students' own voices and provide information about the integration of Facebook into their daily lives, the value students place on the many options Facebook provides, and the emergence [End Page 301] of campus norms on Facebook. A claim is also made that this book can serve as a resource guide to policymakers.

In Chapter 1, the authors state, "The college student today experiences college in both real and virtual communities" (p. 1). Chapters 1 and 2 provide a great deal of information related to the development of the World Wide Web and internet use while this generation of college students was growing up. The authors then explore how college students have incorporated Facebook into their daily lives and campus culture. Although the focus is mainly on student use of Facebook, with minimum mention of other forms of technological interaction, Martínez Alemán and Wartman also discuss the development of internet use on campus and particularly its use by administrators through the past couple of decades.

Chapter 3 describes Martínez Alemán and Wartman's ethnographic study and details four student perspectives to support their findings. They conducted two online investigative surveys to examine students' perceptions about Facebook and the campus culture. Although the authors provide a comprehensive historical perspective and a detailed description of Facebook, Martínez Alemán and Wartman do not identify how they developed their questions for this study nor do they replicate the questions, leaving the reader to wonder what they asked and what led to the discovery of the four main themes.

Of particular interest is the fact that the authors failed to cite two large national surveys of college student technology use—one by the Higher Education Research Institute (2007) and the other by Junco and Mastrodicasa (2007), which have direct relevance to their work.

The four common themes Martínez Alemán and Wartman identified are "use-consciousness, campus culture, identity factors, and voyeurism and impression management" (p. 54). They illustrate each theme with specific examples and participant quotations. Other survey participants' perspectives offer further support of these themes.

The most intriguing of the four was the voyeurism and impression management theme, which they likened to stalking. Students used terminology like stalking, scanning wall posts, and looking through friend lists and photos to explain how they check the profiles of friends, significant others, or ex-significant others for information. Respondents shared stories about how others found out information about them, even though they were not connected to one another. It was enlightening to read the description of how voyeurism (or stalking) is a now-acceptable activity, leading individuals to manage the information they post to promote the type of impression they desire.

The fourth chapter focuses on...