By: John Salacuse (Whetstone Staff Writer)

Social networking plays a big part in college students’ lives.

Almost half of all adults and 75 percent of teenagers who use the Internet are on some kind of social networking website.

Facebook alone has more than 400 million users.

Organizations can also make fan pages, and users can download applications to play games such as Farmville.

Some use these websites to stay in touch with people.

“I thought it would be cool to keep in touch with friends from high school,” said Deanne Cox, a junior.

It’s also an easy way to meet people.

“I joined Facebook because many other people did,” said sophomore Coree Perry. “People are a lot more comfortable asking for a Facebook than for a cell number.”

Sophomore Michael Hickey also finds Facebook an easier way to stay in touch.

“E-mail isn’t as convenient,” he said.

Half of Facebook’s users log in every day, and the average user spends almost an hour on the site per day.

Thirty-five million users change their statuses a day, and the average user has 130 friends.

In a recent survey of 20 Wesley students, 80 percent said that social interaction on these websites has gone up.

“Everyone knows what their friends are doing,” said sophomore Brenden Quigley.

Some critics argue that communicating over the web reduces social skills.

“People are not as skilled socially when dealing with face-to-face interaction,” Perry said.

Facebook gives the option of having chats with friends, like instant messaging.

“I think it makes people more willing to talk to people,” said junior Ryan Layton. “But it decreases actual interaction.”

The world is changing socially because of these sites.

“It cheapens the word ‘friend,’” said Dr. Michael Nielsen, professor of media arts.

Nielsen uses his account to keep in touch with friends and graduates.

Many people have friends on their Facebook who they have never met in real life.

Some things also may more easily be taken out of context.

“You can’t tell what tone people are using or the inflection of their voice,” said junior Zach Wang.

“People can get in trouble for what they post,” Cox said.

Some employers and schools use Facebook to keep track of employees and students.

“Facebook causes drama and problems,” Layton said.

There are benefits to social networking, too.

“You are able to speak with high-profile people who you would otherwise have to jump through hoops to talk to,” said senior Grant Mignot.

Users can stay updated on certain fan pages or keep up with news and trends.

They can also keep in touch with family and friends.