Amherst's class of 2012: 99 percent are on Facebook

Welcome to the digital-est of the digital natives.

Published September 29, 2008 3:33PM (EDT)

While I'm still trying to get settled in France, it has been a little hard to get Internet access, so on the occasions that I am able to sit down somewhere and surf the Web, sometimes it takes me a couple of days to sort through all my RSS feeds, and I apologize if some of my posts are just slightly behind the times. That said, Clive Thompson pointed out a recent study about the incoming class of 2012 at Amherst College and how the younger generations of my "digital native" peers are becoming more and more digitized. Mind you, this is a small, rich Massachusetts liberal arts college that has 438 new students this year out of a student body of 1,680-plus.

These statistics, while surely not universal across the U.S., definitely reflect the reality of the upper middle classes that have grown up with Internet access in the '90s and early '00s:

1. Percentage of first-year applicants who applied online in 2003: 33 percent.

2. Percentage of applicants who did last year: 89 percent.

3. Year that an incoming Amherst College class first created a Facebook group so that they could socialize and otherwise get to know each other prior to arriving on campus: 2006.

4. By the end of August 2008 the total number of members and posts at the Amherst College Class of 2012 Facebook group: 432 members and 3,225 posts.

In other words, only six members -- that's 1 percent -- of the incoming class aren't on Facebook. Astonishing.

I remember that when I left my undergraduate days (spring 2004) Facebook was just starting to hit college campuses around the country. I sort of blew it off at first, but joined within a couple of years. When Facebook first started at Harvard, it quickly spread to a few of the major colleges around the country, including my alma mater, UC-Berkeley -- and now in over four years it has gone global. Facebook has practically become a second language for college students. Ask any American college student what "friending" or "poking" or "leaving a message on someone's wall" means, and it's almost sure they'll be able tell you.

It's still not exactly clear to me what those of us who are out of college are supposed to do with Facebook. I mean, I'm on it, as are most of my friends, but I rarely spend any time looking at my page or other people's walls or whatever. Largely, I use it as a way to amplify my blog and this blog's reach. Yet, despite the fact that I don't care about it that much, I nonetheless know that it exists, and I can navigate that world with ease. My parents, much less my grandparents, largely do not.

6. Number of students in the class of 2012 who brought desktop computers to campus: 14.

This seems pretty obvious. With the presence of WiFi on just about every college campus (which was, again, just starting when I was in college), there's now essentially no point in having a desktop computer, except for maybe as a media server.

9. Total number of students on campus this year that have landline phone service: 5.

That's total number of students -- out of over 1,600 students -- who have a land line. Again, the oldest of these kids, remember, were born in 1986.

I have a land line at my house back in Oakland, Calif., but only because I need it to access DSL. (I don't have cable TV, much less a TV of any kind.) Otherwise, again, there would be no point. In a college dorm setting, there seems to be no point in having a land line, when most students have mobile phones and are online much of their time anyway.

And the most surprising statistic?

19. Percentage of email that arrives on campus that is spam: 94 percent.

I wonder how much of this spam gets through the university's filters, though.

What do you guys think of us young digital Turks?

By Cyrus Farivar

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